LinkedIn plans to shake up the social ads paradigm

3 Oct 2011

LinkedIn Europe marketing boss Fredrik Bernsel with Robert Quirke, country manager for Ad2One Ireland

Recently floated LinkedIn is redoubling its efforts to grow its online advertising business by providing new marketing tools that reflect the subtlety its 120m business members require, the company’s marketing director for Europe told

Fredrik Bernsel, who was in Dublin last week, told that as well as conventional advertising, the social network for professionals intends to drive revenues by making use of new information-rich platforms, including LinkedIn polls, LinkedIn Groups Sponsorship and LinkedIn Inmails.

LinkedIn is one of the major coterie of ‘born on the web’ companies that have chosen to locate in Dublin, where it employs about 100 people.

The company in the second quarter made a profit of US$4.5m on revenues of US$121m. Founded by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly and Jean-Luc Vaillant, the company’s IPO in May gave it a valuation of around US$8bn.

Bernsel was in Dublin last week working with digital agency AD2ONE to help educate the market about the social network’s direction.

The new advertising solutions that LinkedIn has developed hinge around three core platforms:

  • The LinkedIn Polls advertising solution offers marketers an easy and compelling way to lead conversations around topics relevant to their brand. Through enhanced targeting capabilities, polls can be targeted to a specific segment of LinkedIn professionals.
  • LinkedIn Groups Sponsorship offers brands or companies a chance to reach groups who gather to collaborate on professional topics across industries, functions, regional areas, organisations, and more. All Groups are moderated and managed by LinkedIn members. Membership to Groups can be open or private. Groups are a great way for professionals with similar interests or in similar fields to share relevant and current news articles. Because they’re being shared by trusted connections or colleagues, the information being distributed is more relevant and drives more engagement.
  • LinkedIn Inmails deliver customised, personal messages to a LinkedIn member’s inbox. Each message stays front and centre until an action is taken and will remain in the inbox for 60 days unless a call to action takes place.

How LinkedIn plans to unleash the power within its network

“This is the world’s largest business network, with 120m members worldwide, including more than half a million members in Ireland,” Bernsel explained.

“Globally, we have two members joining every second. What we have discovered is LinkedIn is not just a social network for these people – it is a work tool. It’s not just about getting introduced, it’s about knowing exactly what’s happening. And of course, there’s no better way of organising your business cards – if you move job your network stays with you.

“The other thing we are finding is that for people with specific job titles, such as IT professionals, it is much more useful in terms of getting the right information.”

For LinkedIn to grow its advertising base, having this specific information could be a bonus for advertisers, says Bernsel.

“We are all social creatures and we are curious about people and our networks. Most of our users start their day at the social network and it goes from there. The key is combining the predominance of very senior people into services for advertisers,” Bernsel said.

“One thing that social media provides you with is trust. In the business world, you tend to know who you are dealing with and if a connection recommends something, because you know that person it is likely to be of good value to you.”

Bernsel said the power of the network is its targeting capability.

“Every marketer today wants to put relevant messages in front of the right person. In many cases, the targeting is implied. On most networks they think they know a visitor because of the type of article he or she reads. On LinkedIn, we would know if it is a CFO or a CTO.

“As well as this, every updated profile is rich with information and we can use that information to help advertisers reach exactly the right people, so there’s value there for the advertisers and the members because what they will be seeing on their pages will be relevant to them.

“We believe the polls, for example, are an interesting new format for advertising. Instead of an ad where you have a banner, you have a question. That question will be about something that highlights the value around the brand, such as what’s important for you when you fly, is it fast check-in, comfortable seats, food, etc.

“The viral effect of that will result in the network seeing what members have engaged with.”

I asked Bernsel about LinkedIn’s plans for mobile marketing. “In the current mobile app there is no advertising and I’m not aware of any plans around that. But there is a constant stream of business development taking place around mobile.”

While Bernsel couldn’t comment on new features arriving on the LinkedIn platform, he said the social media landscape is evolving. “We will continue to be innovative and roll out new functions. The wishlist from members is very long. But you can be optimistic; we are working on some truly great things.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years