B2-Believe: Targeting Decision Makers Using #LinkedIn

From industrial welding supplies to time tracking software, the holy grail of paid B2B advertising is the ability to target decision makers by their job title. Some early-adopter businesses embrace these new targeting capabilities; others remain leery.

One thing’s for sure: with so many people active in social media there’s bound to be an overlap between social sites and the folks who search for things on Google and Bing.

What are the Implications of Targeting “Off Duty” B2B Users?

Many B2B products and services require more than one touch to sell. Knowing that, social channels (e.g., LinkedIn and Facebook) present wonderful opportunities to serve tens of millions of branding impressions directly to business customers. This can act as a fantastic introduction to who you are and what you sell — especially if you don’t sell at all.

Taking a magnanimous position with ad copy, very light self-promotion, and targeting job titles can be a “deadeye-dick” trifecta for winning clicks. If anything, catching B2B customers when their guard is down seems to have an intensified branding effect, and can result in commerce when advertisers least expect it.

Once in a while, we encounter companies that don’t believe in this tactic. That’s OK. It leaves more room for early adopters.

Recently, I overheard my boss, Marty Weintraub, working to convince a potential client that LinkedIn and Facebook represent fertile landscapes worth mining. I was struck by the tone of the conversation (obvious hesitation on the other end of the line), because I’ve seen this type of advertising move B2B mountains.

In the case at hand, Would-Be Client X’s ideal market consisted of “Logistics” professionals. Recalling that within the last few weeks, LinkedIn upgraded its targeting platform to include the ability to finger specific businesses and job descriptions, I decided to look into logistics pros as a metaphor for targeting B2B job titles, and share findings here.

You want “logistics” professionals to buy your product? I’ll show you 36,738 LinkedIn members who self-identify as “Logistics Manager,” “Logistics Coordinator,” etc., and are most definitely reachable through social media. B-2-Be-lieve it!

Time to don those sleuth caps.

Pawing LinkedIn’s Paid Platform

Before we get down and dirty, let’s brush up on the basics of the targeting attributes available on the paid side of LinkedIn: elements within a given field interact with an “or” operator, meaning targeted users are a member of Group A “or” Group B. Combining multiple targeting elements, for example, Job Title, Age, and Groups, employs the “and” operator; targeted users have Job Title 2, “and” are 25 years of age or older, “and” are members of Group A “or” Group B.

The more criteria you enter between fields, the narrower your estimated target audience will be, because you’re asking the platform to return members that fit all of your criteria.

Now, let’s push through the interface, top-down.


LinkedIn allows you to filter audience by continent, country, state, city, territory, or province. Ten locations can be selected per campaign.

LinkedIn Geography

For our case study, we’ll uncheck Geography, so we target globally.

Companies: By Name

This works much like Facebook’s Ad targeting platform: enter keywords in this field to access a dropdown of preset companies with the keyword in their name. Additional info featured includes each company’s industry and size.

LinkedIn Company

LinkedIn Estimated Target Audience

That’s all well and good, but it’s not specific enough. These criteria yield a target audience of less than 1,000, and who’s to say what job title these employees at “Logistics Management Inc.” hold? Maybe they’re secretaries. Not our target.

Let’s go deeper.

Job Title

The crown jewel. Here, we can target by specific job titles or pick from categories of job titles, including job function and seniority. Our goal is to produce as tightly focused results as possible, so let’s target by specific job titles.

linkedin Job Title

Exhaust the dropdown of preset titles, and behold — a pretty sweet pot of germane titles. Words like “director,” “manager,” and “supervisor” connote higher levels of responsibility; they filter, in a very specific way, for people who are in the upper echelon of the logistics realm.

Conversely, nix suggestions like “Logistics Associate.” We want the “meta buyers,” people who speak for large amounts of customers by their recommendations or direct decision making. Associates don’t fit the bill.

linkedin specific job title

Keenly hone in on decision makers by weeding out the younglings.

linkedin age

Et voilÀ! A cool 36k+ qualified LinkedIn members I want to be best friends with (assuming I want to buddy up with high-end logistics professionals).

linkedin estimated target audience

LinkedIn Groups: The Other White Meat

Unlike Facebook, which doesn’t let you target by Groups unless you are the admin, LinkedIn offers insight to Groups on a keyword basis. Swank!

But remember: Group interests work in tandem with all other targeting criteria we’ve defined. Requiring those 36,000+ to be members of LinkedIn Groups with “logistics” in the title might prune our estimated reach to zilch.

Consider targeting groups in a separate segment. Clear all of your criteria before heading into the Groups bucket.

linkedin groups bucket

Again, exhaust the presets that mention “logistic(s).” Dial into Job Title – Categories – Seniority to help narrow for the upper crust.

linkedin job titles seniority

linkedin estimated target audience

Not bad! But we don’t know a heckuva lot about these 6,150 LinkedIn Members, aside from their involvement in a group that has something to do with “logistics.”

Let’s switch hats to organic, to take a deeper look at these groups, what they’re all about, and who’s on what roster.

Weighing In With Organic Search

Navigate over to LinkedIn’s homepage to search by Group.

linkedin groups search

linkedin groups search

“Logistics Network” — that looks familiar! It was the first LinkedIn Group suggested for our keyword on the paid side. Let’s check it out.

linkedin search results

Hmm. What’s Bryant up to? Is he a future BFF / loyal customer?

linkedin bryant madore

Nice: 500+ connections, 12 recommendations, and a professional background that reflects our target persona. And look! He accepts InMail, private “out of network” LinkedIn messages. Slip on your Holistic Befriending hat, and march onward.

A Note on InMail Etiquette

It’s completely cool to approach by InMail. Just be gracious, patient and really care about getting to know this person.

Business happens between friends. The best way to make friends with a new contact is to behave in a way that is actually likable. In short: don’t be a twerp.

linkedin compose your message

Have fun!

Of course, there are other ways to leverage LinkedIn Organic Search to tap into target audiences. Let’s rewind back to the homepage search field. Click “Advanced.”

linkedin this is where it's at

linkedin advanced people search

Let’s search “logistics” in the Title field, and dial out irrelevant results by adding negative keywords in the keyword field (to do this, type the minus sign directly preceding the keyword, no commas between entries).

linkedin title keywords

Now that we have our basic criteria in place, time to cruise the SERPs.

linkedin SERPs

All along the left column are our advanced search filters. Moving down the page, we see…

linkedin industrylinkedin refine by

…Past Company, School, Profile Language… For our purpose, that’s kids’ stuff.

LinkedIn Premium filters, indicated by the gold badge, provide access to deep organic goods, including Groups, Years of Experience, Function, Seniority Level, Interested In, Company Size, and other targeting pearls. They are well worth the monthly charge.

linkedin groups

(Here, you can only filter by groups of which you’re a member.)

linkedin years of experience

Let’s target the more seasoned employees.

linkedin function

All Functions will work fine, though we could certainly refine by administrative or consultant.

linkedin company size

Any size will do.

linkedin seniority level

Students, interns and volunteers aren’t of interest to us (in this scenario).

linkedin interested in

Remember InMail? (Also a Premium perk.) Upon sending a message, you must select a category that describes your intent, reflected by the “Interested In” options, shown above.

linkedin recently joined

Whether you want to tap into the fresh meat or platform vets, filter by “Recently Joined” as you see fit.

Now that we have our filter criteria in place, let’s check out the revised results. Sort by “Connections” to get an almost “authority user” representation.

linkedin connections

linkedin profiles

From here, drill into members’ profiles, check out stats, groups of interest, InMail functionality, etc.

Bonus: Juicy Facebook Nuggets!

Now we know that targeting decision makers in LinkedIn by way of Job Title yields pretty clutch results.

While Facebook doesn’t offer Job Titles as a targeting attribute, our team has concluded, from a heaping array of successful segment experiments, that when users go out of their way to disclose on the FB profile that they “Like” a specific job title (e.g., “Logistics Manager,” “Logistics Coordinator”), more often than not, it’s because that’s their job title!

linkedin estimated reach

Dig into Facebook’s internal search engine to uncover logistics-related pages, groups, events, apps and more.

facebook pages

facebook groups

facebook events

Trust me. The B2B target market you’re lusting after is out there. You just have to know where to look and how to find them. Happy hunting!

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