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LinkedIn Ads v. LinkedIn Groups – What’s Better?

by aschmidt

linked_in_ads_or_groupsBusiness professionals of all kinds are well aware of the power of LinkedIn as a networking and marketing tool. Boasting a user base of over 300 million professionals in more than 200 different countries and territories, the B2B social network offers plenty of marketing opportunities for businesses that are seeking to expand their customer base. Two of the most effective marketing tools available to LinkedIn users are LinkedIn Ads and LinkedIn Groups, both of which can be leveraged to attract highly targeted prospects to your business. Each of these platforms have distinct benefits and advantages, but which one is better for attracting new customers? We lay out the details of each to help you determine whether LinkedIn Ads or LinkedIn Groups is the best route to take.

LinkedIn Ads: A Brief Overview

LinkedIn advertising offers businesses the ability to conduct display or text advertising campaigns through a self-serve pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform. In this respect, they’re not much different from other paid ad platforms such as Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. Using the LinkedIn Ads platform, you can reach a wide audience of highly targeted users for as little as $10 per day, and you have the ability to segment your audience based on certain demographic factors such as age, gender, company, school, job function, skills and much more. Your display ads will appear in various places within LinkedIn’s site such as the sidebar and bottom of the homepage, as well as user inbox pages. You have the option of paying by clicks or impressions, and there are no long-term contracts or commitments. One of the best benefits of LinkedIn ads is that you can include images or video along with your ad copy.

Along with their display ads, LinkedIn Ads offers you the ability to create what’s known as “Sponsored Content,” where you pay to have one of the posts/updates on your Company Page distributed to a targeted audience. Sponsored Content carries the advantage of appearing directly in the user’s news feed, versus on the sides or tops of pages as with the ads. You can also choose which users you want to target with your Sponsored Content, allowing you to present the most relevant information to the most appropriate audience.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using LinkedIn Ads is that there’s no question as to whether or not your ads will be seen; once you activate your campaign, your ad will immediately be placed in front of a non-stop stream of targeted traffic. The obvious drawback is that this type of promotion requires an out-of-pocket investment, which you have to carefully monitor in order to reduce the average cost to acquire a customer.

LinkedIn Groups: An Overview

LinkedIn Groups are an excellent way to bolster your professional reputation and position yourself as a thought leader in your particular field. Members of LinkedIn Groups use the platform to make business contacts, share answers and insights and view or post jobs. There are tons of groups to choose from for practically any profession, some of which require administrator approval while others are considered open to everyone. You can best take advantage of this platform by joining the groups where your prospects and customers are. You also have the option of starting your own LinkedIn Group in order to engage the type of audience you want to reach. Whether you join another group or start your own, you can contribute to group discussions and offer valuable content in order to establish yourself as an expert or influencer in your field.

LinkedIn Ads vs. LinkedIn Groups

So which platform is the best for attracting new customers? The answer really depends on the type of approach you want to take, as well as the kind of budget you’re working with. The difference between LinkedIn Ads and LinkedIn Groups is similar to the difference between PPC and organic SEO; one requires up-front out-of-pocket expenses, while the other is grown organically over time. In one respect, LinkedIn Ads offers more precise targeting because it gives you more control in terms of audience segmentation. This latitude is somewhat diminished when it comes to LinkedIn Groups; you can’t control who wants to join your group, so you’ll need to be very specific in terms of how you present your group to prospective members. At the same time, LinkedIn Groups require no up-front monetary outlay to establish and operate, and you can join other groups for free as well. With enough “sweat equity” you can build a solid following, which could eventually net you some highly qualified prospects.

Although both LinkedIn Ads and LinkedIn Groups have their strengths, the scales are tipped in favor of LinkedIn Ads when it comes to attracting new customers. Customers will respond to an ad as a prospect, because the intention of the method is clear: You’re advertising something that you hope they would want to learn more about, and would eventually want to purchase. With LinkedIn Groups, the central focus is not to directly solicit customers (at least it shouldn’t be), and any leads or sales you achieve will come periodically as a by-product of your group activities. Although LinkedIn ads require an up-front investment, the ability to remain laser-targeted when it comes to attracting new customers will most likely save you more time and money in the long run.

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