LinkedIn is letting advertisers get a little more personal with its members. Starting today, advertisers can target LinkedIn users based on job title, company name or LinkedIn group level. Previously they could only target based on more general criteria like geography and industry.
The new capabilities reflect the rising demands of ad buyers who are quickly growing accustomed to the granular data provided by publishers and social networks. Facebook, for example, has long allowed advertisers to target users based on data like relationship status and sexual orientation.
"We've been hearing from a number of advertisers that they love our audience and context and what they are able to do already, but they want more than that," said Jack Chou, senior product manager at LinkedIn. "Letting them target specific companies and job titles really opens up the door to a new level of targeting for them."
The new targeting capabilities were partially rolled out as an invite-only beta test in late 2010. Among the advertisers to test them were Intelliworks, which builds CRM software for colleges, and Canadian University. LinkedIn said that clients who have used the new targeting options reported click-through rates three to four times higher than the site's average.
Part of the reason for rolling out the new capabilities now, said Chou, was the implementation of standardized job titles on the site. Previously, LinkedIn members were free to list any job titles they wanted, which would have made it difficult to target ads based on those entries. Going forward, LinkedIn users will be able to select their titles from a pre-established list of options. If they choose to write in a title, LinkedIn will convert it into a standardized version on the backend.
LinkedIn is also bringing its self-serve textual ad platform out of beta. That service had been in the testing phase for a much longer time - about 18 months - and was available to all clients without an invitation.
Chou acknowledged the increased privacy concerns of users that might come with allowing advertisers more access to their data, but gave assurances that "everything that’s targeted on our system is totally non-personally identifiable."
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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