UPDATED: Coming soon to LinkedIn — sponsored InMails, Groups

17/09/2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

UPDATE: LinkedIn announced to the world yesterday sponsored Groups, as we revealed below two months ago.

Marketers will be able to add Groups as an extension of their brand for around $50,000 a month.  More details from MediaPost here.

We keep a keen eye on other players in the business networking space (as you’ll know if you’ve read our piece on Ecademy recently) and I was privy to a presentation from LinkedIn last week on future product features.

The presentation was to members of the Association of B2B Agencies (I was there as a guest) and majored on reasons why marketing professionals should be looking into LinkedIn as a marketing platform.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has forged a reputation for the career development side of professional networking, but seems keen to expand upon this; perhaps unsurprisingly now they sit on profiles for 43 million business professionals — a valuable contact database!

There are no plans to SELL that data — although there is little doubt LinkedIn could beef up its balance sheet if it did — but the site does plan to introduce more tools to help companies market to its members directly, in-site.

You may already be aware that LinkedIn added DirectAds advertising to the site in Augusr, working in a very similar way to Google Adwords display ads, with one key difference: whereas Google ads appear when a matching search term is used, the LinkedIn ads are matched to specific site users.  So, if you want to target, say, sales professionals in the UK your ad will appear on LinkedIn site pages accessed by those UK sales professionals as they navigate around the LinkedIn site, regardless of the context of the content they are looking at.

Other marketing tools are coming.

Those with a bigger budget — the LinkedIn website says $25K plus — will be able to sponsor InMails, messages sent through LinkedIn’s internal messaging system.  LinkedIn seems fairly flexible in content, with accompanying banners being able to link to a website page or to the profile of a relevant LinkedIn member if you wish to make the InMail appear personal. It’s also the method LinkedIn advocates for very focused, fine grained marketing campaigns, as it would seem you can be much more specific as to what characteristics are used to choose recipients with InMails than you can with DirectAds.  The sponsored InMails will cost £1.50 each recipient and will be launching soon.

Also coming is sponsored questions and answers, using a site feature you may know from the LinkedIn Groups.  Companies will be able to sponsor a question thread, with answers, so that anyone participating will see accompanying logos and messages from that sponsor.  Those questions could be promoted through banner ads on the site, or sponsored InMails, enticing prospects to come and comment on something they have an interest in.

Here’s an example: you want to target health and safety staff at UK manufacturing companies, so an InMail aimed at specific contacts in that sector could ask them to comment on a sponsored question you’ve set up asking how many of them know how to obtain government grants to fund staff training.

To ensure that LinkedIn users in “hot” roles (e.g. purchasing managers or CEOs at large corporations) don’t get constantly bombarded with sponsored InMails, they will be restricted to one every 60 days; after receipt of one, that recipient is removed from the list of available contacts until 60 days later.  The system isn’t clever enough to queue sponsored InMails, so it’s luck whether you get access to the full list of people you want.  The registered email address won’t be available to the marketeers, although recipients of sponsored InMails will receive emails to their normal email accounts telling them they have an unread InMail on the LinkedIn site; that email itself will NOT contain sponsor messages.

We think it looks pretty good and I don’t have too many concerns that the moves will lead to the LinkedIn site bombarding us with spam.  There are bound to be some who don’t look on the move as favoruably though, citing the display ads and sponsored mails as too intrusive — in spite of it guaranteeing the core site features can still remain free.

What do you think?

LinkedIn users: CLICK HERE to easily import your Ecademy contacts to our Social CRM system, helping you to build and manage your online relationships.  If you haven’t previously registered you can just sign straight in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google ID!.

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UPDATED: Safe Networking with Ecademy? £5 buys you a green badge but not the security you think! WeCanDoCRM Social CRM launched!

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