LinkedIn Unveils Direct Sponsored Content for Better Targeting and Testing

Right on the heels of its acquisition of Bizo, LinkedIn has released a new feature called Direct Sponsored Content (DSC) to help marketers deliver more personalized content to specific audiences.

This new ad solution is an expansion of LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates, a content marketing product launched last year. With DSC, marketers can now publish sponsored content to their LinkedIn homepage feed without posting it to their Company Page. And while DSC can still be viewed by the page administrator on the Company Page, it only appears in the homepage feeds of LinkedIn members who fit the targeting criteria specified in a campaign.

With the introduction of DSC, industry participants say brands will gain the ability to customize and test their content across audience segments. According to Sahil Jain, chief executive (CEO) and co-founder of cross-network ad platform AdStage, when marketers previously used Sponsored Updates, they had to post to their Company Page. For example, if a brand wanted to test an ad, it had to repeatedly post the ad to its Company Page to gauge consumers’ interest, which, Jain says, was “frustrating for users.”

Through these tests, marketers gathered a mixture of organic results and paid results, and thus they could not accurately measure the performance of their posts.

But now, marketers can optimize content for specific consumers, and conduct A/B tests correctly across audience segments.

As the only LinkedIn Certified Marketing Partner with support for both Text Ads and Sponsored Updates, Jain’s company AdStage has conducted early tests of DSC with its clients. “DSC is performing well. Our clients have seen a growing positive return on investment (ROI),” Jain tells ClickZ, declining however to share specific numbers.

Patrick O’Rourke, creative technologist at socialdeviant, a Chicago-based social media agency, agrees that DSC enables marketers to test specific content more effectively. “This new feature allows marketers to test new messaging that does not get shared with their entire audience,” he says. “And it allows for more freedom for marketers to customize their message in an effort to reach a new audience.”

To get the most out of DSC, O’Rourke suggests marketers should start testing content that may not be applicable to their existing audience, but would attract prospects who fit the target criteria.

Looking beyond LinkedIn itself, the launch of DSC seems to represent a big move for native advertising. “[The introduction of DSC shows] that native advertising goes beyond the direct social space like Facebook or Twitter,” Jain notes, adding that now this ad format can work for a large variety of audiences, including business professionals from different industry verticals.

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