When it comes to social media advertising, LinkedIn is one of the leading B2B paid advertising platforms out there.
Throughout this post I will break down two types of InMail advertising, and the pros and cons of LinkedIn Advertising
Regular InMail (FREE)
- User Access. For LinkedIn users wanting to use regular InMail, the process is simple – any user with a subscription to a LinkedIn premium account can use the InMail function. Depending on the level of your account, you are allowed to send a limited number of InMails per month.
- Bulk Messaging. With regular InMail, it is not easy to bulk message your audience as it is designed to be a personal tool. However, you can save templates and purchase InMail message credit. Typical plans only allow you to send 15-30 InMail messages from your account – meaning it is not easy to send InMail to your entire network. However, this limited, personalised access makes InMail a useful tool for sales professionals.
- Notification. InMails appear in the user’s message notifications, and clearly appear as a personalised message.
- Cost. If you are connected with someone on LinkedIn (1st degree connection), you can message them free. LinkedIn users with a paid subscription will be allocated a set number of InMails that they can use to reach prospects they are not connected with. This amount varies depending on the subscription plan, but subscribed users have the option to purchase additional InMail credits.
Sponsored InMail (PAID)
- User Access. While Sponsored InMails are an extension of normal InMail, they are not self-served and must be fully managed by LinkedIn.
- Bulk Messaging. Sponsored InMails can be sent to all active members who fit your targeting parameters.
- Notification. Sponsored InMails appear in the message center the same way as regular InMail. However receivers can easily see (before they open the message) that it has been sponsored.
- Cost. Sponsored InMail requires a set budget before commencing – it’s not possible to run a small test campaign as you might with a Sponsored Update. The actual cost of a Sponsored InMail campaign is discussed with LinkedIn when they start to manage the account – expect the initial investment to be greater than other social advertising platforms. It is safe to assume that LinkedIn are aiming to work with advertisers who are are ready to commit more than £6,000 per quarter.
In addition to very specific audience segment targeting, another factor that makes Sponsored Inmails more appealing than regular InMail or email, is that LinkedIn will only send out a sponsored InMail to a user when that user is online.
LinkedIn recommends InMail mainly for lead generation, and more specifically for the promotion of webinars, ebooks and other gated content. A recent GE case study on new Sponsored InMails suggests some very positive campaign outcomes, especially open rates which reached 13%.
What might put some marketers off however, is the fact that you can’t currently manage campaigns yourself, but instead must let LinkedIn manage campaigns for you. In line with this (and unlike LinkedIn’s advertising platform where it’s easy to change elements like copy, images, budget etc), with Sponsored InMails the only option is to contact LinkedIn to make changes.
This may not give the reactivity that some organizations want. For example, if you want to check campaign analytics you will need to email LinkedIn and ask for a report. However there are benefits; because Sponsored InMail campaigns require close relationships with LinkedIn, the LinkedIn executives managing your account will likely help you optimize your campaign.
- The narrower your audience, the less you spend and the more CTR and CVR’s you will get.
- Join different groups that have to do with your industry. This helps gain followers, and in the end help streamline your advertising efforts.
- Publish content through your page, un-sponsored.
How to use it effectively (without coming across like a spammy advertiser)
- Laser-target your messages – Let’s say that your company’s CEO is well known in your industry. Sending messages from that person is going to capture more attention than if the InMails come from a lesser-known employee, but there’s a catch. Because LinkedIn message recipients are able to reply back to the InMails they receive, the person you send from needs to be someone who’s actively using LinkedIn.
- Choose your sender carefully – As you’re setting up your campaign, you’ll be able to sort InMail recipients by any of the following:
- Company name
- Company industry
- Company size
- Job title
- Job function
- Job seniority
- Member schools
- Fields of study
- Member skills
- Member groups
- Member gender
- Member age
- Years of experience
Getting your audience-targeting right isn’t just important from a campaign cost perspective. It’s also one of the best ways to make your campaign appear legit. If the people you’re targeting don’t care about your message, they’re going to treat it as spam — regardless of the value you offer.
Provide genuine value
Think carefully about what the people you’re targeting need most from you and provide it in the form of valuable content.
Optimize your CTA button
Plan visual assets carefully
When you send a Sponsored InMail, you get to include a 300-by-250 pixel image banner that will appear near the text of your message. This, along with your CTA button, will direct engaged users to the landing page you define on your website.
- Make sure your image banner isn’t so busy that it distracts from your message. It should complement your text, not overpower it.
- Think mobile Many of your recipients will open your InMail on their smartphones or tablets. If your landing page isn’t optimized for their screen sizes, you’re basically paying for clicks that will never convert.
- Avoid spammy-looking landing pages Since most marketers send Sponsored InMail to promote gated content, getting LinkedIn users to your landing page is only half the battle. They still have to opt-in — and you can bet they won’t do that if the page they arrive on reads as spam.
PROS OF SPONSORED INMAIL
- Top-notch targeting options – Marketers can target by location, company, industry, job title, skills, education level, and more. And with the LinkedIn Account Targeting feature, you can now send your campaigns to a priority list of accounts in addition to the traditional targeting.
- Guaranteed deliverability – As we mentioned above, InMail is only delivered when users are online, so they’re virtually guaranteed to see your message.
- Not spammy – Purchasing an email list is a surefire way to hurt your IP reputation and send your emails straight to the spam folder. InMail is different. While prospects don’t explicitly opt in to your communications, they understand that partner emails come with the territory on LinkedIn. Plus, all LinkedIn users are given the option to unsubscribe from all Sponsored InMails.
- Clutter-free – LinkedIn users can only receive one Sponsored InMail every sixty days, so your message won’t be competing for their attention.
- Help from the LinkedIn team – The experts at LinkedIn are always on-hand to help you craft your messages to perfection.
CONS OF SPONSORED INMAIL
- Expensive – You’re required to specify a budget ahead of time, and you can’t adjust your targeting once your campaign has begun. To get the biggest bang for your buck, make sure you’re absolutely confident in your selected audience before launching your campaign.
- Not self-serve – While first-hand assistance from the pros at LinkedIn can be incredibly useful, some marketers dislike the lack of self-serve options. If you want to change your subject line, for example, you have to go through LinkedIn instead of just changing it yourself.
- Lack of real-time insight – Similarly, you can’t access your results on demand. If you want updates on how well your campaign is performing, you’ll have to reach out to LinkedIn and get your results via email.