• Adam Yaeger

Your Complete Guide To Successful LinkedIn Targeting

Wait, job titles aren’t the only way to target on LinkedIn? Skills and groups targeting, as well as others, might be more efficient targeting options for your ad campaigns. Read on for a deep dive into LinkedIn ad targeting options for your next campaign.

LinkedIn ad targeting options give you the ability to reach 500 million LinkedIn users, 80% of whom are responsible for a given business’ decisions. Although job titles are the main ad targeting facet marketers think of when starting a campaign on LinkedIn, there are many other targeting options that might be better for reaching your objectives. Let’s review the pros and cons of targeting by job titles as well as some other options for targeting so you can maximize the reach of your Sponsored Content to facilitate quality lead generation. And if you wanted insight into what types of ad products LinkedIn has to offer, check out our Ultimate Guide To LinkedIn Sponsored Content And InMail.


Targeting by location


Before getting into the different methods of targeting, it goes without saying that you can target by location on any social media platform. LinkedIn location targeting (in marketing speak, LinkedIn geo-targeting) is a great way to target if you are trying to promote a specific event, serve a certain metro area, or want to focus on a particular area for a more dynamic message.


Targeting by job title


Targeting by job title is one of the things that makes LinkedIn ad targeting so unique and valuable for marketers. You don’t get this ad targeting option on many other platforms other than Facebook (but how many people do you know that put their job titles on their Facebook profiles?). Job titles are very specific, so when you use these targeting criteria, you are filtering to a more narrow audience than you would by using other targeting options. For example, rather than targeting ‘Engineer,’ you can target ‘Senior Engineer’. ‘IT’ versus ‘Software Developer’. You get the point.


Targeting by job title is a double-edged sword though. While it can be helpful to filter out the job titles you aren’t looking for, titles are often vastly different amongst companies. A prime example: an Account Manager at one company might be referred to as an Account Executive at another. Anyone who has worked at a company that has a sales team knows that these two titles mean two very different things when it comes to seniority and job function.

Another downside to targeting by job titles is that some companies create specific and unique job titles in an effort to be innovative (i.e. Chief Happiness Officer). There is no way for us to know exactly what a “Chief Happiness Officer” does at that specific company (although we can make an educated guess 🙃), so this leaves out part of our potential target audience. For all we know, a Chief Happiness Officer at one company may have the exact same job responsibilities as an HR manager at another company. We also run the risk of missing out on job titles because there is a cap in how many job titles you can choose in your target audience. You can only choose up to 100 job titles. In order to avoid missing out on reaching your target audience by only targeting by job title, here are some other LinkedIn-specific targeting options you can and should utilize when creating your target audience.


Targeting by job function paired with seniority


Job function and seniority targeting on LinkedIn is a very powerful combination that many advertisers fail to utilize within their ad campaigns. Pairing a LinkedIn user’s functional role with their seniority level can extend your reach by 10x or more. Seniority is self-explanatory, but you might be wondering what a job function is. Job functions are the functional roles that a particular professional is in. Let’s take an example: Betty is an HR Manager and Bob is a Leadership and Development Manager. They have different titles, however, they would still be classified under the HR job function (by LinkedIn’s classifications). LinkedIn groups every job title into functional areas.


Let’s put this into practice. You want to target engineers but you don’t have a specific title in mind. You know you want to reach engineering decision-makers so you can target ‘Engineering’ as a function and layer on a seniority of ‘Directors+.’ This will include Directors, VPs, CXOs, and Presidents/Owners. What makes job functions such a powerful targeting option is that LinkedIn sorts each member’s job title into a certain functional area (Title: Marketing Manager, Function: Marketing and Seniority: Manager; Title: Software Engineer, Function: Engineering and Seniority: Individual Contributor). By combining job function and seniority function you can ensure you aren’t missing any job titles that you might want to target within your marketing campaign.


Pairing job function and seniority together can expand your reach to help you reach the qualified audience you are looking for, and often achieves the same if not better results than targeting by job titles.


The function campaigns, when tested against the titles campaigns, had much higher CTRs across all campaigns.

Targeting by industry


Targeting by a person’s industry should not be confused with targeting by a job function. For example, if you want to target finance managers at education companies, you can use education as the industry and layer on finance as the function. In some cases, you might not know which title or function you want to target, but you do know you have a very specific industry you need to target, and vice versa.


Targeting by skills


Another great way to reach your target audience is to target by the skills LinkedIn members list on their profiles. If you want to target professionals who have experience with Salesforce, you can easily do so by adding ‘Salesforce’ as a skill within your targeting parameters in your campaign. You can target by any skill a person includes on their LinkedIn profile. This comes in handy when you have a specific functional area you’d like to target but want to narrow down to people who have a particular skill set (i.e. you want to target marketers but only those who are experienced in Marketo. You want to target HR professionals but only those who have leadership skills).


When it comes to using skills as your targeting criteria, keep in mind that people list skills on their profile with no categorical grouping, so any skill you can think of is likely in play here. This can be a benefit, however, similar to keyword targeting in Google Ads. Anything is in play — the world is your oyster! Just be mindful that your scale and reach could be quite low if you only want to target specific skills in which people do not mention in their profiles. When choosing skills to target for we recommend gathering any keywords you might be using in your SEO efforts or for Google display/search campaigns.

Targeting by groups


LinkedIn groups targeting is similar to targeting certain interest groups on Facebook. If you want to target people who have attended a certain event, you can do so with LinkedIn groups targeting. You can also target professionals that are in a LinkedIn group centered around their interests. Let’s say you had wanted to target professionals who are part of public speaking groups. There are over 1,500 public speaking groups on LinkedIn for which you can target. Groups can be a great way to target a highly engaged audience of LinkedIn users because most people that are part of groups engage with the platform more frequently so you have a better chance of reaching them.

Targeting by interests


LinkedIn associates certain interest categories with one another based on the feed data it receives from people posting and how each member engages with the posts. These interest groupings can be as broad as “businesses and management” or as specific as “business intelligence,” so they offer a pretty wide range of targeting options. Targeting by interests is good to use in conjunction with the other ad targeting options mentioned above.


Targeting by company size


LinkedIn sorts each company by a variety of different company size ranges, so you can target anyone from self-proprietors, SMBs, startups, medium to large scale enterprise organizations, and more. Here’s the full list of company size ranges you can target by on LinkedIn.


Targeting by ABM (account-based marketing) lists

Fun fact: LinkedIn is the only platform that allows you to upload a list of company names. This becomes incredibly valuable to scale if you only have a list of client prospects’ emails, emails from an event, or emails from your customer relationship management platform. How?

Adam’s Growth Hacking Tip: You can ‘comma-delimit’ by their work email in your email lists to create a company list from scratch. Now, instead of only targeting Dwight Schrute at Dunder Mifflin Paper company, you can target all Assistant to the Regional Managers at Dunder Mifflin (although I doubt there will be more than one Dwight Schrute and god help us if there is).

You can upload these company lists to LinkedIn which will extend your reach further than just uploading your standard email lists (targeting by an individual email). Keep in mind: you need at least 300 objects (companies or emails) in order to upload each list on LinkedIn. LinkedIn also has specific account targeting templates for which you can download here.


Negative targeting (or exclusions)


A very useful and often forgotten way of targeting (on any platform) is to exclude certain targeting options. What do we mean by this? Let’s say we wanted to set up an ad campaign tailored to reaching architects. Once we add the phrase ‘architects’ into campaign manager we’ll most likely be targeting ‘software architects’, when in fact we want to target people who design buildings. Sometimes we can get more scale by exclusions rather than inclusions. Let’s say we want to only target large enterprise organizations. Rather than including company sizes of 10,000+, we can try excluding any company sizes fewer than 10,000. Sometimes the increase in scale from excluding won’t be the case and it depends on what targeting facet you are excluding, however, this is a good method to test to see if you can acquire more scale by excluding rather than including.


Our architecture campaign yielded 18 qualified leads in 1 month with a high CTR and engagement rate, as well as many social actions.


Other notable LinkedIn ad targeting options


‘Company growth rate’ and ‘company categories’ are newer targeting options that LinkedIn recently introduced. I wouldn’t suggest using them as your only targeting facet, but these are good to layer onto your already well-built out target. Let’s say that you want to target start-ups that have a certain round of funding (i.e. Series A). You can’t directly target that, but you can get as close as possible by targeting a certain growth rate (i.e. +10% YoY). If you only want to target Fortune 500 companies, you can do that by targeting company categories. Within company categories, there is also the option to target specific popular lists (i.e. Forbes lists).


Regardless of what targeting criteria you ultimately go with, the right combination of targeting options will get you the scale and reach for a successful LinkedIn ad campaign. If you’re still unsure of what targeting options to choose in your ad campaigns, you can call on the experts! Schedule a time to chat and create a targeting plan that works for your marketing goals.

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