What’s the Right Audience Size for LinkedIn Ads?

Empty Stadium Seating

Well, with just about everything else in PPC, it depends. The end!

Just kidding. We can do a bit better than that. In my experience, there are four things that should be taken into account when determining the right audience sizes for LinkedIn audiences.

  1. Cost per Click
  2. Conversion Tracking
  3. Desired Outcomes
  4. Ease of Management

Let’s run through what those four things are, then see how they apply to actual audience sizes.

1. Costs in Relation to Audience Size

With LinkedIn, you can advertise to any size of audience as long as it’s over that 1,000 mark. As a general rule, your audience size and average CPC operate as inverses of each other.

  • Smaller Audience = Higher CPCs
  • Larger Audience = Lower CPCs

When creating your audiences, it’s important to balance specificity with reach. As marketers, we all want to be as precise as possible, but there comes a point where being that precise is simply not fiscally attainable.

Let’s say you have $50/day budget for LinkedIn and want to advertise to a group no larger than 5,000. That’s great, but know that you’ll most likely run into CPCs over $10. With some simple math, that translates to 5 clicks/day then you’re out of budget.

Now, that’s not to say running on just those 5 clicks/day in wrong. If you’re being successful, then keep on keepin’ on. But more often than not, it’s going to be pretty hard to find success with a data set that small. It might make sense to look to expand your audience size a bit and lower the CPC as a result.

2. Conversion Tracking

At present, LinkedIn does not have any conversion tracking functionality. Luckily, that’s easily sorted out through either Google Analytics or AdStage. But the lack of conversion tracking should also play a part in how large you create your audiences. Unlike Google, Facebook, etc., it can be more difficult to determine what groups within your audiences are driving conversions. For this reason, it might be better to use smaller audiences when trying to narrow down what’s working conversion wise from what’s not.

3. Desired Outcomes & Funnel Locations

Depending on what your desired conversion is, that should also play a role in your audience size creation. Since all funnels are different, let’s take the two extremes of the funnel for sake of brevity. If you’re offering a very soft conversion, like a whitepaper download or registration for a webinar, these aren’t pieces that necessarily need stringent audiences created for them. More often than not, they can reach a wider audience of potential customers and help move them to the next stage of the funnel. Essentially, for these softer conversions, bigger audiences are desirable.

On the other end of the funnel, you could be looking to offer an a custom quote for new software. At this point, you’re most likely wanting to reach only the decision makers as they’re the ones who will determine whether to buy or not. This audience is much more specific and requires smaller audience sizes or else you’ll be reaching to folks who aren’t qualified to make the decision you want them to make.

4. Ease of Management

LinkedIn is fairly notorious in the PPC world for not having the friendliest interface for advertisers. It can be wonderful to have a long list of highly segmented campaigns to reach your target audience, but each of those campaigns will also need maintenance. Just keep in mind when you’re building out your campaign list, each will need you to monitor ad performance, keep and eye on bids and budgets, and will have it’s own set of Click Demographics to look into. For this reason, the more you can condense an audience and still reach your campaign goals, the better.

Goldilocks SoupsMy Personal Preferences

Now to close out, let’s look at some actual audience size numbers based on my own personal preferences and how I use them. Again, these are personal preferences, but they’ve worked well for me. If your preferences vary from mine, I’d love to hear about them!

1,000 to 5,000

These are my hyper focused campaigns. If I know exactly who I want to target and I want to be able to report at as granular of a level as possible, I’ll target audiences in this very small range. This is relatively few and far between, but can be very beneficial if you’re trying to hyper focus on your target audience. For this audience size, I can usually also utilize a harder conversion action like a demo request rather than a whitepaper download.

Like I mentioned earlier, CPCs in the small audience range are going to be the highest of any audience size. But given my laser focus and high quality audience, I’m willing to pay the premium. Not to mention that you can retarget to them later as well.

5,000 to 25,000

This is typically my bread and butter zone and I use this for the majority of my campaigns. I like the relatively tight targets I can have in this range, but there is more leg to take advantage of audience engagement with the slightly larger audience size. I use this option when trying to target and track performance for a relatively tight audience, but with some wiggle room to reach slightly beyond my intended targets to gain some additional engagement traction.

25,000 to 100,000

For campaigns where I’m mostly running “branding” campaigns within a niche market, I’ll use this audience size. I can still be focused on a specific industry, but the larger audience size allows me to leverage social engagement even more than before so these users can spread the word to their networks as well. Here, conversion actions are typically softer like the whitepaper download I mentioned above. At this stage however, I typically see the actual conversion as a secondary metric to the branding effects.

100,000+

Although all LinkedIn reps I’ve run into tell me an audience size of 100,000+ in the minimum for best practices on LinkedIn, I honestly think that’s pretty bad advice if you’re mostly focusing on conversion actions. If you’re running a campaign that is made for strictly branding and you want as large of reach as possible, then this audience size is right for you. But when it comes to generating conversions, I find this size audience to simply be too large to leverage and optimize accordingly. Personally, I run very few campaigns with audiences this size as I feel that there are too many missed insights and opportunities to be had from breaking an audience this size down into separate campaigns.

So there it is. For better or worse, those are my personal preferences on LinkedIn audience sizes. What ranges do you utilize on LinkedIn? Are they similar to mine? Bigger? Smaller? Share with us in the comments!

Comments (9)

  1. Good advice, Michelle! I agree – I recommend as small as possible without making the account too labor-intensive to manage. Multiple audiences give you something to compare against, and since those small groups represent specific professional segments, you get to learn along the way! Huge fan of testing them.

  2. Thanks AJ! It baffles me that LI suggests the larger audiences, but I suppose they’re doing that to combat the main complaint folks have about the higher CPCs. IMO, if you’re doing your targeting correctly and creating remarketing audiences accordingly, that price premium isn’t a deterrent.

  3. Agreed. I think they suggest large audiences because they rightly assume that many marketers will create 1-2 campaigns, and if they don’t start bringing traffic/leads, they’ll decide the return on effort is too low, and stop advertising. When they tell me that audiences should be at least 300k, it makes me feel like they want me to be wasting my spend, which I detest.

    Maybe the answer should be “Create audiences >300k if you’re a n00b, and between 20-50k if you know what you’re doing”

  4. Totally agreed. Even when I’m told to create audiences over 100k, it irritates me. Somehow, even after explaining my reasoning to a rep and willingness to manage smaller audiences, I’m still told larger audiences are better. #frustrating

  5. Great piece of advice. I am running an ad campaign to bank reps who’s dealing with banking kiosk sales. I was always told that the larger the audience the better it was. However, my target audience is so niche where it couldn’t reach 2,000 members. Glad that i found this article that provide me with information about the rationale of each audience size. It’s so useful. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.