When it comes to digital advertising, Facebook and Google are the two dominate players in the game. While it will certainly be very difficult to compete with them on any large scale, it looks like LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft) is making an attempt to make it a three-player game. Of course, it will take a while for them to succeed, but the recent launch of the LinkedIn Audience Network is a great first step.
LinkedIn has an excellent userbase for advertisers, and they have grown their on-site ad market very significantly over the past couple years. To help capitalize on that success, they are expanding these types of ads to other properties owned or run by LinkedIn and/or Microsoft.
Most significantly of these is Outlook. Millions of Outlook users (which can include Hotmail users) will be shown inbox ads generated from LinkedIn. Currently this will only be sponsored posts, but it seems likely that they will introduce additional ad options in the near future.
The reason this network has a chance at succeeding in becoming a big player in the digital ad game is because of the data that LinkedIn brings to the table. Google and Facebook ads are successful largely because those two companies have extensive data on all their users. This is something that most ad networks simply can’t compete with.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, not only has a ton of data on their users, but that data is extremely useful. Information about people’s jobs, their education, whether they are looking for a job, what industries they are spending time learning about, and much more. Of course, this will also provide direct insights into their income, which can be valuable for advertisers.
We are a long way off from knowing whether the LinkedIn Audience Network pushes them into competition with Facebook and Google or not, but it is nice to see them making the effort.