With 467 million users using LinkedIn to network, spy on the careers of friends and former classmates and read news and analysis from leaders in their industry, it’s easy to see why the site has become one of the Internet’s most attractive destinations for business-to-business (B2B) advertising.
The professional networking platform is now making a push to hook more business-to-consumer (B2C) brands as clients, and a number of top luxury houses are taking the bait. Chanel and Louis Vuitton are among the fashion brands to have run ad campaigns or paid for sponsored content on the site, along with watchmakers IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Baume & Mercier.
“LinkedIn has one of the largest proportions of affluent high earners,” said Genna Meredith, senior public relations and social media manager at the Digital Luxury Group, a Geneva-based advertising consultancy tailored to high-end brands. “Although many brands still see LinkedIn as more of a B2B advertising tool, for B2C luxury brands it is also worth considering.”
“It’s about targeting the right person, at the right time, in a premium environment,” said Tatiana Dupond, LinkedIn’s head of luxury accounts. Since taking on the job just over a year ago, Dupond has been vaunting the benefits of the service to high-end houses and at industry events like the Luxury Forward conference in Paris last November.
“The strength of the platform is the mind-set people are in,” Dupond told WWD. “You don’t just spend time on LinkedIn, you invest it. You are trying to learn about your industry or area of expertise. You’re looking for ways to work better.”
The respect and curiosity cultivated by the professional network puts users in a frame of mind where they are likely to pay more attention or even take action based on a brand’s message. With information about users’ past and current professional positions, their professional networks, and the industry leaders whose content they tend to read, LinkedIn is also able to target ads to users not just based on their potential interest in a product, but on their likelihood to buy it.
“For clients like a jewelry brand, we can help them target, say, 35-year-old women in a particular industry and who are at a point in their career where they would have the necessary revenues,” said Dupond.
In addition to helping brands choose target ads, LinkedIn also claims to make it possible to send the message at the most opportune moment. Life milestones are a frequent trigger for buying luxury product — accounting for as much as two-thirds of purchases, according to Dupond, citing a survey by the web site.
When a user posts about a new job, promotion or graduation, LinkedIn offers the option of targeting users either with ads and sponsored content or even by sending customized messages to their message box on the site.
In one such campaign for Baume & Mercier, the watchmaker sent messages to recent graduates of top schools as they started their professional lives, encouraging them to reward themselves with one of the brand’s entry-priced watches.
As brands work to build or maintain a particular image, targeting people in specific industries who have achieved a particular level of success can aid in the task. But luxury brands should be careful about advertising their products in an environment that is seen by many as purely professional.
“Using LinkedIn versus Facebook or Instagram, this is the same thing as calling someone on their office phone instead of their cell phone — and brands need to realize that,” said Ross Anderson, founder and chief executive officer of Nylmedia, an online communications agency for luxury brands. “For some brands like watches or accessories, LinkedIn is definitely worth trying. Once you get into a sector like prestige fashion you have to be more careful. What is your brand saying by being on LinkedIn?”
Anderson recommends that clients work closely with the social network’s in-house account teams to craft a message that doesn’t seem to out of place in users’ feeds, which are filled with highly specialized information related to their industry.
“LinkedIn has the most powerful technology solutions available when it comes to people’s corporate lives,” said Anderson, but the precise targeting vaunted by the firm tends to come at a price. While LinkedIn negotiates with brands on an individual basis, he says the price-per-click for display ads can be as much as five times higher than other social networks.
“In general, we see higher CPM and CPC [cost-per-thousand impressions and cost-per-click] if you compare with Facebook or Instagram,” echoed Digital Luxury Group’s Meredith. But she says the investment often pays off. “When you look at the entire funnel the cost-per-conversion is usually much more competitive.”
This may be because the information users provide to LinkedIn is more accurate than on other sites. “This is someone’s public CV, so people are keen to share more information publicly, and honestly,” Meredith said, as opposed to Facebook “where people are more likely to want their information to remain private.”
For Anderson, whether or not LinkedIn succeeds as a platform for luxury brands depends on whether the site can broaden its interest and get users to log in outside their professional lives.
“It’s a tool for networking, and a tool for inspiration, but it’s a work tool,” said Anderson. “The challenge is for LinkedIn to become a lifestyle tool, which would open hundreds of doors to advertise different products. They do have a real shot.”