Inside Tips to Harness the Untapped Awesome of LinkedIn Ads

AJ Wilcox, Founder of B2Linked, joins the Social Pros Podcast to share his secret recipe to creating a highly successful campaign that closes deals in record time using LinkedIn.

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Full Episode Details

LinkedIn’s Secret Sauce

As a social media platform, LinkedIn is routinely passed over in favor of the “sexier” platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Those are all great for exposure or engagement, but if you want leads that are truly qualified and will convert more easily to sales than any other one that comes your way then LinkedIn is your source.

AJ has unlocked the hidden secrets of LinkedIn and knows how to harness its power to capture leads that convert faster and easier than anything else out there. Targeting his ads by geographic location, professional field, and title gives paid engagement a laser-focus so that sales teams are perfectly queued to seal the deal. Adding to that the suite of refined ways to engage with the LinkedIn audience, both paid and organic, makes it uniquely suited to making sales.

Using this combination of LinkedIn’s latest paid advertising models and organic reach, he has found ways to connect with people that are the best fit for any product.

In This Episode

  • How optimizing click-through rates leads to better visibility on LinkedIn
  • Why making marketing and sales happy means using conversation and Company Match together
  • How getting the smallest bit of engagement on LinkedIn leads to huge rewards in amplification
  • Why a higher upfront cost per click means a higher qualified lead with higher ROI in the end

 

Quotes From This Episode

“As with all social media, make sure that you understand that probably 65% to 80% of your traffic is going to come from mobile, so make sure that your mobile experience is all buttoned up.” —@wilcoxaj

“There’s literally 99% of the professionals that you want to go after are on LinkedIn and reachable there, and so when you’re looking to scale, it’s perfect.” —@wilcoxaj

“We’ve had such good luck hitting people with video on Facebook and Twitter, YouTube. It’s such a powerful medium.” —@wilcoxaj

“When they acquired Pulse, the goal was, ‘Let’s create a content platform that people will come here to digest their professionally focused content’.” —@wilcoxaj

It is much easier to achieve virality on LinkedIn than it is on any other network. Click To Tweet

“It’s really hard to find someone who really understands Facebook ads and isn’t a one-trick pony.” —@wilcoxaj

“When you are approaching LinkedIn as a platform, be aware that your initial cost per lead is going to be higher than other channels because your cost per click is five to eight times more, but the leads are generally of much higher quality.” —@wilcoxaj

If you're anything over about 1.5% engagement rate on organic, that's worth promoting. Click To Tweet

Resources

 

See you next week!

Transcript

Jay: Five, four, three … Welcome everybody to Social Pros. This is Episode Number 268 and I remain Jay Baer from Convince & Convert joined as usual by my special Texas friend. He is the executive strategist at Salesforce Marketing Cloud. He is Adam Brown. Adam?
Adam: Jay and I remain Adam Brown, but I am considering a shift and a change after Episode 265.
Jay: Are you? Are you going to go a different color? Going to go Adam-
Adam: I’m an autumn now and I’m thinking about moving to a spring.
Jay: I like it. I appreciate it. Man, I am so psyched about today’s episode. Last week’s show was really great, too. Man, I loved Tim on last week’s show. Talk about a dude who knows a lot about a thing. That guy knows more about watches than I know about anything.
Adam: Yeah. Truly, subject matter expertise is so important in everything that we do whether you sell widgets or you sell cars. I think certainly in the social media industry, really knowing your product and knowing how to get the best out of social media properties, social media products is so critical, and that’s why I’m excited about today’s show.
Jay: Absolutely. It helps to be specific. So many of us in social get spread so thin because there are so many different places that you could or should or might be able to, or your boss says, “How come we’re not,” and so you end up having to try to know everything about everything, but where the money really is, where the expertise really lies is on staying in your lane, which is why we’re so fired up to have AJ Wilcox join us on the show this week. AJ is the founder of B2Linked.com, and debatably, there’s really no way to prove this. We could have some sort of a trivia question competition, but AJ debatably knows more about LinkedIn ads than anybody who works for LinkedIn, so we are delighted to have him on the show. I’m not sure if they would acknowledge that, AJ, but you’d probably say it’s true.
AJ: Yeah, I have to.
Jay: Yeah, you believe that, true. AJ, tell us a little bit about your business and then we have like 150 questions about LinkedIn ads.
AJ: Okay, bring it on. All right. My business, we are essentially a very specific niche ad agency where all we focus on is LinkedIn ads, so both on the account management side for larger accounts, as well as the training consulting for the smaller brands.
Jay: They can find that at B2, the number 2, B2Linked.com, yup?
AJ: Yup, that’s right, and if you fill out that form on the website, you’re not going to be put into a sales funnel. You will come right to me, and I don’t do pressure sales, so feel free to hit me up for anything.
Jay: He does not do pressure sales, ladies and gentlemen.
Adam: There is no timeshare visit involved here.
Jay: There’s not. You get a free bottle of tequila and a Mexican blanket if you take this quick tour of LinkedIn ads. AJ, tell us a little bit about the categories of LinkedIn ad products. They’ve got a lot of different things that they would like to sell you or you would like to sell us that do different things. I suspect that most people listening to this program have dabbled at least with Facebook ads, probably have considered LinkedIn ads that may not have because they haven’t always had as many products as they have now, so maybe take us through a brief snapshot of what’s available on LinkedIn today and maybe compare and contrast it to what people might know better, which would be Facebook ads.
AJ: Excellent. Right when you go into LinkedIn on the self-service side, you’ll see that you have three ad options. The first, this was created back in 2008, they are the right rail Text Ads. Now these have an extremely low click-through rate, and so they’re really difficult to get any amount of volume from if you’re not working with giant audiences. The cool part about this ad, the one redeeming factor, is that they’re desktop only, so if you have a bad mobile experience, these are definitely worth considering.

The next is the ad that comes right in your newsfeed on both mobile and desktop, and that’s called Sponsored Content. These came out in 2013 with LinkedIn’s acquisition of the Pulse Network, and they are the darling of LinkedIn ads. This is probably where I would recommend everyone start, but as with all social media, make sure that you understand that probably 65% to 80% of your traffic is going to come from mobile, so make sure that your mobile experience is all buttoned up there. Then the third-

Jay: That would be the most similar to the Facebook newsfeed ads that we’re familiar with?
AJ: That’s exactly right, and the text ads would be more similar to those of the right rail ads on Facebook. Then when you get to the third option which is brand new, we have only had access to it on the self-service side of the platform for like six, eight months, but it was available if you worked right through LinkedIn before that. These are called Sponsored InMail. The really interesting things here, first of all, you pay per send on these. The other ad units, you only pay when someone clicks, or you can bid CPM if you’d like. This one, you pay … It’s usually 65 to 90 cents per recipient. That’s no guarantee that someone’s going to see it, let alone open it, let alone click through to your landing page, but these work really, really well for a very personal invitation, and Facebook has nothing like this, so it’s really interesting.
Jay: How do you execute on that invitation?
AJ: What you’re going to do is you first of all decide which profile someone’s going to be sending from, and a lot of times, this makes sense to have it come from someone in customer success or marketing, something like that. If it comes from sales or it comes from an executive, people are going to … their BS meters and going to go off and they’re going to go, “Okay, there’s no reason that this is personal.” You will send someone a message and make it feel like a personal invitation. This works really well with exploding offers where there’s a date that if you don’t act now, you’ll miss out. Get the FOMO alert going on.

Yeah, you’ll send this to someone. LinkedIn will only deliver it to that person when they are currently logged on to LinkedIn. They’ll see it appear in their InMail box and they’ll get to open it at that point if they so choose. Now I think one of the fun parts about this ad unit, whether it’s fun or not for advertisers, is you can only be hit with one of these every two months, so there is such a stringent frequency cap on this ad unit that it’s hard to annoy people by only sending them something once every two months.

Jay: Yeah, no kidding. That’s pretty … That is an extraordinarily tight frequency cap. It’s amazing.
Adam: That’s pretty limited, yeah.
AJ: I don’t know any other platform that will only allow a once every 60 days.
Jay: No, that is incredibly not greedy in the social media community, which is somewhat remarkable. What type of-
AJ: Yeah, we’ll see if that changes.
Jay: Yeah, we’ll see how long that holds up. Exactly. What type of ads do you feel work best on the platform? Is it direct response, as you mentioned, limited time offers, click here to buy now, lead gen kind of things, or is it more kind of what we do on this podcast, for example? Let’s talk about content, let’s promote content that somebody would then download and digest, and then eventually maybe turn themselves into a lead downstream. Is it more top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, or bottom of the funnel ads tend to perform best on LinkedIn?
AJ: Definitely by far, your best offer is going to be a content offer. I’ve found that anything in the white paper, checklist, guide, ebook range tends to work really well because they’re lower friction types of offers. I’ve seen some webinars work well even though a webinar is a little bit higher friction. Anytime that you drive someone directly to a demo or hop on the phone with our sales rep, that’s going to get such a low click-through rate that eventually, LinkedIn is going to say, “Eh, you’re not even worth showing anymore,” so definitely approach with content.
Jay: Is that true both for the InMail and for the more content-driven stream ads?
AJ: That’s a really good question. I think the Sponsored InMail is different here because you really do have to have an offer that feels so intensely personal and so attractive that it’s worth someone taking action on. I think with both your Sponsored Content and your Text Ads, you have to go a little higher in the funnel, a little more educational.
Jay: A lot of businesses are using LinkedIn organic and they’re doing blog posts and status updates and things like that on the platform. How do you balance organic LinkedIn participation with paid participation ideally?
AJ: They work hand in hand absolutely beautifully together. A lot of times, what I’ll do is a client will come and they’ll say, “We have someone working on the organic side. They’re prospecting, they’re connecting, they’re having conversations,” and I’ll go, “Awesome. I’m just going to go and create some of these Sponsored Content and let’s see what happens,” and then the sales team comes back with this flood of comments like, “Wow, every time we hop on the phone with someone or we get a response, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of you guys. You must be legit,'” and so they grease each other’s wheels quite a bit. Obviously, the organic side is super nice because everything you do there is free, whereas on the paid side, you’re paying six to nine bucks a click, and so I think the organic side is really attractive. I think everyone should be doing it.
Jay: I’m glad you mentioned that notion of targeting a particular company or a small swath of companies in a sales environment so the sales team knows they’ve got these 50 prospects they’re trying to reach. Marketing does some LinkedIn advertising to put some content in front of those 50 target companies so that when sales reaches them, they are warmed up, if you will. It provides some air cover for the sales behaviors. That kind of company-to-company, company-specific targeting has not always been possible on LinkedIn, and I know they’ve rolled out some other new targeting options. Can you talk about those as well?
AJ: Yeah. This is actually super exciting. Before, this has been … I’ve been using this new feature in pilot, but let’s say before the 24th of April, most companies haven’t had the ability to do this where you can take a list of companies and show ads only to people who are at those companies. Before that, what we had is in the normal targeting you’d have a place for company, but it would only allow 100 at a time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve build the Fortune 500 or the Fortune 1,000 for clients where 100 companies at a time, I’m building these campaigns one by one, and so these work really well, but of course, when you’re only able to target 100 companies at a time, it is really limited on the amount of volume.

As of the 24th of April, they came out with what they’re calling Company Match which is essentially a big helper for account-based marketing where you can upload a CSV of up to 300,000 different company names and then apply that segment to any other targeting. You can say, “Here are the 300,000 companies that we want to go after that are in this industry or worldwide,” I don’t know, that’s a lot of companies, but then you can say, “We only want people who are CEOs of these companies to see this ad, or the job function of accounting with manager and above seniority.” That’s the kind of insane control you could get over this air cover.

Jay: Yeah, that’s a huge boon for the account-based market team community who can do that on Facebook, certainly, and maybe through market animation, some other workarounds, but, boy, to be able to do that natively in LinkedIn is incredibly, incredibly powerful.
AJ: I’ll even tell you an interesting story about this. I went into a company and I was talking to the sales team and I said, “Okay, I’m sending a whole glut of Google AdWords leads to you guys.” They said, “Okay, that sounds great.” They went in, came back, and said, “Hey, two pieces of feedback about these ads. First of all, they are super hot. Thanks for sending,” and they said, “Number two, by the way, can we qualify these guys a little bit more? Because we’re talking to the CEO and we’re talking to the proverbial janitor and everything in between. Can we qualify these guys a little bit more?” So then it became, “All right, let’s talk about LinkedIn.”

We send a whole bunch of leads. Of course you get this natural headbutting between the marketing department and the sales. Sales are saying, “Marketing, you’re not giving us good enough leads,” the marketing department is saying, “You’re not working our leads well enough,” and so we went back to the sales department. I went to all the sales guys and said, “Guys, give me a list of your 50 companies that you would die to work with,” and they all gave me these companies. We went and took those and put them in ABM lists. Then do you think I ever had one of those sales guys ever not work my leads again? Nope. They knew that I was fighting for them because I wanted to get them exactly the right deals. Everyone on that list is going to be a deal that they will fight for.

Jay: Microsoft bought LinkedIn a little while ago. I guess it’s been a little while now, but not that long ago, there’s been some changes to what LinkedIn is about. There’s been some changes, obviously, to the ad products. There’s been some changes to the interface for users. What’s your take on Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn and where do you think this is going to head?
AJ: I can tell you unequivocally that Microsoft’s influence has not hit the LinkedIn interface or experience yet. I know things are in development right now, but the UI change that we recently saw in LinkedIn, that was all pre-planned. That was all LinkedIn. Microsoft has their plans that they’re going to be executing, but we are definitely going to see these two companies be very separate. We’ll see a lot of integrations between the two, but Microsoft has said repeatedly, “We want LinkedIn branding to stay the same. We want their culture to stay the same. We’re going to be relatively hands off.” I would expect that we’re going to see some big changes in the ad platform because of Microsoft’s involvement probably later in 2018, maybe early 2019, so we’re still quite a ways away from seeing this just because these big organizations do move a little bit more slowly, but I think the changes are coming and they’re going to be awesome.
Jay: On a related topic, what do you think about SlideShare? I’m a big SlideShare fan and have been for a long time. It feels like it’s gotten a little neglected in the recent changes over there. Maybe Microsoft will integrate it better and bring it more in the forefront. What’s your take on that part of the LinkedIn ecosystem?
AJ: I’m with you. I think SlideShare was something that everyone got really excited about, and then after they realized that they had to maintain it, we’re like, “Eh, this isn’t really worth our time.” We see it would have been really easy to integrate advertising into SlideShare more than they did, but we still can’t bid on SlideShare viewers from the LinkedIn ads platform. They never bothered to make that integration. From the speed of developments I’m seeing, I’m just not seeing them do anything with SlideShare, so I hope Microsoft does because it is a really cool platform.
Adam: Yeah, AJ, I agree completely. Just like Jay, I’m a bit of a SlideShare junkie myself. I see that it’s always been a little bit neglected at least over the past couple of years and I’ve wondered, is that because, like you said, they weren’t able to drive revenue from it or to it or because of it, or was it just because the whole idea of just slides without a commentary, without audio, or without video are not as mediable, shall we say, as it was a couple of years ago? I’m glad to hear that you’re thinking it may transform as well.

A question for you. I’ve been so fascinated. I’ve actually been taking copious notes as you’ve been talking about a couple of these things. We’ve always joked that Facebook knows more about us than just about anyone, but as you’ve articulated, LinkedIn seems to know just about as much about all of us as users and as consumers and as employees and employers, if not more. It sounds like they are moving towards custom audiences or what we call it at Salesforce Marketing Cloud active audiences with lookalike audiences, being able to target different types of people inside of different organizations.

AJ, have you found any other secret sauces or ways that companies can better use LinkedIn to reach very specific individuals, or do you see anything coming down the pike from LinkedIn? You mentioned a big challenge, “Okay, I can reach people at this company and I can maybe meet the people in the accounting department.” Are there any other triggers on what people may or may not be looking at on LinkedIn, who people’s friends are and their average experience level if they’re a VP and most of their friends are VPs? Anything else like that that gets into the secret sauce of what Facebook is trying to do at a consumer level?

AJ: Oh man. I’m an official partner of LinkedIn, a certified partner, and so I have to watch what I say a little bit because I am under NDA.
Adam: Sure.
AJ: I can at least hint there’s something really cool in beta that actually uses some of that information that we won’t have access to for a while, but I think I’m pretty comfortable saying that something like that is in development, so be watching. What I will say is Facebook is really, really good about adding new filters. For instance, we now have six B2B filters that we can use on Facebook like their job title, company name, company size, company industry, those types of things. The problem with it is it’s really hard to scale because so few users are actually putting their business information into their Facebook profile.
Adam: Or keeping it fresh.
AJ: Exactly.
Jay: That’s such a good point.
AJ: When you move over to LinkedIn, it becomes this instantly scalable part where over on Facebook, you started at a Level 2 and then you go, “Great. This is working awesome. Let’s turn it up to 10,” and then nothing happens. You’re not getting additional volume because you already hit the edge of that traffic, but on LinkedIn, it’s almost infinitely scalable. There’s literally 99% of the professionals that you want to go after are on LinkedIn and reachable there, and so when you’re looking to scale, it’s perfect.

The one issue that we have with micro-targeting micro-audiences on LinkedIn is that you can only target a group as small as 1,000 individuals. If you have a really targeted list of … Let’s say it’s the last 20,000 newsletter subscribers or webinar attendees, you have that list, sure, you can advertise against that and be really targeted, but if you’re a smaller company and you have a smaller list, you got to make sure you’re over a thousand, and that can be a little bit restrictive.

Jay: Why do you think that is? Why do you think they have that 1,000-person limit?
AJ: It’s privacy concerns. They want to make sure that no one can get creepy.
Jay: So I can’t just advertise to Adam and be like, “Hey, this show is on,” and he can’t just advertise to me and say, “No, it’s tomorrow”?
AJ: Exactly. We’ve all heard the edge cases on Facebook where you can play pranks on people like the roommate who would play pranks on the other roommate by talking about things really, really insanely personal that only he would know. I think LinkedIn just wants to avoid that, so they set that barrier of you can’t target under a thousand, and it’s restrictive for smaller campaigns for sure, but what can you do?
Adam: When you’re doing these programs as B2Linked.com, I’m curious how you actually deliver those leads or how LinkedIn delivers those leads to a company. Let’s say we do a successful program. We’re targeting a VP level person in the market in your communications department at this big Fortune 50 company. How does a company get those leads into their Salesforce or their CRM system or whatever they’re using to manage those leads through some sort of a sales cycle? What does middleware look like, or is that middleware where you come in?
AJ: Yeah, I think the middleware is where every CRM comes in, to be honest. What generally happens is you will set an ad up on LinkedIn in any of those three ad units we discussed earlier, and your goal from that ad is to get someone to your landing page as fast as possible, get them to a page you own, get them to a page that you can re-target, and give them the experience that you can differentiate. That’s great. On that landing page, you will likely have a form, something gated, and then as part of that form, you’ll have invisible fields that are capturing their UTM parameters or URL parameters for tracking purposes.

Then once that form is submitted, that’s going to go into your Salesforce and track where that lead came from. I think one of the big challenges for LinkedIn is you have to be a pretty sophisticated company to already have this in place. They have a lot of advertisers who may not be as sophisticated as your listeners who maybe don’t even have a CRM or they’ve never done this integration, so it becomes a challenge, but with Salesforce users, that’s not usually an issue.

Adam: Yeah, but I think with anybody, whether it’s three-by-five cards in a Rolodex or it’s a very elaborate CRM system, making sure that you’re taking advantage of all the insights of the marketing department is throwing over the fence, and leads is so absolutely critical. I see so many times where that middleware and the prudence to use that middleware effectively really falls short, and every time you do that, you’re not only risking a lead and perhaps even tarnishing your brand a little bit, but you’re just wasting marketing dollars.
AJ: Yeah. Someone is going to figure this out. This will be a big disruptive technology for B2B. Someone will figure out the way to universally do analytics and attribution such that it doesn’t matter what CRM you have and it doesn’t matter what model you’re using. Someone will solve it to make it easier for all marketers to attribute.
Adam: We’re certainly talking about all these things that LinkedIn is doing and transforming with their new marketing and advertising products, new products and services for me or you as a consumer or user of LinkedIn.com. I know in my days at Dell, we use LinkedIn very extensively both for recruiting as well as targeting IT decision makers at technology companies, and video at the time was something that we were doing on LinkedIn quite a bit. I’m curious certainly with all the transformations we’re seeing with video. In fact, last week, we were talking to a streaming video expert. What is LinkedIn doing in the video area both for sponsored videos as well as pre-roll and post-roll, and maybe even some streaming stuff? Is video becoming as important to LinkedIn as it is to the other big two, big three social media properties, and certainly as big as it is on the Instagrams and the Snapchats?
AJ: You hit my hot button, Adam. I have had such good luck using-
Adam: You’re welcome.
AJ: We’ve had such good luck hitting people with video on Facebook and Twitter, YouTube. It’s such a powerful medium. It’s so incredibly cheap right now that you’re an idiot if you’re not using it. Sorry if that was offensive to anyone. LinkedIn is so behind the curve here. They don’t have native video yet, although I’ve heard that they were at least in the process of rolling that out to their 160+ influencers like the business celebrities on the platform. The general model was roll something out to the influencers, let them test it out, and then roll it out to the rest of us. I am just crossing my fingers, hoping that someday, we’ll get native video and it will be as achievable and as inexpensive as native video is on all these other platforms, but right now, LinkedIn just really sucks at video and I hope they’re going to fix it.
Adam: Certainly, one of the things that all the social media properties are finding, and maybe this is one that LinkedIn will discover, is the stickiness of video. It keeps people on the property. We know all the numbers for the average number of minutes spent on Facebook and Twitter and the other properties. I’m curious, just because of your expertise in the space, where is the average person using LinkedIn? It doesn’t seem to be the same type of platform, although I think they aspire to it to be, where you fire up the browser in the morning and it stays up and it’s a persistent part of your life, or it’s that app that’s always front and center on your mobile device. What’s the frequency of use of LinkedIn and is that changing or varying like it is on the other social platforms?
AJ: The last stat I heard was that people will spend 17 minutes per week on average on LinkedIn, which really isn’t that much. That probably equates to about one or two maybe sessions during the week, but I can tell you from advertising with some of the largest accounts on LinkedIn, the vast majority of the usage … Maybe not vast majority. A ton of the usage comes in the mornings on business days, and so especially Tuesday morning from like your 7:00 to 10:00 area is when the vast majority of the use is happening. That’s where your clicks are the cheapest, your conversion rates are the highest, you have the least amount of competition.

Yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that LinkedIn has, is … Although they’ve made really good moves towards this that I’ll discuss here in a minute. I think the challenge is that they have all of these awesome users and the user base that everyone in B2B wants to reach, but they just can’t get people to spend enough time on there. If you would have asked back in 2012 who’s coming to LinkedIn and why are they coming, it was all, “Once every six months, I’m going to go and update my resume.” Then in 2013 when they acquired Pulse, the goal was, “Let’s create a content platform that people will come here to digest their professionally focused content,” and so I think they’re getting a lot more people to come back regularly, but we’re still at that 17 minutes a week which really isn’t nearly as much as like a Facebook.

Adam: No, I think that’s true. I don’t know, I can’t speak for everyone, but certainly in my circle of friends and followers on LinkedIn, I’m seeing a lot of them very successfully gaming the system. They’re creating a lot of content in the newsfeed on LinkedIn and they’re getting a lot of attention for that. They’re getting a lot of likes and engagements and things like that which I think certainly for them will pay off handsomely. Maybe one day, they’re looking to do that career shift, so I agree. It’s going to be interesting to see. AJ, I’ve got one more-
AJ: This is-
Adam: Go ahead.
AJ: Can I break in here? I have one fun little tidbit that might be interesting to everyone. LinkedIn is the one network that I know of, when you do like a light type of engagement, something like a like or a comment, it then rebroadcasts to your entire network. I think a lot of your friends and colleagues that you’re seeing blow up there, they found the secret to this that if you can create a message that is engaging to the point that someone is willing to like it or comment or re-share, you’re going to achieve virality. It is actually much easier to achieve virality on LinkedIn than it is any other network, so I would say wield it with responsibility, but it’s really easy.
Adam: We’ve gotten two tips now from AJ. A, if you’re a marketer, Tuesday mornings are the secret special time on LinkedIn, and number two, put that click-bait content up on LinkedIn because it will pay you handsomely. Last question, AJ, before I hand this over to Jay. I know one of the things you told us in our pre-show interview is that one of the things that bugs you about Facebook ads in general is that they are so cheap and that because of that, really, if you have a tight budget, you can really be successful there and it makes everybody look like an expert. I’m curious if you find that on LinkedIn as well. I guess the final piece of that is, well, that means if everybody is going to look like an expert, how can we all look legendary using these new tools? I’m curious what your thoughts are there and then I’m going to give it back to Jay.
AJ: I love the question. Yeah, first of all, I think LinkedIn … Well, I’ll start with Facebook. Facebook is so incredibly cheap still that everyone goes on and hits a home run or a grand slam the very first time they touch it. Everyone thinks that they have Midas’s golden touch, and so they go off and call themselves Facebook ads experts. It’s really hard to find, I think, someone who really understands Facebook ads and isn’t a one-trick pony. I think not to upset anyone, but I would say if you call yourself a Facebook ads expert, make sure that you know everything about it, that you’re running not just video ads but lead generation and conversion ads and all of that.

On LinkedIn, we don’t really have that issue because I think I’m the only one out there talking about it. It’s a platform that is quite expensive. Like I said, you’re going to be paying somewhere between $6 and $9 every time someone clicks, and so you’re going to keep out the people who are purveying the belly fat ads and the low quality ads, and that was their goal initially. “Let’s keep out bad advertisers that sully the reputation of LinkedIn,” but also, because of that, because of the relatively high cost, you have this issue where every experiment that you run, if it’s a failure, it’s a really expensive failure, and so I think it chases a lot of people away.

I think my biggest recommendation here is that when you are approaching LinkedIn as a platform, be aware that your initial cost per lead is going to be higher than other channels because your cost per click is five to eight times more, but the leads are generally of much higher quality. Your conversion rate initially is going to be much higher. What I have seen is even though you’re paying five times more for a lead on LinkedIn, I have seen it catch up and end up having a lower cost per closed deal or a higher ROI starting about that sales-qualified or sales-accepted lead type of stage, so stick with it even if the initial cost per lead is looking high.

Jay: Because of those dynamics, AJ, would you recommend a different post-click experience if you were running a campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Given the fact that the LinkedIn audience may be of higher quality or perhaps more homogeneous and it is going to be a higher cost per click, would you do something different on the landing page, et cetera to say, “Look, we need to deliver five X conversion rate for this to pencil. Therefore, we need to make this landing page different than it would be on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere”?
AJ: I think all social media is so similar. I was talking to Dennis Yu, if you know him. The Facebook ads guy.
Jay: Sure.
AJ: He talked about how all social media is really just a megaphone, you’re amplifying something, and so if something works really well on one network, when you amplify it with another, assuming a similar quality of audience, it’s going to work about the same. What I see is between these networks, I wouldn’t change anything on the landing page per se or anything post-click. I think if it works on Facebook really well, if it’s tuned, it’s going to work on LinkedIn quite well as well. The one caveat there is when I move it over to LinkedIn, because I know that those clicks cost more, I’m going to be a lot more deliberate about who I target. I’m going to create smaller, more targeted micro-segments to go after these decision makers. I think all of the changes come in the campaign side and not necessarily post-click.
Jay: Well, the converse is true as well, right? If it doesn’t work, it’s not going to work magically somewhere else. There’s this idea that, well, this content is mediocre, but as long as we boost it, as long as we put some paid against it, it’s going to be fine. Gary Vaynerchuk said in a video a couple of months ago that we mentioned on the show a few weeks ago, “No amount of advertising fixes shitty content.” It doesn’t inherently make it meritorious because you paid to show it to more people.

There is this technique on Facebook in particular, and to some degree, Twitter as well, where you promote your hits and you let your misses die. You put something out there organically, and if it gets disproportionate traffic to your historical baseline, then you amplify that because you’ve got evidence that it’s going to succeed more so than what you usually do. There really isn’t that opportunity on LinkedIn today, although I suppose you could do that. You could create some organic content, put it on LinkedIn, and say, “Hey, we’re getting more clicks. We’re getting more comments. We’re getting more shares. Now let’s turn this into an ad.” Does that make sense on LinkedIn? Is that something that you do or am I speaking crazy language?

AJ: No, this is absolutely something we do. If your company page has a good amount of followers, which means that your marketing team at some point has been concentrating on getting more followers because it just doesn’t naturally happen on LinkedIn, if you’ve got 10,000, 20,000 different company page followers, you can start putting out content and watching what those engagement rates look like. Things organically I tend to see have an engagement rate over about 1.5%, so anywhere between about 1.5% and 3% engagement, those are the ones I’m going to say, yeah, definitely consider promoting those. If you’re anywhere under that, it probably doesn’t pass the test.
Jay: Okay. What were the percentages again?
AJ: If you’re anything over about 1.5% engagement rate on organic, that’s worth promoting. If you’re under that, it’s probably not going to do super well on the paid side.
Jay: Okay. That is a good rule of thumb. Thank you for that. Speaking of rules of thumb, our friends in Salesforce Marketing Cloud who employ Mr. Adam Brown put together a new ebook called “50 Standout Best Practices for Social Media Marketers in 2017”. Great things to consider [inaudible 00:33:40] do in your own work for your own company this year. Some really terrific tips. A bunch of things I hadn’t thought of. It’s a really nice ebook. They’re going to give it away for free. You can check it out right now. “50 Standout Best Practices for Social Media Marketers in 2017” from Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Go to CandC.ly/getsocialebook. CandC.ly/getsocialebook or go to SocialPros.com to find the link directly. AJ Wilcox, founder of B2Link.com, LinkedIn ads expert, I want to ask you a little bit about how did this happen. How did you end up being the B2B LinkedIn ads genius? As you mentioned, not a lot of people are specializing in this. How did you come to specialize in this?
AJ: Completely by accident. Here about five years ago, I had about-
Jay: As all the good things are, right? Totally by accident.
AJ: That’s exactly it. About five years ago, I got recruited in … I’ve been doing digital marketing for about five years at this point. I felt like I was pretty legit. I knew my stuff. I got recruited into a local technology company that had just received a big round of funding. It was the hot stuff in the area. I got recruited in to go run all of their digital marketing. On my very first day, I walk into the CMO and I laid out my plans. “Here’s what I’m going to do with SEO and AdWords and Bing ads and Facebook ads,” all that. I remember her saying, “Okay, all that sounds good. Go ahead and execute, but just so you know, we started a pilot using LinkedIn ads, so see if you can make that work.”

To her, I said, “Oh, absolutely. Yes, ma’am,” and I left her office, saluted, and I then started laughing because I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I’d never even heard of LinkedIn ads. The platform might as well have not existed. Really, to keep egg off my face, I didn’t want to look like an idiot to my new boss, I went and jumped into the platform and started spending a lot of time. Within about two weeks, one of the sales guys came up to me and said, “AJ, we don’t know what you’re doing, but we absolutely love your leads. Keep it up,” and so I go log in to Salesforce, I look at the leads that this sales rep is dispositioning and all of them at this point, even just two weeks in, were sourced from LinkedIn ads.

Jay: Wow.
AJ: It was at that point I realized there is a lot of power behind this platform.
Jay: “There’s something to this, maybe.”
Adam: Yup. AJ, how did you choose that you were going to go very special … This is pretty specialized things, focusing in on LinkedIn ads. You’re really going deep rather than wide. What was the rationalization there? Obviously, it’s working quite successfully. You mentioned you took the number two spender on LinkedIn to number one with your activities and your management and counsel.
AJ: Yeah. I think what happened is as I was in the process of trying to learn this network, I would stumble up against a stumbling block of some kind and I’d go and Google like, “Hey, how do you do this with LinkedIn ads? How do I overcome this issue?” I would Google it and there’d been zero results. No one was out there talking about it. I’ve always been entrepreneurial in my mindset, so I’d go home and talk to my wife and tell her about these ideas. One day, I said, “I really think there’s something to this. There’s no one out there who’s talking about LinkedIn advertising. Maybe that could be me.”

We let it go to the way side, didn’t really think a whole lot about it until after I’ve been at this company for about two and a half years. My boss walked me to the HR department and I realized I was being let go. I’ve got a wife, I had three kids at the time with one on the way, and that was super scary for me. We went out and I went and got four job offers. We talked about them. We’re religious people, so we prayed about them. We felt guided to turn all of these down, that none of these were what we were supposed to do, so I was like, “Okay, well, what about this idea that I’ve had for quite a while, going out and being the LinkedIn ads guy, starting a very niche agency?” We both felt really good about doing it, and so that was it. I can’t say it was my own doing. I felt like we’ve been blessed and guided towards it.

Adam: It’s such a great concept. One of the things that I think about when I think about LinkedIn is when you go back and, heck, it’s been less than a year since the Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn. There were a lot of stories that after Microsoft made the acquisition and obviously spent a lot of money on buying LinkedIn that LinkedIn was going to become less of that business social media platform and just being the everything social media platform, really being and going up against the Facebooks and the Twitter. Now that you have an inside seat on all of this and now that we’re six, nine months after this acquisition, have you found that to be the case or are you saying that LinkedIn is truly doubling down on this business mindset space that they own and own in a very big way?
AJ: I don’t see them expanding outside of that too much. It’s just not the network that you go to spend a lot of time on. That element that I told you about where … Exactly.
Adam: Quality, not quantity.
AJ: Those initial small interactions that you do, your likes and your comments getting broadcast out to your network, that tells me that it just screams, “We don’t have a whole lot going on here, so we’re trying to fill up people’s news feeds.” As much as they may want to try to become the Facebook, I don’t see that happening. In fact, I would applaud their efforts to stay and just plant your flag and say, “We are where you go for business and that’s it. We don’t want to be where you’re sharing bikini pictures and vacation photos.”
Adam: If you had to put your crystal … Not put your crystal ball on because that probably would be a very dangerous … If you were to look into your crystal ball or put your thinking cap on, where do you think LinkedIn is going to go? Certainly, these new advertising products are very exciting. Obviously, we all have careers. We’re all going to matriculate in our careers and move back and forth, and we need a property or a tool or a resource in order to do that. Do you see any other niches as it relates to perhaps training, ongoing education, or anything like that, or any other parts of Microsoft that they can pull into? One of the things Jay noted as we were talking about video in LinkedIn is, heck, Microsoft owns Skype! Anything like that where you see there may be some more synergies, even though I dislike that term?
AJ: Well, I’ll tell you, you mentioned specifically online learning. Lynda.com was an acquisition that LinkedIn made here last year.
Adam: Oh, yeah.
AJ: I’m definitely seeing them make a lot more investments into Lynda, a lot more integrations. If you can imagine, you have this profile that says, “Hey, I’m good at what I do,” and then now you’re going to have these endorsements, “AJ took a SQL class and graduated, and AJ took a LinkedIn ads course and a Facebook ads.” I think it’s adding the social proof that’s extra credibility factor, so I think that is really big. I don’t know if I can speak to the rest of the acquisition. I’m really interested to see where they take it.

From an ads perspective, I’ll tell you, what gets me really excited is I’ve watched what Bing Ads has done. What they went from … When was this? Back in like 2010 when they turned to Bing, it went from zero having Microsoft AdCenter to being near-feature parody equivalent to Google AdWords which is by far the most advanced ad platform on the planet. They did that in, I would say, three and a half, four years. I think if Microsoft is willing to invest in LinkedIn ads, I think we’re going to see a platform that is easily able to keep up with Facebook ads and Google AdWords in complexity and in features and all that. I think that gets really exciting.

When I mentioned a little bit earlier about that sales team that I was working with where I sent AdWords leads and they closed really … They closed really fast, but they were wasting their time talking to deals that weren’t really going to happen versus social where you get to choose who someone is but not necessarily concentrate on what they’re looking for. Between these two networks, we have Bing who does search and LinkedIn who has all this information about us professionally, and I think the big opportunity here is to combine those datasets where you can do like the Google AdWords RLSA audiences but in a much broader scale where you say, “I only want to bid on these three keywords and only when the person who’s typing them is a VP or above of HR in technology companies,” for instance.

Jay: Right.
AJ: Big opportunities.
Jay: Absolutely. You were a missionary in Ukraine back in the day. Tell us about your thoughts on the current Ukrainian situation. It is nuts over there, obviously. Lots of friction. Lots of drama. I don’t know too many people who’ve spent a lot of time in Ukraine. You have. What’s your take?
AJ: I served on the eastern half of Ukraine. On the eastern half of Ukraine, even though it is definitely Ukraine, we all spoke Russian. No one spoke Ukrainian. I think they all knew it, but they spoke in Russian, and then if you ask them their nationality, they would call themselves Russians, whereas on the western half of Ukraine, if you speak to them in Russian, they act offended like they don’t understand but they do and it’s just a snooty thing. I am all for Ukrainian sovereignty there. I don’t think it’s okay that Russia can come in and take the whole Crimea. That would be like if someone came and annexed our Hawaii. It’s the vacation area there. I’ve talked to several people that I know who live there and they’re mixed reactions. First of all, it’s scary. The violence, people walking around with guns. Some are saying, “Well, we wanted to be Russian anyway,” and some are fighting it. Honestly, it scares me quite a bit. I didn’t think that in our lifetimes we would see this kind of political annexation and straight taking over happen. Anyway, I hope-
Jay: Usually, we reserve that for our technology companies, but now-
AJ: Yes, exactly.
Jay: Now, it’s geopolitical. Speaking of scary incidents, one of the things you told us in the show notes that I just have to ask you before we wrap up this week’s episode with AJ Wilcox as the founder of B2Linked.com is you once got your teeth caught in a basketball net. I want a play-by-play on that experience.
AJ: I love it.
Jay: Because I once almost ripped off a finger in a basketball net. Yours sounds worse, but I feel some empathy for you.
AJ: I don’t know. I like my fingers quite a bit. When I was six years old, my brother and I were playing out on our basketball court and I decided I was going to get a bucket and do a back jam. I went and got this bucket, jumped off backwards, and somehow, I don’t know if I just had a tiny head or something, somehow got my head wrapped up in the net. Of course, my mouth was open in a big smile while I was doing this super stupid thing, and my front teeth got caught in there. I was literally hanging by my front teeth as a six-year-old kid from this basketball hoop. Blood everywhere, my teeth were literally sticking out directly in front of me, and whatever my parents were doing at the time, they canceled those plans and ran me to a dentist. I still have my front teeth, they’re natural, although I am a little bit sensitive when I eat ice cream, so I got really lucky, I think.
Jay: Man, that would have been the single most viral Instagram post of all time had that been invented in those days. Wow, what an experience! I’m sorry to hear that, but it sounds like under the circumstances, it worked out okay.
AJ: Yeah, things are great.
Adam: Yeah, and your dentist got a new bass boat coincidentally months after that.
AJ: Yeah, that’s right. He was super happy that … I wish we had YouTube at the time. That would have been great.
Jay: I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. All right. Well, if anybody can top that story, Social Pros listeners, please send me an email. As I occasionally do, I encourage you to send me an email at my real email address which is Jay@JayBaer.com. B-A-E-R. Let me know who you are, what’s going on, where you’re listening to the show from, what you do in your job, and if you have a crazier story than teeth caught in a basketball net, if you have a better story, we’ll read it on the air next week. I am Jay Baer. He is Adam Brown from Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Our guest this week, AJ Wilcox of B2Linked.com. We’ll be back next week with an amazing guest here on Social Pros.

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