Over the past several years we have seen just about every social network launch their own ad network to help monetize their traffic. This is a smart move since social networks already do a great job at collecting personal information about users, which can then be used to show very targeted ads. The one exception to this has been LinkedIn. Until now.
LinkedIn has just announced that they have launched their own global display ad network, which will take advantage of the massive amount of data they have collected on their 347 million registered users. In a way it is very surprising that they haven’t done this before, given the fact that their site is primarily focused on working adults, which is a very attractive advertising segment.
To launch the network, LinkedIn has partnered with AppNexus, which already has a number of advertising clients and connections with about 2500 other business focused sites. In addition, the technologies that LinkedIn acquired when they purchased the marketing platform Bizo last year (for a reported $175 million).
One of the most anticipated features of this new ad network will be a product called the “LinkedIn Lead Accelerator.” This is a system where website owners can place a custom LinkedIn pixel on their website, which will allow the site owner to match the data they collect through cookies with the existing data LinkedIn has on file. According to LinkedIn, the average site owner is only able to gain about 5% of available data from browsers based on cookies alone. Adding in the LinkedIn data will dramatically improve that number.
Of course, website owners can then use the information to improve their own marketing efforts, but it can also be used to display more targeted ads. The more targeted the ads, the more clicks they will see.
While there is little question about this being a smart move for LinkedIn, there is some concern about their approach. The biggest worry some experts have is that, at least for now, LinkedIn is looking to have direct meetings with all brands and site owners who want to use their service. This is possible because they are putting restrictions on which websites qualify (they must have a minimum of 20k unique visitors).
Having a LinkedIn ad rep work directly with the brands will likely help to improve the results of their services, but it is a costly and time consuming effort. At this point, of course, it is too early to tell whether or not it is a smart move.
In a recent interview, LinkedIn’s EMEA senior director, Jeff Graff, said, “We see the global b2b advertising opportunity at a $50 billion market. This is very much the next step in this strategy. At its core, we are changing the way b2b marketing operates today.”
There is no doubt that this is an ambitious statement, but it is nothing new for the social network. They came out last year and identified their multi-year plan to create a $1 billion per year b2b marketing plan for LinkedIn. This would help to bring in the money that has been somewhat lacking given the resources they have.