By Sahil Patel
LinkedIn has begun testing advertisements within its fledgling
"stories" format in the U.S. and Canada as the Microsoft
Corp.-owned professional networking platform seeks to boost ad
Stories are ephemeral full-screen vertical videos, photos and
text images for mobile devices, first popularized by Snap Inc.'s
Snapchat and later copied by others including Facebook Inc. and
Since launching its own version of stories in the U.S. in
September and globally in October, LinkedIn said its members and
businesses have posted more than three million stories on the
platform. But it remains to be seen whether stories will take off
on a social network organized around careers and business the same
way they have on platforms intended for more personal and casual
LinkedIn already has been experimenting with ads within stories
in markets such as Latin America and Europe. Its stories
advertising tests now span about 1,000 campaigns from more than 600
advertisers, including WeWork Cos., Daimler AG, General Motors
Co.-owned Cadillac and Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the company
said. It plans to make the ads in stories widely available in
The visual nature of stories provide a way to interest
advertisers such as luxury-goods marketers and media companies that
haven't spent heavily on LinkedIn ads before, said Gyanda Sachdeva,
vice president of product for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. News
publishers such as Axios, for example, are experimenting with the
format, she said.
"It's a place for marketers to explore in a way that they did
not think of on LinkedIn before," Ms. Sachdeva said.
Brands have been trying the ads for a variety of purposes,
including seeking new customers, reaching potential hires,
generating business leads and promoting coming virtual events.
WeWork has tested stories ads in Latin America to promote a
campaign on its efforts to ensure clean workspaces during the
pandemic, for example, as well as to drive interest in a virtual
conference it held in the region in September.
The stories format gives brands a chance to speak in a different
voice than they otherwise might have on LinkedIn, said Brenda Tsai,
chief marketing officer at BNY Mellon.
It makes sense for LinkedIn to introduce a more personal format,
Ms. Tsai added. "The question will be how comfortable people are
communicating in that fashion on a platform that is largely for
It would be strange if people used stories on LinkedIn the way
they do on Instagram, because that isn't LinkedIn's purpose, said
Tim Fullerton, vice president of content for WeWork. "But if people
are using them for conversations about business, it totally makes
sense," he said. "It's like TV channels: A cable news channel is
different from TNT, but they are still both channels."
The platform's users are probably less interested in seeing
other people's work-from-home setups -- one common early subject of
stories on LinkedIn -- and more focused on the things they need for
their jobs or careers, said Maggie Murphy, a senior strategist at
Codeword LLC, a marketing agency owned by Waggener Edstrom
Worldwide Inc. "It's not as much about personal content, which is
what it seems like they are trying to get into right now [with
stories], which I think is a distraction for LinkedIn," she
LinkedIn's embrace of stories was driven by the format's growing
popularity elsewhere, according to Ms. Sachdeva. "If you get used
to communicating in ways that go beyond usual direct messaging, or
calling someone or sharing through a feed, we need to embrace
them," she said.
Stories have grown in importance on other platforms: Stories ads
on Instagram accounted for 10% ad spend going to Facebook in the
third quarter of 2020, according to social-media marketing firm
Socialbakers. The format's prevalence also spurred Twitter to
launch its own version, called "Fleets."
Administrators of LinkedIn's pages for businesses, nonprofits
and other organizations have accounted for 20% of stories posted
since the format went live earlier this fall, with the rest coming
from individual users, the company said.
Like other technology giants, LinkedIn is primarily a mobile
platform, with 80% of usage occurring on mobile devices, the
LinkedIn's revenue increased 16% in the three months ending in
September, compared with the period a year earlier, driven by
growth in its ad business, according to Microsoft's last earnings
report. After seeing a dip in the previous quarter, ad spend
returned to near prepandemic levels, up 40% year over year,
Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said on the earnings call.
LinkedIn last disclosed revenue numbers for its ad business in
2018, when it said it would hit $2 billion in its 2019 fiscal year,
which ended in June of that year.
LinkedIn is proving to be increasingly valuable for
business-to-business marketers seeking to reach executives and
other decision makers, said Ms. Murphy, the Codeword strategist. In
this context, ads within stories could prove to be valuable
alongside LinkedIn's other marketing products, she said.
Brands can target ads in stories to users based on criteria such
as job title, company name, industry and professional and personal
"Their ability to reach specific job titles is their value for a
marketer," said Ms. Murphy. "With all of the third-party data going
away in other places, LinkedIn is the only place where someone has
filled out info on themselves, such as where they went to school
and how experienced they are."
"If I'm trying to reach a technology buyer or an engineer, it's
much easier to do that on LinkedIn," she said. "You're not going to
find them on Facebook or Twitter."
Write to Sahil Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 10, 2020 16:04 ET (21:04 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.