It’s been a busy year for LinkedIn, the world’s leading business social network. Aside from Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of it, the company has released a slew of upgrades to its offering for advertisers, leading to an unforeseen movement into the performance marketing space.

The turn of the year saw the introduction of targeted sponsored content, on a level with Facebook and Twitter’s custom audience functions, while midway through 2016 LinkedIn made its inventory available for programmatic buying.

Today, LinkedIn announces conversion tracking, meaning advertisers can gain a clear picture of which of which ads are driving the most sales. PerformanceIN caught up with the company’s head of product, Russell Glass, to find out more.

First of all, just take us through the update and why this ramps up the LinkedIn advertising experience.

Russell Glass: The introduction of conversion tracking means our customers can now see a more complete picture of how their ads are driving leads.  It means they can track members who converted after clicking on one of their ads, or who just saw an ad but converted later on.

For example, they can track how many leads, sign-ups, content downloads, purchases, and other relevant results they’re getting from their Sponsored Content and Text Ads campaigns. They can even see how many prospects are converting based on specific and relevant professional profile characteristics of their target audience.

We’ve built this directly into Campaign Manager, our ad management tool that allows advertisers to easily measure the results of their advertising campaigns on LinkedIn.

Today’s announcement comes not long after LinkedIn opened up its inventory for programmatic buying. Can we assume the company is undergoing a ‘redesign’ in terms of its ad strategy?

RG: A redesign, no, but more investment in infrastructure, yes.  Our entry into programmatic buying reinforces our commitment to building flexibility into our platform since we know this is increasingly becoming the way our customers are buying display.

Back to conversion tracking, could you give us a quick example of how a marketer could work this new feature into a campaign that would have been off limits – or difficult – before?

RG: Off-limits may not be the best categorisation, but what our customers will be able to do now is create a strategy with better context. Having clear ROI and understanding what professional profile segments are converting means they can adjust their spend according to what works and what doesn’t.  

Conversion tracking also makes it easier to access all metrics in a single dashboard, saving advertisers’ time. NetBrain Technologies recently reported that 85% of its weekly leads from LinkedIn ultimately turned into qualified sales opportunities because of conversion tracking.

As a business-orientated social network, tell us about the LinkedIn audience and how marketers should be thinking differently about targeting these users, against the likes of Twitter, Facebook, etc?

RG: Our biggest differentiator is the professional mindset of our members. We always put our members first, so we have been able to attract a massive, engaged audience of influential professionals. Our members drive business decisions, so our customers know they are getting their business in front of the people who influence purchasing decisions.  

In addition, we have the industry’s most accurate and complete set of first-party audience data, which powers advertisers’ campaign targeting and analytics. No other major ads platform can provide B2B demographic conversion data with the same level of completeness or accuracy.

With this in mind, is there any targeting data, or user behaviour traits, that is more or less unique to LinkedIn?

RG: Conversion tracking allows advertisers to understand unique LinkedIn audiences that are driving campaign conversions — including the seniority, industry, job function and company size of the people they’re converting to leads.

We’ve built a report in Campaign Manager that shows an advertiser exactly how many conversions they’re getting across different professional audience segments that are engaging with their campaigns. No other platform offers demographic conversion measurement with this level of quality or accuracy.

Finally, LinkedIn last year announced that approximately 50% of traffic stemmed from mobile. Why does the product lend itself to the smartphone, and is a tip in the balance towards mobile expected in the coming year?

RG: The shift to mobile has become apparent not only to LinkedIn, but throughout the industry.  Consumers are on their handheld constantly, and Sponsored Updates has benefitted from that.  More than 60% of LinkedIn traffic now comes from mobile and over 80% of engagement with Sponsored Updates is coming from mobile as well. We expect mobile will continue to be a major driver of traffic in the coming year.