LinkedIn Is Now Allowing Marketers to Target Ads at Specific Companies

Marketing on the network just got easier and more efficient

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LinkedIn is now letting businesses target ads based on companies they're actually trying to sell to.

On Tuesday, the company announced that marketers running native ads through Sponsored Updates or Sponsored InMail campaigns can target user profiles based on a list of companies they want to reach with specific products or other sales.

The feature, which is appropriately named LinkedIn Account Targeting, allows marketers to provide a list of as many as 30,000 companies they want to target in a campaign. LinkedIn then checks to see which of those are among the 8 million companies on the platform before targeting their pages, as well as the profiles of people at those companies that match certain criteria such as job duties and seniority. 

According to Lindsey Edwards, senior product manager for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn has traditionally focused on bringing profile data—job titles, seniority level, skills and groups—to advertisers and marketers for targeting purposes. But this is the first time LinkedIn is letting companies bring their own data to the platform. Previously, marketers could only target up to 100 companies, mostly only by manual selection.

The new feature has been tested in a global pilot program by companies including Comcast, Salesforce and Swrve. Edwards said the 20 companies that have tested it have seen promising results, with reductions in cost per lead and increased performance metrics such as email opens and clickthrough rates.

According to LinkedIn, customers using the feature in beta invested as much as five to 10 times more to continue the targeting campaign after seeing promising initial results. (For example, if a client started with a beta budget of $10,000, some spent an additional $50,000.)

In some ways, LinkedIn is bucking the trend by opening its "walled garden" (a commonly used metaphor for how companies like Google and Facebook withhold data from marketers using their closed ad buying systems). Edwards said marketers can start "digging in" by bringing their own data.

"I can't say too much here, but we're going to start introducing some interesting ways for marketers to start bringing their own data to bare and not focusing just so much on the LinkedIn profile data to make sure we're refining that audience," Edwards told Adweek. "I would say this is slowly opening up the walled garden—with more to come."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.