Since its launch in 2003, LinkedIn has evolved to become the largest professional networking platform in the world, with over 750 million registered members globally and more than 30 million members in the UK alone.
As part of The Drum’s recent Digital Transformation Festival, US editor Kenneth Hein spoke with Will Aldington Smyth, agency partner lead, EMEA at LinkedIn and Lauren Ogúndèkó, head of response digital and Board member at PHD UK to find out how and why LinkedIn has moved far beyond its roots as a B2B focused ‘digital Rolodex’ to become, surprisingly, one of the most effective B2C channels available to marketers in 2021.
Describing the gradual evolution of the platform, Aldington Smyth said: “It’s fair to say that LinkedIn was initially viewed mainly as a digital rolodex, CV depository and job board. Today, people come to LinkedIn for a much wider variety of reasons: to be inspired; to connect with others; to find out about different organisations; to learn new skills; to present their professional opinions and to showcase their personal brand. In 2021, our members are using LinkedIn to present their values to the world.”
PHD UK’s Ogúndèkó explained how LinkedIn has become an important tool in the lives of millions of professionals: “LinkedIn has done a really good job in curating users and creating an experience that allows users to find the relevant type of content that they need. I'm an avid LinkedIn user. Interestingly, I take it very seriously; when I post something, I review the posts and make sure I've got the right hashtags in there. There's a different ‘mind set’ when using LinkedIn to other networking platforms and we’re seeing increasing numbers of our clients tuning into how that can be leveraged for B2C campaigns.”
According to Aldington Smyth, the pandemic has accelerated the volume of B2C marketing activity taking place on LinkedIn, a trend that had already been gathering pace: “Even before lockdown, we were seeing some really nice uses of the platform around live events. Several fashion houses, for example, have broadcast catwalk shows live on LinkedIn and seen a huge response. After the pandemic hit and the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled, a number of auto manufactures launched their new cars live on the platform.”
LinkedIn’s recent Meet the Member Research Study (July 2020), claimed that LinkedIn is more effective than other social platforms at driving consideration and subsequent purchase in several consumer categories, including luxury goods and automotive.
Aldington Smyth said: “Our members are interested in all sorts of things, not just business. One of the topics of highest interest on the platform is electric vehicles. As a result, we have some great data and research and insight, showing people's attitudes towards EVs and what they want from them. Really powerful stuff that can support advertisers and help our customers make decisions.”
Ogúndèkó provided a recent example of an auto client of PHD’s who used LinkedIn to gauge public perceptions of electric vehicles. Insights gained from LinkedIn showed that there was a large audience who really liked the brand and who wanted certain features in an electric car. These features became the focus of the brand’s next video ad on the platform.
She said: “The specific, granular data that we were able to garner guided the production of the creative. The video had some of the best engagement that we've seen across all of the platforms that we used, with users commenting, liking and asking for more information. The ROI was very, very positive.”
A trusted environment
Aldington Smyth believes that it is the platform’s respect for its user community that has led to LinkedIn becoming such a unique and potentially valuable channel for B2C marketers. “We are a members first-organisation. We do not do anything we feel is going to be detrimental to our members experience, or any misuse of their data. We’re incredibly careful about how we keep the platform balanced between organic content, people's posts, companies’ organic posts, and sponsored content. With our Sponsored Message Ads products, for example, any member will only receive one paid-for email, every 30 days. We work hard to keep the platform ‘uncluttered’.”
Ogúndèkó also praised LinkedIn for its work in this area, saying: “We couldn't just spam people, even if we wanted to! Frequency capping on videos is also really strong on LinkedIn and the ad formats available are intelligently designed, based on first-party knowledge of the members, to enhance the user experience. Brand safety is also a huge concern for brands and LinkedIn is a very trusted platform for clients and users alike. The added controls that come with LinkedIn as standard make it an easy brand to recommend.
“LinkedIn is ready as a B2C channel. With the deprecation of third-party cookies, first-party data is going to be more important than ever for brands. The richness of LinkedIn data and the platform’s relationship with marketers and advertisers, is going to be priceless.”