Do you ever find yourself inquiring about which ad format on LinkedIn is the most effective? Well, today, I’m going to break down my experience with one of the more heavily debated ad formats LinkedIn has to offer – the InMail, or should I say the newly rebranded Message Ad. I’ll be referring to these ads as InMails throughout this blog as I’m sure it’s the term you’re all still familiar with. By the time you’re done reading, I hope to provide you with some insight that you can reflect on the next time you create a LinkedIn campaign.
The Pros of LinkedIn Message Ads
I’m someone who likes to hear the good news before I hear the bad news, so in true fashion, we’ll start by looking at “the good news” when it comes to these ads. InMail ads offer some pretty nifty personalization features, such as messaging that can include the receiver’s first and last name, job title, and/or their company name and industry. These fields are dynamically inserted within your message to add a touch of personal flair to your ad. This elevates a typical ad to a personalized invitation.
InMails are perfect for highly specialized, unique offers and often garner around a 50% open rate on average. Let’s take a look at these three LinkedIn campaigns. All of these campaigns used the same audience targeting and the same bidding strategies. The difference? The ad format.
The one underlined in red is the InMail campaign and the two below it are a single image and video ad, respectively. One thing I’ve found with InMails is that if your message reaches the right audience, they’re highly likely to open it. Since you’re delivering content right to a user’s inbox who’s actually active on the platform, your chance of engagement is much higher compared to other ad types. For example, clicks are ~1.5 to 1.75x higher for the InMail campaign (the Button Clicks in the first screenshot) compared to the single image and video ad clicks in the last two campaigns, which can be seen in the below screenshots
Now we’ll examine the areas where InMails struggle. For our example, let’s use the same campaigns as before. InMail campaigns are known for being expensive, and it’s true. With InMails, you pay whenever a message is sent, rather than when someone clicks on your ad. As you can see, the InMail campaign spent the most yet is the lowest-performing of the three when it comes to conversions. What does this tell us? Just because a user opens your message, there’s no guarantee they’ll take action beyond that.
One thing to keep in mind is the “Average Click-Through-Rate” metric can be a little misleading, as it’s not measuring the actual number of link clicks, but rather the number of times the InMail was opened. If you compare the two images above, you’ll see the open rate of the InMail campaign matches the CTR of the InMail campaign in the second screenshot. That also causes a discrepancy when comparing the average cost-per-click of InMail ads to other ad types because the avg. cost/click of InMail ads is calculated based on the number of opens as well.
Another “con” associated with InMail campaigns is that they have a hard frequency cap. LinkedIn members only receive the same message ad once every 45 days, which could quickly tap out your audience depending on the size. One way to get around the frequency cap would be to create several ads within the same campaign. That way, a user could receive multiple variations of the same message within that 45 days and your audience wouldn’t dry up as quickly. It’s also an excellent way to test subject lines or other elements of your ad against each other.
InMail ads themselves are also a pain to edit once they are active. As you can see, there is no option to edit here. That means if you’ve discovered a typo or your brand wants to send users to a different landing page, there’s no swift way to accomplish this. To resolve the issue, you’ll need to duplicate the ad, make the necessary changes, and remember to pause the old one once you’re finished. The reason I say “pause” and not “delete” is because once again deleting an active ad isn’t an option. This mechanic isn’t so much an exclusive issue for InMail ads, but rather for all of LinkedIn’s ad formats as a whole.
So when is the correct time to use an InMail campaign? My conclusion is that it depends on the product/service being offered and if you have strong messaging to go along with a hyper-targeted audience. I’d almost always use this ad format for a B2B audience, as I think it’s an effective method to drive leads more than anything else.
In my opinion, the mistake I made was trying to use an InMail campaign on a prospecting audience who wasn’t super familiar with the brand or product being offered. I believe this led to a large portion of users opening the ad and not bothering to read the message or take any further action. My next step is going to be utilizing the message ad format on my remarketing audience to see if they’re more receptive to it.