LinkedIn advertisers can now use their own data to improve targeting

LinkedIn advertisers are getting a new way to target their campaigns — specifically, a feature allowing them to aim Sponsored InMail and Sponsored Updates toward companies where they’re actually trying to make sales.

Russell Glass, the head of products for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, told me that while the network already includes plenty of ad-targeting options, its company-targeting features aren’t ideal. Basically, if you wanted a campaign to reach people at a specific organization, it was a fairly manual process and you were limited to a list of 100 companies.

Now, with LinkedIn Account Targeting, businesses can bring their own list of accounts (i.e. sales accounts — companies, not individual user accounts). LinkedIn then cross-references that list with the 8 million company pages on the site and creates a user segment for ad targeting. Glass said this can be combined with LinkedIn’s other targeting features, so marketers can limit their campaign to, say, specific job titles in specific geographies at a few thousand companies.

Glass suggested that this approach ties into a couple of broader themes. First, there’s the rise of account-based marketing — namely, aiming your marketing at particular customer accounts. He suggested that by supporting this, LinkedIn allows marketers to become “more aligned with what the sales team is already doing.”

Second, Glass said that for the last couple of years, his team has been “really focused on sponsored content and building that core platform.” Next up: A broad set of tools called Audience Matching, which should give advertisers more ways to use the data that they already have.

“This is a platform,” he added. “Audience Matching is something that we’re building to allow us to much more easily take in datasets [from advertisers]. … Account targeting rolls out tomorrow, and in the future we’ll be rolling out other datasets.”