As I mentioned yesterday, a large drop in ad sales at MySpace means that social network ad sales will fall 3% this year. However, according to Blake Boznanski, an Ad Sales Executive at LinkedIn (who visited Racepoint’s San Francisco office yesterday), the “business relationship” social network is still very bullish about ad growth – less than a year after launching its own ad network for the site.
LinkedIn, who officially launched its ad network last September (a year after Facebook), has launched a variety of new paid and non-paid tools for marketers over the last several months (along with a site re-design) in an effort to take advantage of the shift towards social media marketing.
Some of the relatively new features, which LinkedIn has rolled out over the last year to allow marketers to target this demographic of prospective customers, includes: customized applications and appplication sponsorship, Q&A sponsorship, group sponsorship, partnership messages, poll programs and group sponsorships.
LinkedIn currently hosts apps from companies such as SlideShare, Google and Tripit and is open to collaborating on additional customized applications with additional advertisers / brands. In addition, there is an opportunity for marketers to sponsor third party apps and event apps. For instance, the application from Tripit, which lets you see where and when your LinkedIn network is traveling, has created sponsorship opportunities on the site for hotels and airlines. The same sponsorship opportunity exists for the 10,000 plus events that are now listed on LinkedIn.
Poll partnerships have also become a new way for brands to connect with LinkedIn’s demographic. The most widely known partnership being LinkedIn’s deal with CNBC, which has drawn huge engagement from the LinkedIn community. Under the agreement, CNBC has also become LinkedIn’s preferred business media provider and offers CNBC articles, blogs, financial data, and video content to LinkedIn’s user base – in exchange for the community-generated content (LinkedIn / CNBC polls) exclusively provided for CNBC.
Group pages are growing in popularity (nearly 300,000 of them) on LinkedIn and have added recent features that allow group managers to send an announcement via email to their group members. This, combined with applications and RSS feeds pushing content into these group / fan pages has created a rich / vibrant community to advertise within. Brands can sponsor a federation of user created groups or target users of specific groups throughout LinkedIn.
Another feature that is growing in popularity is featured question functionality that can be promoted throughout the LinkedIn community. Featured questions from executive leaders or “brand celebrities” allow brands to engage with the community, create dialogue and gain further insight. For instance, Garry Kelly, Southwest Airline’s CEO, recently used the question feature to ask how an airline can make people more productive and was greeted with numerous responses that he and the community could view.
As for its “basic” display and text ads, Boznanski noted that LinkedIn still handles all of its ad placements, unlike other social networks that have outsourced to other ad networks. This, he says, “allows LinkedIn to target better.” LinkedIn supports text-based ads and display ads (300×250, 150×600, 728×90 and video). It also only allows a limited amount of ads per page, giving advertisers a bigger “share of page.” All of this has led to speculation that LinkedIn has a CPM in the range of $75 for targeted / customized advertising. Comparatively, Facebook CPM rates for display ads on the destination site are rumored to be in the $0.50 – $1 range and advertising within social apps on Facebook are going for CPM’s as low as $0.12.
On the earned media / non-paid side of things, brands can continue to create viral dialogue by using the status update feature, poll creation (not distributed or promoted as widely without advertising investment), group creation, corporate page updates (i.e. adding applications) and participation within the answers feature. All of these features also assist LinkedIn with creating more engagement with its user base.
Although LinkedIn may have been assisted on its current growth pattern by the economic climate and people searching for jobs, Boznanski noted that LinkedIn’s steady growth began in advance of the recession and they expect it to continue beyond the end of the recession – as they look to expand their ad sales business and overall community growth.