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You have your persona all mapped out, you understand who your ideal customer is, what type of language they use what their interests, goals, and challenges are. You've learned a lot about what types of content, titles, and imagery will appeal to them.

Now that you've got your content ready to go, you suddenly realize that you have no idea how to target your ad! You're thinking about making some blind guesses and seeing what (if anything) sticks... 

Not so fast!


What Should You Do Instead?

I'm going to show you how to figure out what demographic data you should be using in your LinkedIn ad targeting to reach the people who actually fit within your persona. Don't take blind guesses, follow these 10 easy steps and know for sure that the people who are seeing your ad fit the persona you created it for!

This guide will help you define your LinkedIn targeting and help you learn even more about your persona as well.


Step 1: You should sign up for a premium LinkedIn account. You will probably easily exceed the number of monthly allowed searches for a free account. It will also be necessary for you to be an admin of at least one LinkedIn company page.


Step 2: Navigate to "Business Services" > "Advertise" on the LinkedIn menu bar. This will take you to LinkedIn Ads.

How to Target Personas on LinkedIn


Step 3: Click the big yellow "Get Started" button. 

How to Target Personas on LinkedIn

Click "Sponsor Content." Name the campaign whatever you want, and pick any post from the list. It doesn't matter what you choose, as you won't actually be creating the campaign.

How to Target Personas on LinkedIn

Once you've made your selection, click "Next."

Targeting Personas on LinkedIn


Step 4: You can now begin searching through your targeting options to decide which criteria fit your persona.

Targeting Personas on LinkedIn

For this walk-through we'll be looking at company industry as an example, but there are many more options available to you that you should explore.

Your targeting options are:

  • Location
  • Company
  • Job Title
  • School
  • Field of Study
  • Degree
  • Skills
  • LinkedIn Group
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Audience Expansion - this option increases your targeting to people who are similar to the audience you're targeting but don't necessarily fit into your existing defined audience.


Step 5: We're going to walk through defining the industry that your persona identifies as working in. I've noticed an interesting trend during my own research, in that people tend to list their industry on LinkedIn both as the industry that their job function relates to and the industry their company works for. As an example, one sys admin at a large corporation might list his industry as Information Technology and Services, while another sys admin who works for that company might list his industry as Automotive because he works as a sys admin at Ford.

This seems to become more common as positions become more senior, but isn't entirely absent in more junior positions as well. Obviously I haven't carefully researched every individual industry, which is why it is important that you are able to do your own research and look for trends like this that will be important for you to be aware of among the professionals you want to target, otherwise you could end up missing out on large segments of your audience because you had no idea that they might list their industry as their company's industry, rather than the industry most closely related to their job function, no matter how seperated they are from the typical functions you would think of when picturing someone who works in that company's industry.


Step 6: It's time to start researching. Your first step is to comb through LinkedIn's list of available industries. You can find this in the targeting options for companies, by category.

Targeting Personas on LinkedIn

As you do this you'll want to have two things in mind:

  1. What types of companies do your ideal customers work at? What industries might you consider those companies to be in?
  2. What industries would you expect to be associated with the work your ideal customer does?

You'll want to write down the industries for both the companies you want to target and the industries related to the job function of the specific roles you want to target at those companies. For now you're just making a list that you can dig deeper into.


Step 7: Now that you have your shortlist, it's time to find out what your target persona's listed industries actually are. This is a very easy process, but it is time consuming and repetitive. It also requires human judgement, so it can't be automated. Fun! 

You'll want to begin by navigating to LinkedIn's advance search feature by clicking "Advanced" next to the search box in the LinkedIn toolbar. 

LinkedIn Ad Targeting


You'll now want to begin combining your list of job titles that fit your persona with the list of industries that you expect they may be listing on LinkedIn. I would recommend beginning with the industries you expect (the industries most closely related to their job function), and once you've confirmed or debunked those, move on to the industries that map to the types of companies you want to target and determine whether a large number of people who fit your target persona identify as working in their company's industry.

Targeting Personas on LinkedIn


Step 8: Verifying the results of your searches.

When you are looking at your search results for these sets of queries, you're going to want to check for two factors that will both be very useful to you in deciding whether this is a good industry to include in your ad targeting for this persona.

  1. The number of results returned. Obviously, the more people who fit your search terms, the more likely it is that you've found an industry that many people in your target persona identify themselves as working in on LinkedIn. At this point you're hoping to find as large an audience as possible, as you'll be further defining your audience based on other criteria to narrow down your targeting after you've worked out the correct industries to target.
  2. The relevance of the results. Here's where we get into the repetitive task that requires human judgement. You can't just write down the number of results the search returned and move on to the next query. This doesn't actually tell you if the people in your search actually fit your persona. If they don't, you'll be kicking yourself later for inadvertently advertising to them. You should randomly select around 3 profiles to manually look over for the first 5 - 10 pages of the search (5 pages for a search that returns only a few thousand results, 10 pages for a search that returns tens or hundreds of thousands of results.) Make sure these people are actually doing the job function that you want to target (you could have made a mistake in your job titles or there could be a very similar title that is showing up more often but isn't what you're looking for), and for the searches targeting the industry their company is in, that these people are indeed working in the industry that you want to target, in the type of position you want to target. 

LinkedIn Ad Targeting


Step 9: By the time you're done running all of your search queries, you should have a list of verified job titles and industries that are relevant to your persona for LinkedIn. Strike out any industries or job titles that you discovered didn't actually fit your persona, so that you have a list of job titles and industries that you have confirmed map well to your target persona.


Step 10: Format your list and add it to your persona deck so that it can be easily used to setup ad targeting for anyone who wants to target this persona with an ad.

The tree format I've created closely follows the layout of LinkedIn's ad targeting user interface for industry targeting to make it as simple as possible for anyone who may want to use the persona targeting to build an ad or promote a post to this persona.

LinkedIn Ad Targeting

Having this information handy in the same place as all of the other information about your persona, and having it in a format that makes sense when looking at the ads interface ensures that it's easy for everyone to use this targeting information when they're creating ads to target any of your personas. This means that you're more likely to actually use your personas and your persona ad audiences when you're creating LinkedIn posts and ads.

Post by Zachary Chastain
Sep 23, 2015