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Serious business

Serious business


Serious business


In a region where “everyone and their mother is now a social media consultant”, as digital hub Arabnet’s CEO, Omar Christidis, once put it, it’s become quite hard to understand and define the roles of those in the field – and, for some, quite easy to poke fun at them. But, as it transpired in a recent infographic by digital consulting boutique social4ce, which compiled data from the LinkedIn Ads platform across 16 MENA countries, those who professed social media – 128,919 to be exact – take their roles very seriously. And by the looks of it, so do many other industries.

social4ce social media infographic

social4ce social media infographic

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Serious business


How can brands use LinkedIn’s marketing solutions?

We’re a hugely data-rich platform. So we allow brands to target members by anything really they share on their LinkedIn profile, whether that’s their industry, their function and their seniority. There are a couple of ways in which brands can actually engage with members on the platform. We’ve split these ways into three buckets: firstly, there’s media, [as in] traditional display advertising. That’s been the main element of our offering for the last couple of years. But where we see our evolution is content.

The second bucket is really about how we allow brands to engage with professionals in the newsfeed on LinkedIn, and that’s through a brand’s company page, and their ability to share content through organic and Sponsored Updates. The third bucket is around allowing brands to use the data and power of LinkedIn off-platform, so allowing them to use our APIs (application programming interface) and build relevant creative off-platform experiences.

What’s new?

We’ve just hit the anniversary of our Sponsored Updates launch, our flagship content product that allows brands to integrate content into the members’ newsfeeds. Over the last 12 months, we’ve been updating this product in a number of ways. Our most recent launch has been that of the Direct Sponsored Content, which allows brands to post content into a member’s newsfeed without it appearing on their actual company page.

We’re also expanding our network of content partners. These can be partners that help brands manage their campaigns – like – or that help them syndicate content on LinkedIn. We also launched a couple of products this year: the Content Marketing Score, which effectively allows brands to judge how good they are with their audience on LinkedIn – for example, showing an airline how good it is in engaging business travelers on its platform, and Trending Content – for example, showing how business travelers consume content on the platform.

How are these solutions being rolled out in the MENA region?

Over the last 18 months, our conversations have changed with marketers, brands and agencies in the MENA region, moving from a traditional media conversation and into a content conversation. When we launched tools such as Content Marketing Score and Trending Content, these have been very much additive to the conversations we’ve been having with brands. So, we ran a number of road shows, and had category leads of finance and technology visit the region in the last six months. In partnership with our local partner, we’ve been engaging brands at an agency and brand level through workshops and brainstorming sessions, but also specifically when they’re working on a particular brief.

LinkedIn is essentially a business platform. How does your approach to brands differ from other networks that are offering similar solutions?

We describe ourselves as a professional network and that affects the way we talk to brands. A lot of people see LinkedIn as a business-to-business site, and I think that’s a key part of what we do. When we look at some of the brands we work with in the region, they’re looking to target IT decision makers or business travelers – we work a lot with airlines in the region as well as banks. But one thing that is important to remember is that professionals are also consumers. Over the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve seen an increase in people who want to talk to people who are buying on behalf of brands, but who are also consumers themselves.

People on LinkedIn are usually out on a mission to get a job or get noticed. What behavioral insights have you picked up on LinkedIn users that have translated into their readiness for advertising?

We did a piece of research a while ago called “The Mindset Divide”, which looked at the difference between people on professional and social networks. On professional networks, people are goal-oriented. But when we asked people on what they expected to see, news and information on brands ranked second. The data that we have shows that there is now a huge amount of activity in people consuming content on the platform, compared with their job searches; there’s approximately six times more engagement in consuming professional content than in job openings or searches. There’s LinkedIn content and there’s content from influencers. Now, we’ve enabled people to actually blog long-form on the platform; which I think is a huge evolution for us. It changes us into a proper content publishing platform. The uptake in the region within our industry has been amazing.

Our CEO coined it somewhere along the lines of: “we’re not only helping people find their dream job, we’re also helping them become awesome at the job they’ve got.”

Are you working on bulk or large annual deals with multinational brands?

We work at scale with large multinational brands. We recently announced a global deal with Axa, which involved LinkedIn Talent Solutions, Marketing Solutions and Sales Solutions; covering the three main areas that every business faces: how to hire, market and sell. In the region, we’ve been working with Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways for a number of years.

For instance, we ran a project with Etihad Airways for its Washington launch in late 2012 into 2013. Along with its agency Mediacom, Etihad Airways took our mission statement around connecting people and helping professionals be more productive and successful, keeping in mind that its target audience was business travelers. It built a platform in conjunction with us called Mapped Out, where people could log in with their LinkedIn credentials. The platform would map out people’s LinkedIn network around the globe. The idea is if you’re going somewhere on a business trip, you can find out which of your first- and second- degree connections are the same place at the same time. It’s an evolving project. Alongside Mediacom, we picked up an award at the Festival of Global Media in Rome for it. Emirates Airline is the most followed airline on LinkedIn globally. As a brand, it is very active in sharing content regularly.

The brands we work with embrace the idea of targeted display for more tactical pieces, and content on a regular basis.

What stage are clients at in the region?

If you compare digital ad spend in the region versus London or the US, we are in a different scenario, so our share of wallet here is different.  However, conversations have changed a great deal over the last two years; clients know they have to be doing content marketing.

What is LinkedIn’s take on native advertising, as the term’s being loosely used and sometimes, confused with sponsored and branded content?

I don’t know if anyone’s actually got the answer. I come from a newspaper background and we used to have advertorials; that was native advertising for us.  We have a product that goes into people’s news feeds. We’re hugely protective over our members’ newsfeeds, and we make sure people only get relevant content. For me, native means artfully communicating a brand message in a difficult-to-communicate space.

How has LinkedIn grown in the MENA region?

When we opened our office in 2012, we had five million members. A year later, we had ten million members. The number of clients we’re dealing with has also grown. The conversations I’m having with brand marketers and clients and agencies everyday is remarkably different to the conversations I had two years ago.  We did some early work with the airlines here two years ago. They’re big global advertisers based in this region. Our key categories here are finance, travel, tech and auto.

One of the growing areas across the MEA region is luxury. In this regard, one of the key things to think about is the effect of professional triggers. LinkedIn is a professional website, so we know things like when people change their jobs. But we also know that people tend to buy cars and move houses after they’ve changed jobs. We’ve done some research with luxury brands in Paris, which showed that job changes and bonuses were the key drivers in luxury goods purchases. It will be particularly interesting to look at people arriving in the UAE, for example.

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