LinkedIn Starts Using Its Data to Sell Ads Across the Web

Another Social Company Joins the 'Off-Platform' Movement

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LinkedIn is beginning to sell ads across the internet, becoming the latest social company to layer its data on top of the web's ad inventory.

"This is the first time we've had a fully integrated product that allows marketers to reach our audiences outside of LinkedIn," said Russell Glass, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions' head of products, in an interview.

The new product, released today, will allow marketers to pick out segments of LinkedIn's audience -- VPs of sales in the financial service industry in New York, for example -- and serve them ads across the web. LinkedIn will allow marketers to target as few as 1,000 people.

The move comes as social companies realize their data contains value outside their walls. Facebook, for instance, put its login data to use in the revamp of its Atlas ad server, using it to help marketers connect user identities across desktop and mobile. And Twitter recently launched a product that allows its advertisers to serve targeted, Promoted Tweets to users of Flipboard and Yahoo Japan.

LinkedIn is offering the most precise targeting of the group, allowing marketers to pick and choose exactly the type of professionals they want to target out of its 347-million-strong network, and then show them ads across the web. The company has a deal with a number of publishers and the ad exchange AppNexus, giving it access to essentially unlimited inventory upon which it can layer its data.

Much of the groundwork for this move was laid when LinkedIn acquired Bizo, a b-to-b ad technology company co-founded by Mr. Glass last July for $175 million. LinkedIn pulled in nearly half a billion dollars in ad revenue last year.

LinkedIn is also releasing a new take on b-to-b ad targeting as part of its new LinkedIn Lead Accelerator offering. The product will allow marketers to target ads to prospects with different messaging based on the parts of their website the prospects have visited, and the data about them on LinkedIn.

If a VP-procurement visits a company's pricing page -- often considered an indication of an imminent deal, for instance -- they can be served a different message than a first-time visitor to the homepage. The messaging can be targeted on LinkedIn and websites across the internet, including Facebook, Mr. Glass said.

The offering is an ad-based version of marketing automation, a practice most often executed via email. Marketing automation via email is limited in scale since 95% of website visitors don't provide an email address, Mr. Glass said. Lead Accelerator anonymizes prospects that visit a marketer's website and sends them down a path with specific messaging geared to the part of stage of the sales cycle they are in, a potential solution for that problem.

Marketers pay LinkedIn to use the Lead Accelerator product based on the number of unique prospects they want to reach. The minimum prospect threshold to use the product is approximately 20,000, Mr. Glass said, and prospects will be shown somewhere between 10 and 30 ads per month.

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