LinkedIn Targeting Options

Mar 31, 2019 - Marcel Odena

Reach your potential customers with all the available LinkedIn Targeting Options: company size, company names, industry, job title, job function, job seniority, education, gender, age, member groups, interests, and more options explained below.

We’ve all been putting our utmost faith in the LinkedIn platform by disclosing valuable information in our professional profiles when we register. Is that the case for you? Surely you’ve told them what company you work for and in what role. You’ve undoubtedly also told them about your educational background: courses, certifications, universities, etc. These are more than just the things you’ve written about yourself; they’re the skills your contacts “endorse” because they think you master those skills. Then there are the groups in which you join. All this information allows us to create campaigns aimed at our ideal buyer persona through LinkedIn’s advertising platform because we can fine-tune the professional profile we want to target.

LinkedIn Targeting Options List

LinkedIn Targeting Options - The Complete Guide to LinkedIn Ad Targeting

The way to target your potential customers on LinkedIn is divided into two large sections.

Public Attributes: allow us to specify what professional characteristics we want our audience to have such as their position, the size of their desired companies, and their desired industries. In the following sections, we’ll explain each attribute in detail. But for now, let’s look at each attribute category:

  • Company: we can specify the company size (number of employees), the company industry, and the company name we wish to target, etc.
  • Job Experience: we can specify the job titles and job functions that interest us, as well as the job seniority we want from the professional, etc.
  • Education: we can specify the fields of study, degrees and member schools, of our target audience.
  • Demographic characteristics: we can specify the gender and age of our ideal audience.
  • Interests: we can specify what member groups we want our audience to belong to as well as their member interests based on a predetermined list.

“Matched Audiences”: allows us to create public websites, which means to create remarketing lists based on our website pages that the user has visited. It also allows us to compile a list of the companies we want to target or contact lists (emails) to market directly. 

Below you can see the targeting criteria as shown in the LinkedIn campaign manager:

5 Targeting Options groups on Linkedin Campaign Manager
Targeting Options on Linkedin Campaign Manager

In this article, we will explain the targeting methods related to public attributes in detail.

1. LinkedIn Account Targeting

LinkedIn Account Targeting allows us to target specifics accounts (companies) and reach the professionals working at these accounts that satisfy the other targeting criteria that we specify, such as job title targeting.

There are seven targeting options related to account targeting on LinkedIn. These are:

  1. Company Names
  2. Company Industries
  3. Company Size
  4. Company Connections
  5. Company Follower of
  6. Company Category
  7. Company Growth Rate
Company Targeting Options on LinkedIn Campaign Manager
Company Targeting Options on LinkedIn Campaign Manager

1.1 Targeting by Company Name

The “Company Names” targeting option allows you to specify the names of the companies you want to advertise to. All you do is type the name of a company in, and the system shows you a list of companies with a similar name. After a brief visual inspection, you can decide which companies you want to target. If you have any doubts, I advise you to look for the company in Linkedin beforehand so you can see how it has been recorded, including the industry. That way, you can be sure you’ve selected your desired company.

Similar company suggestions: When you enter a company into the system, it suggests similar companies. This option can be useful if you don’t have many requirements when specifying your companies. For example, imagine you’re doing a campaign aimed at hotel-type companies. You enter the names of the hotels on your list, and if the system suggests other hotel names, you can also add them to the targeting list. Sometimes, targeted campaigns are created to influence a list of highly specific companies. In these cases, it’s better not to introduce additional companies so as not to distort the analysis of the results.

Account Based Marketing: targeting by “company name” is the ideal way to create campaigns within an Account Based Marketing strategy. This strategy puts the focus on targeting companies that identify as being of a high value in terms of business generation. They are so valuable, in fact, that it’s wise to make a specific campaign targeting them exclusively. You can get more information about this strategy in the article How to use Account Based Marketing (ABM) to influence and obtain your ideal customers.

1.2 Targeting by Company Industry

The “Company Industry” option allows us to specify which industries we want our targeted LinkedIn members to work in. It’s super normal in B2B to have a few key industries we want to send a proposal to that is specific for that industry. Furthermore, it’s critical to offer content that’s as relevant as possible to our target industry. We can create several different campaigns through the “company industry” option, one for each of the primary target industries.

How does LinkedIn know which industry a user belongs to? It knows this information by looking at the industry of the company the user currently works in. Look at a user’s profile on Linkedin. Usually, the user would enter all the different companies they’ve worked in as well as who they’re working for now. If you look at their current employer on LinkedIn, you’ll see that it belongs to an industry. Well, if this industry matches that we’ve targeted, then we’ll impact that company’s workers (if we don’t specify any other criteria), as well as other users who work for companies in the same industry.

Who sets a company’s industry on LinkedIn? The company itself decides which industry they belong to when registering its LinkedIn page. This feature is good because it gives the company the freedom to choose which industry they feel they belong to, but also bad because sometimes the company won’t specify their industry accurately. Lots of companies are registered on Linkedin in a relatively inaccurate industry. Therefore, in the campaigns we target by industry, there is always a “gap” of companies we know belong to one industry but have registered themselves in another. These companies “escape” our targeting. For this reason, it’s best not to rely on a single form of targeting.

1.3 Targeting by Company Size

The “Company Size” option allows you to specify the minimum number of employees your targeted company must have. Consider the following options:

  • Myself Only
  • 2-10 employees
  • 11-50 employees
  • 51-200 employees
  • 201-500 employees
  • 501-1000 employees
  • 1001-5000 employees
  • 5001-10,000 employees
  • 10,001+ employees

The size of the company is a critical attribute in the B2B world since the method of approaching a small to medium-sized business is different from the process of approaching a large company. Furthermore, the pain points are usually different between a small and large company, as are the interlocutor profile of the sales process, etc.

Tip: Create several campaigns that vary according to the size of the company and customize your messages and offer (content) for that audience. This strategy allows us to be much more relevant, which should improve the performance of our campaigns.

1.4 Targeting by Company Connections

The “Company connections” option allows you to reach the 1st-degree connections who work for our chosen companies.

For example, imagine we’ve selected “Allianz” as the company. What we’ll do is direct publicity to our 1st-degree connections who work for Allianz.

Targeting by connections in LinkedIn Ads
Targeting by connections for Allianz Insurance

In this case, notice that Allianz Insurance has between 1,001 and 5,000 employees. However, we’re reaching a total audience of 320,000 LinkedIn members. So who are these people? These are members who have an Allianz Insurance employee as a 1st-degree connection.

When to use? This is a targeting style that somehow seeks to influence a company’s connections. I believe it could be useful for companies such as “associations,” “guilds,” and “business schools” who want to influence groups related to their company type. Another use could be to look for leads from 1st-grade connections of the target company and then use sales techniques to try to get an introduction with the company through that connection. This strategy could make a lot of sense when we’re targeting huge companies (enterprises).

Note: we can only use companies in this option if they have more than 500 employees.

1.5 Targeting by “Company Followers”

The “Company Follower” targeting option allows you to create campaigns to target followers of a company’s page or to exclude them:

  • Include your company’s followers in the targeting: this makes a lot of sense in campaigns where we want to make something known to our followers such as an event, a webinar, etc. You can also apply more targeting criteria to profile the followers who have a specific professional profile, although this requires having a larger number of followers so that the audience is big enough (there must be at least 300 members as an audience).
  • Exclude your company’s followers in the targeting: sometimes it can be convenient to exclude your followers in a campaign, perhaps because you already have another specific campaign for them, or other reasons.

You can see an image that shows this targeting method below:

Targeting by company followers on Linkedin
Targeting by company followers on Linkedin

1.6 Company Category

The company category targeting option consists of a series of categories of companies predefined by LinkedIn such as:

  • Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies
  • Fortune 100 Fast Growing Companies
  • Fortune 500 (US only)
  • Fortune Global 500 (Worldwide)
  • Top Companies and Top Startups from several countries, etc.

I think the inclusion of these new segmentation options is very good news. I am sure there are many use cases for many advertisers.

Below you can see a sample of the business categories:

Company Categories in LinkedIn Campaign Manager
Company Categories in LinkedIn Campaign Manager (some of them)

Regarding the “Top Companies” category, just some comments:

  • There is no information right now about which “Top Companies” and “Top Startups” belong to these lists, you have to rely on LinkedIn curation. Once a campaign is launched using one of these lists we will be able to see the targeted companies through the demographics report, but not in advance.
  • The Top Companies and Top Startup listings are not available for all countries. Currently, there is a list for each of these countries: Germany, Brazil, Canada, China, USA, France, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

1.7 Company Growth Rate

The Company Growth Rate allows us to target only those companies with a certain rate of growth year over year. According to LinkedIn official documentation, the rate of growth year over year is determined by factors such as employee or revenue growth.

These are the options available right now:

  • Negative growth companies
  • 0% – 3% company growth
  • 3% – 10% company growth
  • 10% – 20% company growth
  • 20%+ company growth

In the following image you can see the Company Growth Rate options on LinkedIn Campaign Manager:

New Company Growth Rate Targeting Option in LinkedIn Campaign Manager
New Company Growth Rate Targeting Option in LinkedIn Campaign Manager

In the previous image, you can see the “20%+ company growth” filter applied to the USA, without applying more targeting options. The result is that we could reach an audience of 6,1 million people who work in such companies. Obviously now we would have to continue applying segmentation filters to reach only our buyer persona.

Interesting Use Case: there are many products and services that come in handy when companies start to grow very fast. Thanks to the growth rate targeting option, we now have a great opportunity to reach these companies.

The company growth rate only applies to companies for which LinkedIn has information

The classification of all companies according to their growth rate is a process that LinkedIn performs based on its sources of information, and it does not have to be comprehensive.

That is, it is very likely that there are many companies for which LinkedIn does not have information on its growth rate. In this case, keep in mind that by applying these filters you are leaving out companies for which LinkedIn does not have their growth rate. In this sense, keep it in mind to create multiple campaigns with different segmentations to reach all the companies of your interest.

For example, according to the LinkedIn campaign manager in the USA, there is a potential audience of 160 million people. Well, if we apply all the growth rate filters we observe that the resulting audience is 72 million, and not 160 million as you might have imagined.

All company growth rate options selected + USA country

What does this mean? This indicates that there are 88 million members on Linkedin in the USA who work in companies for which LinkedIn has no information on their growth rate.

2. Job Experience Targeting on LinkedIn

In the previous section, we described the targeting criteria related to the company. Now, we’ll look at the targeting criteria pertaining to the user’s job experience.

Targeting according to job experience is crucial in B2B because the audience we’re targeting has a specific profile, so it’s worth allocating our investments to them. Furthermore, we can customize our messages to the buyer persona.

There are five targeting options related to the job experience of a LinkedIn professional:

  1. Job Functions
  2. Job Seniorities
  3. Job Titles
  4. Member Skills
  5. Years of Experience
Job Experience Targeting Options on LinkedIn Campaign Manager
Job Experience Targeting Options on LinkedIn Campaign Manager

We’ll explain each of these criteria in detail:

2.1 LinkedIn Job Title Targeting

The targeting by “job title” option allows us to specify the people who hold the professional positions we want to target our advertising to.

This option is one of the most significant advantages of LinkedIn targeting compared to other pay-per-click advertising platforms. Many companies in the B2B world have clearly defined job positions, including the people involved in the purchase process. Moreover, they know the position decision makers, which could be the financial director, commercial director, general director/founder, or a combination of several of these. In any case, the platform allows us to select all the positions a Linkedin user must have to be part of our audience.

Targeting by job title on Linkedin
Targeting by job title on Linkedin

Look at the previous image, which shows when you enter a job position and select it; the system suggests other similar positions. It’s crucial to be clear about the target positions here. If we deviate from the ideal, the performance of our campaign could suffer.

Tip: If it’s clear that there are several distinct buyer personas, I recommend creating a specific campaign for each one, and including the relevant specific job positions. In this way, we can compare the performance of our campaigns (number of leads generated, cost per lead, etc.) according to the buyer persona.

In my opinion Job Title Targeting is one of the most powerful Linkedin targeting options for B2B Advertising.

2.2 Targeting by Job Function

This option allows us to specify the job function of the professional we want to target. In a way, the job function would be comparable to the department to which the worker belongs. In this case, we don’t care so much about the specific position of the professional, but more about the function he performs.

Targeting by Job Function on LinkedIn
Targeting by job function

Here you can see the complete list of job functions available:

  • Accounting
  • Administrative
  • Arts and Design
  • Business Development
  • Community and Social Services
  • Consulting
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Healthcare Services
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • Media and Communication
  • Military and Protective Services
  • Operations
  • Product Management
  • Program and Project Management
  • Purchasing
  • Quality Assurance
  • Real Estate
  • Research
  • Sales
  • Support

Tip: This targeting method is highly recommended when we have a clear job function of the professional we’d like to target, but we don’t want to miss out any opportunities by neglecting to target a specific position. This event could occur because we fail to register some variant of the job position (maybe we use “director of finance” instead of “the director of administration and finance”), or because there’s a decision-making position in the company that we aren’t aware of. In this case, to avoid targeting everyone with this function, we can limit our targeting by introducing one more filter, job seniority, which is explained in the next point.

2.3 Targeting by Job Seniority

Targeting by Job Seniority allows us to select the level of responsibility and experience we want our audience to have. This way, we can choose between Linkedin members with little experience (beginners) to people with a lot of experience and high-level positions.

The years of experience in LinkedIn Ads are:

  • Unpaid
  • Training
  • Entry
  • Senior
  • Manager
  • Director
  • VP
  • CXO
  • Owner
  • Partner

Tip: Following on from the previous point, a highly effective combination is to combine the job function with the job seniority option. In the last example, we specified “Finance” as a work function, and now, we could specify Job Seniority to denote a certain degree of decision-making power:

Targeting by Job Seniority on LinkedIn
Targeting by job seniorities

This way, we’re telling LinkedIn that we want to market to members who work in the finance department and have a high-level authoritative position, regardless of the specific position they hold.

2.4 Targeting by Years of Experience

This option allows us to specify the years of experience the professional must have in their current position:

Targeting by years of experience
Targeting by years of experience

When to use: The option could be useful in the following situations.

  • We’ve determined that the user must have more than a certain number of years of experience in the position they hold. This situation would be covered in some way with the “Job Seniority” option.
  • Another use for this option is to detect transitions between positions. The configuration would be something like this:
Combination to detect promotions in jobs
Combination to detect promotions in jobs

Acknowledgment: This idea came from Carlos Álvaro, Account Director at Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn.

2.5 Targeting by Member Skills

The “Member Skills” targeting option allows you to specify specific skills or abilities we want our target audience to have.

The skills a LinkedIn member has are those that appear in the “member skills and validations” section. Here’s an example of a person with a financial director profile:

Targeting by Member Skills on LinkedIn
Targeting by member skills

Tip: Imagine that this user has the member skills of “SAP”(an ERP for finance)among others. Now imagine the product you’re promoting is related to “SAP”; it could be challenging to impact users with SAP experience since it isn’t usually in the job title or the job function. With this criterion, we could combine the job title with member skills targeting options to reach the ideal audience. Another possibility would be to use this criterion without restricting any other criteria to reach a broader audience.

3. Education Targeting Options

Targeting by Education allows us to specify the user profile we want to reach in terms of their academic accomplishments.

There are three targeting criteria for education, which are:

  1. Fields of Study
  2. Degrees
  3. Member Schools
Targeting by Education on LinkedIn
Targeting by Education on Linkedin

3.1 Fields of Study

This option allows us to specify the academic fields that a user has studied. The mechanism sees you entering a keyword so that the system can suggest the available fields of study.

Targeting by Fields of Study on LinkedIn
Targeting by Fields of Study

When to use: The option can be useful when we know our buyer persona has completed a series of highly specific studies. In the education sector, this targeting option is crucial because it allows us to focus on LinkedIn members who have done particular studies to offer them further training, postgraduate studies, or a relevant Master’s degree.

4. Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting allows us to specify gender (male/female) and age.

The ages that we can select are:

  • From 18 to 24
  • From 25 to 34
  • From 35 to 54
  • 55+
Targeting by Demographic on LinkedIn
Targeting by demographic on LinkedIn

5. Interest Targeting

Targeting by interests allows us to market towards people who have shown an interest in a specific subject.

There are two criteria of targeting by interest:

  1. Member Groups
  2. Member Interests
LinkedIn Interest Targeting
LinkedIn Interest Targeting

5.1 Targeting by Linkedin Groups

Targeting by Linkedin groups allows us to specify the LinkedIn groups we want our audience to belong to.

LinkedIn groups are usually organized by theme. Therefore, if a user belongs to a group, that’s usually an indicator they have an interest in the topic.

In the previous example, we could look for groups related to the “SAP” ERP to target users who have an interest in SAP:

Targeting by Linkedin Groups

Tip: Take the time to research the groups your buyer persona usually follows. One idea is that as you get quality leads, you start looking at the professional profile of those leads on LinkedIn and discover new groups to add to your campaigns.

5.2 LinkedIn Interest Targeting

Targeting by Interests allows you to specify your audience’s interests using a list that’s been predefined by the system. These interests are inferred by the system based on the content shared by the user and the content the user interacts with (shares, likes, etc.).

LinkedIn Interest Targeting
LinkedIn Interest Targeting

When to use: This option can be beneficial for the following:

  • Narrowing your ideal audience to the desired interests. In the previous example, we could limit our audience to finance sector professionals interested in certain topics.
  • Use this targeting with hardly any filters to reach the maximum possible audience with an interest in specific topics.

For more information, you can read the article LinkedIn Interest Targeting.

Conclusion

LinkedIn offers a multitude of targeting methods to reach our audience. In this article, we’ve explained all the targeting options available on LinkedIn, ranging from the criteria related to the company, through the attributes associated with job experience, etc.

By using the right combination of targeting options, we can create an audience to reach our various different buyer personas and achieve our goals.

This article has been updated on the 28th of April 2020 to include the two new company targeting options introduced on LinkedIn Campaign Manager during Q1-2020.


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Marcel Odena

Marcel Odena

CEO at Magnetica Advertising | LinkedIn Ads Expert

Since 2013 I've been working in the Pay Per Click Advertising Industry. I manage Google and LinkedIn Ads accounts for several B2B companies. I work to deliver results to my clients as well to contribute to do better B2B marketing. I like to learn and share my knowledge at the same time.