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LinkedIn takes page from Facebook to catch up on mobile

LinkedIn is ramping up its advertising opportunities for marketers with new sponsored content units that resemble similar offerings from Facebook.

Earlier this week, LinkedIn unveiled a new suite of advertising products for mobile and desktop that let marketers promote content to users who do not follow a brand?s page on the social media site. The units resemble similar offerings by Facebook and could help LinkedIn grab some of the similar success that Facebook has seen with mobile advertising recently.

?It?s no random occurrence that LinkedIn?s sponsored updates so closely resemble Facebook?s sponsored posts,? said Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing at Kenshoo Social, San Francisco. ?Facebook has already proven that this style of ad is both engaging and successful in driving user interactions, such as clicks to off-site content, including brand Web sites.?

?The fact that marketers have experience using Facebook?s sponsored posts should lower the barrier to entry for LinkedIn?s sponsored updates,? he said.

Mobile promotion
As LinkedIn?s membership continues to grow across both mobile and desktop platforms, the company is increasingly looking for new ways to monetize its cross-platform users.

LinkedIn began testing the ad units in January, but officially rolled them out this week with initial brands such as Nissan, Adobe and Xerox using the ad units.

The ad units resemble regular posts, but include copy that acknowledges that the content is sponsored. Consumers can ?Like,? and share the post as well as follow the brand?s LinkedIn page directly from the post.

Brands can use the ads to push out an article, blog post, video or presentation.

Consumers can also hide sponsored posts in their feed, which could be helpful in making the ads more relevant to users, and is also slightly different from Facebook?s mobile ads that can be overwhelming to consumers.

Marketers already familiar with Facebook could find the LinkedIn posts appealing since the ads are similar, but need to keep in mind the two different audiences that the ads target.

While Facebook is focused on the social experience, LinkedIn is built as a network of dedicated professionals, meaning that ad context will play a more pertinent role for LinkedIn advertisers.

There are also similarities to Twitter?s mobile advertising options, but Twitter targets both a professional and social audience.

Twitter also is used to push more time-sensitive messages with hashtags.

However, the idea to inject ads into a stream of a consumer?s news feed is a common thread between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and points to the need for marketers to include mobile in all of their social advertising content.

?Stream advertising is growing at an incredibly rapid pace and the majority of people access their social streams on their smartphones,? said Kelly Cooper, marketing manager at ShopIgniter, Portland, OR.

?Mobile customers are social customers so just as these new ad formats are rolling out across desktop, mobile and tablet, marketers need to make sure that the experiences the ads drive to are optimized across devices,? she said.

To create more contextually-relevant ads, marketers will need to tailor LinkedIn ads by device.

Additionally, data will also play a key role in LinkedIn?s advertising success.

?The idea that a company that deals in cloud-based technology like our client Office 365 could target users in different verticals on their mobile device is perfect, but only if brands take the time to have varied content and messages,? said Ron Schott, head of social at IPG Mediabrands UK, London.

?Mobile access of social is only going to continue to grow, so it's great that LinkedIn are thinking in this way,? he said.

?The exciting thing that I'm hoping is on the horizon is the ability to target based on custom data sources like emails or telephone numbers. When you're thinking about the vast amount of customer data brands have in their CRM systems, there's a great advantage to include that in the targeting set.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York