LinkedIn advertising is growing up. The company officially launched Direct Sponsored Content today, a sign of maturity that has brands and agencies ready to invest more in the platform.
Direct Sponsored Content allow an advertiser to test, tailor and target messages similar to how they do on Facebook.
Until now, brands could only sponsor messages that they first posted to their LinkedIn pages as organic content, limiting the freedom to test messaging without broadcasting to all followers and visitors to the page.
"This is a big step for LinkedIn monetizing the feed," said James Borow, CEO of Shift, a marketing software firm and LinkedIn partner. "Organic content amplified only takes you so far, so it's opening up this inventory for true 'A/B testing' and sophisticate advertising."
LinkedIn's ad business is still small compared to other social media rivals with similar propositions like Facebook and Twitter, but as a network of 300 million professionals, it is attracting B-to-B marketers. Also, more packaged-goods brands are starting to see the attraction of the platform and its data around people and jobs, Borow said.
Last year, LinkedIn launched Sponsored Updates, a native ad that fits seamlessly into the site's experience, a format popularized by Facebook. However, on Facebook brands have had dark publishing capabilities—the ability to build different posts for different audiences and not necessarily show all of them on their business pages.
LinkedIn has been testing a similar system for months, and said today that more than a dozen companies, including Comcast Business and NewsCred are trying Direct Sponsored Content.
"Companies can make their content more relevant by sending personalized messages to specific audiences," LinkedIn said in a blog post today. "It gives them the ability to test and retest a variety of content in real-time until they get it right."
LinkedIn's ad revenue topped $100 million last quarter, growing 36 percent. The pace of growth was expected to slow when it announced second quarter results later this month, according to analysts.
However, the company has been strengthening relations with the ad world, brands and agencies. LinkedIn has built up its ad delivery tools with technology partners, who buy on the site through software, and there are more publishing options for partners to create media there and track how well their posts perform.
Mindshare managing director/senior partner Asli Hamamci works with a number of business-focused brands to buy ads on LinkedIn, and she said the Direct Sponsored Content would be a big draw.
"A lot of brands will jump to test the platform and make it part of their ongoing strategies," Hamamci said.