While Facebook is grinning about earning the attention of employment recruiters looking for the best and brightest talent, LinkedIn is earning some new revenues from its just-launched social-networking advertising program. Or at least hoping to.
LinkedIn, a professional online network with more than 27 million members, launched the LinkedIn Audience Network on Monday. A grown-up version of Facebook and MySpace, LinkedIn is tapping into its profile-based targeting technology to help marketers reach specific audiences of what it calls "influential and affluent professionals across hundreds of high-quality brand-name publishers."
"The message we hear from advertisers is simple: They want mass reach against specific segments of decision-making professionals, and they want their ads to appear in quality environments," said Steve Patrizi, LinkedIn's director of advertising sales. "The LinkedIn Audience Network offers advertisers one of the most accurate audience data sets available on the Web, along with the confidence of knowing that their brands will only appear on sites with high editorial standards."
LinkedIn's Affluent Audience
LinkedIn may be in for a warm reception with its official launch. The company said hundreds of top-tier advertisers have already run campaigns on LinkedIn.com to deliver advertising based on the personal information that its members publicly share in their profiles. Specifically, LinkedIn has access to public data in profiles such as company size, industry, profession and seniority.
As LinkedIn describes the program, advertisers have several opportunities through the new network. They can target LinkedIn's "InCrowds," which are predefined audience segments -- such as corporate executives, small business professionals and IT professionals -- that exist within the broader audience. Alternatively, advertisers can also work with LinkedIn to define their own customized audience targets through LinkedIn's data-mining approach.
LinkedIn is working both sides of the Web table. The professional networking site says its new ad platform will also benefit partner publishers. LinkedIn is touting the opportunity for publishers to monetize unsold inventory at premium prices by utilizing LinkedIn's targeting capabilities.
Mixed Results From Social-Network Ads
"There are very mixed results [from advertising] on social networks, in part because people aren't really appearing to take action on these networks. They are there to communicate, socialize and play games," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "But social networkers are not responding to these ads in a way that they do in more directed sites or with search."
LinkedIn thinks it has found a way around that problem: selling its audience. LinkedIn's benefit compared to other, younger social networks may be the fact that its membership includes all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies, as well household names in technology, financial services, media, consumer packaged goods, entertainment, fashion and numerous other industries.
"The question is, are they going to be successful where many social networks have not been particularly successful with advertising in terms of revenues?" Sterling asks. "LinkedIn does have a desirable audience, and it has its own graphical advertising. The company also has the ability to target LinkedIn users when they are on other sites."
What's in this for LinkedIn members? The company said its members will benefit from a relevant and well-targeted ad experience across the Web. And in a move to head off critics from privacy advocacy groups, LinkedIn stressed that the non-personally identifiable data available to advertisers from LinkedIn includes only industry, job function, seniority, company size, gender and geography.
The company repeatedly emphasizes the fact that personally identifiable information will not be shared with publishers or advertisers. Members will have the option to opt out of this program.