LinkedIn Opens Ad Platform

Launches API for new marketing partners

LinkedIn is opening its ad business with two new offerings. One plugs advertising partners directly into the platform so they can sell ads in users' feeds, and the other helps marketers sponsor high-quality content.

LinkedIn unveiled the new programs today, launching a Sponsored Updates API and a program called Content Partners.

LinkedIn named five ad partners that can now help sell Sponsored Updates—the network’s in-feed ad format—using programmatic tools through a new dashboard. The Sponsored Updates partners include AdStage, Brand Networks, Shift, Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, and Unified Social.

“This helps us on efficiency, the ability for people to be productive, with a dashboard and data,” said Penry Price, LinkedIn’s vp of global sales. “Having these partners—they have lots of experience … they have more expertise than we do here using dashboards to signal audiences.

“With this API, these guys will be able to make their own decisions of who to target with data signals that they have.”

LinkedIn launched the Sponsored Updates format last year, its social media ad unit that shows up directly in members’ content streams on mobile and desktop. The ad format, pioneered by Facebook, is popular with advertisers who enjoy the prominent placement of their messaging—as opposed to banner ads at the bottoms of screens.

Also, to help marketers share more engaging posts, LinkedIn launched a Content Partners program with publishers like The Atlantic, CBS Interactive and Bloomberg. Also, Percolate, Contently and Freshwire are among the initial partners.

The content program expands on services launched last year and lets advertisers sponsor posts from the media partners. These types of posts attract 30 percent higher engagement rates compared to the usual messaging from the marketers, according to LinkedIn.

The social network for the professional set recently topped 300 million users, and its ad business grew 36 percent last year. Advertisers, media agencies and brands are gravitating toward its business-oriented subscriber base.

LinkedIn says it’s the only social media play that can reach the C-Suite specifically.  

“We have the ability to target job function—CEO, CXO, IT decision maker, vp of sales, individual contributor,” Price said, listing the types of professionals the network can reach. “That sets us apart because nobody else knows job function on any other platform that’s never been used as a targeting criteria at scale.”

LinkedIn’s strategy has been to expand beyond job recruitment services with more media and content. Last month, it released new content marketing tools, including a score to measure how well brand messages perform, to help improve the quality of posts.