Ben Silverman

Are you suddenly seeing targeted ads for Comcast, Salesforce and Swrve on your LinkedIn feeds or InMail? If so, they might be coming from LinkedIn’s recent update, which allows advertisers to target uploaded, custom audiences – and you might be on their list. These three brands were among the first to take advantage of LinkedIn’s audience match platform, which officially enters the social network giant into the world of custom audience.

With the advertising updates, LinkedIn joins Facebook Custom Audiences, Twitter Tailored Audiences and Google Customer Match. These functions allow businesses to upload lists of contacts they’ve engaged with in the past, and target ads to display directly to them.

LinkedIn is increasing their ad function (and reach)

If you only use LinkedIn as a place to list your resume and connect with and endorse colleagues, you’re missing out on the other half of the social network’s function. While the site’s users viewed about 3.7 billion pages last quarter and endorsed over a billion people, LinkedIn prides itself on also being a platform for publishing and curating content. In that way, it’s similar to Facebook, but with an emphasis on professional content.

Developments with LinkedIn’s targeted ads further the network’s approach to helping brands deliver their message to the roughly 400 million registered users. Advertisers can now upload up to 30,000 contacts, and further target their users according to characteristics including:


Advertisers can now also upload lists that they don’t want to reach. Marketers can make more effective ads with the ability to exclude certain groups of contacts. For example, targeting ads can ensure that people who live on the West Coast don’t get pestered about attractions local to New York, or that current clients don’t see ads aimed at potential leads.

Russ Glass, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’s head of product, eases businesses’ worry that competitors might be able to access their proprietary lists:

“All that information is encrypted and secure so that no account could learn from another account.

Thinking of expanding your social ad reach?

While you’ve been able to target individuals and businesses on LinkedIn for a while, the new options are wider-reaching and more customizable. In the past, advertisers could target viewers based on their location and current employers, but the process was manual and limited to only 100 contacts. The new bulk option increases the audience by a factor of 30, and targets viewers automatically.

LinkedIn’s targeted ads are available for:

  • Sponsored Updates – Advertisers can place a paid status update on their targeted users’ content feeds.
  • Sponsored InMail – Advertisers can deliver promoted messages directly to targeted users’ inboxes.

Checklist: make the most of your custom-audience ads

If you’re ready to import your contacts and get started on a new LinkedIn promotional campaign, make sure that your ads are finely-tuned and optimized. Here’s our checklist to help you getthe most of your LinkedIn advertising:

  1. Choose your exclusions and inclusions wisely, and show your ads only when they will be most relevant and well-received. You don’t want to annoy your contacts.
  2. Write copy that resonates with, and reflects on, who you’re advertising to. Research your contacts, and group them into subsets to more accurately appeal to them.
  3. Create your own images, when possible. Using custom images will help you stand out in the sea of stock photos.
  4. Create clear CTAs that are specific for each target group.
  5. Test which versions of ads are most effective for each subset of your list, and fine-tune your strategies with your results data.
  6. Keep it professional LinkedIn is different that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The more professional you keep your image and copy, the more likely viewers are to take the ad seriously.


You can read more about how a business in the HR industry revamped their social media strategy and doubled their LinkedIn follower growth rate, and how a company in the IT space doubled their LinkedIn shares with a one-team approach.