LinkedIn made several noteworthy platform enhancements in 2023, strengthening its position with B2B advertisers.
This article reviews LinkedIn’s major 2023 releases and their significance, and makes suggestions for improvements that could make B2B marketers even bigger fans.
B2B advertising in 2023: Google vs. LinkedIn
Google has not had a banner year from a B2B perspective. Between the antitrust lawsuit revelations about auction gaming, YouTube headlines about fraudulent/spammy placements and a general lack of B2B-focused innovation, Google sentiment in the B2B industry is as low as I’ve seen.
While most of my clients still spend more on Google than anywhere else, the B2B budget door opened a crack. As I look back on 2023, LinkedIn has positioned itself to make some gains.
In terms of trends, LinkedIn is now a more widely accepted platform in B2B ad portfolios, and companies are getting more sophisticated about how they use it.
We’re fielding fewer requests about simply hitting cold audiences with demo ads (which never worked) and more about using LinkedIn to nurture audiences across the funnel.
Because of LinkedIn’s naturally very high-quality B2B audiences, new ad or measurement features are always welcomed – we tend to test whatever we can get our hands on to see how well it works.
2023 LinkedIn updates: The hits
The new LinkedIn thought-leadership ads let companies promote posts from their people, which is potentially effective for founder-led organizations and businesses with a strong employee-advocacy strategy.
Thought leadership ads offer a way for companies to expand their thought leadership/brand reach. Since the thought leadership comes from an actual human’s account, not an organization, it’s naturally more engaging and less robotic than company ads.
That said, this is almost purely a top-of-funnel play, which isn’t a bad thing. Don’t aim for direct leads; connect with other humans. Recognize their professional challenges and focus on ways you and your product can help.
Of all the LinkedIn releases in 2023, I’m most excited to get access to predictive audiences. It uses AI to help find audiences for their most valuable users. This lets advertisers tell LinkedIn, “Here are our most valuable people; use your business-attribute data to find more.”
You can base these lists on conversion events, contact lists or lead gen forms; the minimum number of users for a seed list is 300.
Predictive audiences can potentially fill a targeting gap. Many companies have nuanced ideal customer profiles and/or specific job titles that aren’t available for targeting.
While I’m skeptical of Google’s targeting equivalent (Performance Max), LinkedIn has a better chance of creating meaningful audiences because:
- Google is notorious for its difficulty matching business emails.
- LinkedIn’s business data is much richer.
When testing predictive audiences, note that success largely depends on your CRM data. Make sure you have at least some basic audience segments you can define and ask LinkedIn to mimic.
Revenue attribution reporting
B2B companies can now look at closed-won opportunities that bring in revenue and study how the people involved in the deal saw and/or engaged with the company’s LinkedIn ads.
This is a little bit of a chicken-egg situation (which came first: the interest or the engagement?). Still, it’s directional information to help you trace the platform’s impact and see how LinkedIn can influence deals.
LinkedIn ad library
This is a brand-new release as of November: a LinkedIn ad library that lets you look up competitor ads based on keywords or company names.
It also goes beyond sponsored content ads; one of my team members spotted some conversation ad examples while researching a client competitor.
Dig deeper: 4 B2B paid media strategies to stay ahead of the curve
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LinkedIn added the ability to further silo company match lists earlier this year. This provides insight into how many employees at a company have engaged with your content and breaks them into low- and high-intent buckets.
Essentially, advertisers can prioritize and segment a list of target accounts by engagement level based on intelligence from paid, organic and website signals.
The ability to see which accounts are engaging and which aren’t leads to a huge opportunity to refine bidding and targeting strategies.
Services interest targeting
This is similar to in-market audiences – presumably, companies would use it to target people actively engaging in topics aligned with their business solutions.
However, the interest categories are fairly limited at this point. I haven’t yet tested it because no category works for our clients. But in 2024, I’d love to see an expansion of the categories included.
My 2024 LinkedIn Ads wish list
It would be a game changer if LinkedIn allowed businesses to schedule ads to run during business hours.
LinkedIn runs on UTC time (which is today’s way of saying GMT), so from my perspective on the U.S. East Coast, they technically start spending the next day’s budget late the night before.
That means smaller budgets can run out early in the day and miss a big chunk of a target audience’s business day.
This would be extremely helpful and seems long overdue.
As I type, you can’t do a tracking template for UTMs in LinkedIn; you have to build them manually.
It’s simple but also gives off an air of stodginess that the platform needs to address.
This is an idea I’m stealing from X (formerly Twitter), which used to have follower lookalike targeting. As more influencers come to LinkedIn, it could be a way to find new pockets of relevant users.
My 2024 requests are all fairly minor; the first two are suggestions for how LinkedIn can get out of its way. Overall, the platform’s outlook is pretty rosy from where I sit.
LinkedIn has some built-in advantages – B2B-focused data and the business mindset of its audiences are the biggest – over Google and Meta, which have made plenty of B2B strides in their own right. Those aren’t going away in 2024.
If LinkedIn can keep developing features that help us effectively engage their valuable audiences and measure the impact of those engagements, it might be a win-win for B2Bs.
We’ll have more ways to reach our ideal users and a bit of healthy competition that might spur Google to become a better partner to its B2B advertisers.
Dig deeper: 2024 B2B trends: 6 key areas for marketing success