If you’ve dabbled in LinkedIn as an advertising platform (if you haven’t, check out our how-to webinar!), you’ve probably noticed that the targeting options are a pretty different proposition than you’d find on AdWords, Facebook, and display.

LinkedIn targeting, particularly in a B2B context, can be extraordinarily powerful – if you do it effectively, of course. Here’s a primer in three parts: the set-up, a guide to the category option, and tips and tricks.

First, the set-up. 

Once you’ve created your account and your campaign, you’ll be directed to the Targeting View. Here’s a breakdown:

linkedin targeting set-up


Next, the Category breakdown.

The categories on the left-hand side of the page (e.g. Location, Company) are where you’ll be doing most of your targeting work. A quick breakdown of the categories and how to whittle them down:

1. Location 

Select the geographic area you’d like your campaign to target

Levels: Continent, Country, State, Region (note that State and Region aren’t available for all geos)

Example: North America -> United States -> Illinois -> Chicago


2. Company Targeting Types  

Select companies by name to specifically target employees of those companies.

Example:  If you’re selling medical software, look up a big regional hospital and target the chief office administrator.

Note that you can also select categories of companies — this is to target people of various job functions within an industry.

Example: Sticking with the medical software example, you’d target “health care” and look for all administrators at the buying-decision level.

Last, you can target by company size, which can be very ROI-friendly if your product or service is more costly than most SMBs can afford (for example).

3. Job Title Targeting Types

Job Title — Type in specific job titles you would like to target (works for a person’s current title only).

Example: real estate broker

Job Function and/or Seniority

Example: real estate – director

Note that this target limits your ads to people in one of 20 broad job functions

4. School — Type in specific schools that members attend(ed)

5. Skills — Type in relevant skills that members may list on their profile

6. Group — Type in group names that are relevant for your targeting

7. Gender — Select Male or Female (tip: this actually works; it makes your ads seem more personal to the people who see them)

8. Age — Select one of the ranges: 18-24, 25-34, 35-54, 55+

Note that many people do not include their age on their profile, so this targeting is not as precise.

Finally, some tips and tricks.

1. Rule of thumb: a good audience size is at least 100k (100k – 400k is recommended).

2. Always choose 1 or more locations.

3. I have not seen much success targeting specific companies, so test this before tossing a lot of money into it.

4. Targeting by industry: audience sizes are usually pretty substantial here, so targeting 1 or 2 will usually work.

5. Targeting by job function: if you choose multiple Job Functions per campaign, try to make them similar so custom ad copy still works. You can always overlay seniority depending on your desired audience.

6. Use job title only if you’d like to get more granular than overall job function. Works better in some industries than others (e.g. professor vs. teacher).

7. There aren’t actually many use cases for targeting by school, unless you’re trying to reach alumni for an event or to promote a graduate degree, for example.

8. Skill was introduced in September 2012 and is the newest targeting option. Skills can be general (problem-solving!) or highly specific (AdWords Editor 10.0.1!), so get creative. Note that audiences sizes vary widely; you may need a higher number of skill targets to build a good-sized audience.

9. For “Group” targeting, you may not know many Group names offhand, but if you think your audience has certain skills and interests, start typing and see what fills in! (Note: you can also research groups using the LinkedIn Groups Directory.)

10. Note that LinkedIn targeting operates under the inclusion method, so each layer of targeting you add to your campaign will cause your audience to get smaller and more granular (not necessarily a bad thing!).

11. For all manually entered targets, LinkedIn will provide suggestions of similar targets (USE THEM!).

12. You can choose up to:

– 10 targets per campaign for Geography, Industry, Job Function

– 100 targets per campaign for Company, Job Title, School, Skill, Group

Is your head full yet? It’s actually a very intuitive platform; you just need to get in there and start playing around. Remember to test to see what works before investing heavily with anything…and good luck!



  1. Terry Whalen May 8th, 2013

    Alicia, great post. :)

  2. Jeb May 9th, 2013

    Just one point.

    Targeting schools may well be a good option, i used it to target my school supplies to some school administrators.

    Also, how about a medical school being targeted for medical and EHR?

    Just sayin, otherwise, very practical post.


  3. Alicia Antoniolli May 9th, 2013

    Hi Jeb,

    With school targeting, you are using the knowledge that LinkedIn users attended the particular schools you select. In my experience, it limits the audience considerably and is too broad to use alone.

    It sounds like your situation combined school and job title targeting, in which case school supplies are a specific enough product that the audience was not too narrow.

    I’ve looked into medical schools a bit in the past, but the audiences were not as large as I would have hoped for large medical schools. Then again, audience sizes have most likely changed since I last looked into it. Great tip!

    One thing that is a constant with LinkedIn is the need to test a number of targeting options to hit that sweet spot.

    Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Comment

Alicia Antoniolli
Alicia Antoniolli is a former AM from 3Q Digital. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigln, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in International Studies. Alicia enjoys spending time with her large family at their lake house in Michigan, traveling (especially to Italy), and bladin’ down the lakefront with her boyfriend.