A new form of advertising is at the forefront of the content marketing revolution. Native ads are making major waves as display advertising performance continues to decline. It dovetails with the downfall of interruption marketing and marks the rise of the “advertorial.” What is native advertising exactly? It is advertising that matches form and function of the user experience, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for B2B marketers.

Facebook ads have been in favor in B2C for several years, but only recently has native advertising been a viable option for B2B companies. This summer, LinkedIn, the premier social network for B2B, jumped on the native advertising bandwagon with the launch of Sponsored Updates.

Our team implemented Sponsored Updates in October and we’ve seen strong results. With an average clickthrough rate (CTR) between .03%-.04% and an average cost per lead of $47, LinkedIn is one of our top lead generation engines. Here are a few of our secrets to success

1. Sponsor updates that link directly to premium content on your website.
One of the greatest challenges with social media is figuring out how to link engagement to your bottom line. Paid social is an excellent opportunity to directly connect social media to business opportunity. The best way to achieve this is by promoting content that is connected to your demand center. Examples include whitepapers, tools, and resources that have landing pages optimized for lead generation.

2. Keep your content timely, relevant, and engaging.
Our team found that content that takes into account seasonal business conditions performs much better than content specifically centered on your brand and its solutions. We have found that Sponsored Update performance increased exponentially when we posted content about what our audience is looking for at a specific moment in time. For example, when we promoted our B2B Change Agent Handbook – a resource for annual planning and influencing change in B2B organizations, we found our performance skyrocketed when we were able to deliver the right content, at the right time.

3. Tell a story by customizing post elements
Many marketers post and sponsor links pointing to various resources, but seldom do we see companies customizing the various elements within the update to tell a cohesive and compelling story. To start, focus on a central theme and work your update copy, headline, and description around this theme so the post hangs together. Use words like “free” and “new” to get attention, use the title of your content asset in the copy, and weave the story through each element of your social post.4. Create custom thumbnail images.
For each LinkedIn post we create, we also create unique custom thumbnails specifically designed around the story being told in the various elements of copy within the update. We also add strong calls to action in the image to reinforce what happens when the prospect clicks on the sponsored post. The visual call to action helps prevent people who aren’t interested in downloading or filling out a form from clicking the update.

5. Leverage web analytics.
We are also careful to add web analytics tags to the custom landing page URLs. Doing so allows us to track the behavior of those who click on the update once they reach the website. We can see if they browsed other pages, downloaded additional resources, and track their overall activity

6. Conduct rigorous testing and optimization.
LinkedIn success requires ongoing commitment to testing and optimizing. At Yesler, we’re always experimenting with new segmentation approaches to improve performance. Additionally, with each update we post, we design two versions for ongoing A/B split testing. This approach helps us better understand which copy, imagery, character counts, colors, voice, call to action, and offers work best for our audience. We also gather metadata on all of these attributes for each post we sponsor to help us better identify and analyze performance trends over the life of our campaigns.

The key to LinkedIn Sponsored Update success lies in carefully selecting timely, relevant content, and by taking a scientific approach to the creation and optimization of native advertising programs. In doing so, B2B organizations have an excellent opportunity to extend their social media reach, reduce their lead acquisition costs, and generate new business opportunities that directly result in measurable revenue.