With New App, LinkedIn Makes First Foray Into Advertising On Smartphones

In the first major revamp of LinkedIn’s app in almost two years, sponsored content makes its first appearance.

LinkedIn launched revamped iOS and Android app on Wednesday that, in addition to creating a more engaging mobile experience, introduces advertising on the company's smartphone apps for the first time.

As with most recently launched LinkedIn features--including notifications, contributed content, endorsements, and the ability to mention other users--the new app is designed to make LinkedIn a more appealing network to visit daily, rather than only when they are looking for a job.

While previous versions of the app buried engagement-boosting actions such as liking and commenting on status updates, the new app allows users to interact with content directly from the home feed. "We were putting too much information two or three taps away from the user," Linkedin Head of Mobile Joff Redfem tells Fast Company. "The stream is now pulling a lot of that information front and center for the user.”

The new app also has larger photos and a more intuitive navigation tray that can be customized to make jobs, specific groups, people you may know, or other LinkedIn features easy to access.

In addition to these interface improvements, LinkedIn is bringing a pilot program for sponsored content to its smartphone app.

Earlier this year, the company launched a similar sponsored content pilot for its desktop and tablet apps. Participating brands can promote their status updates so they appear in feeds of users who aren’t following them, much like a promoted post works on Facebook.

LinkedIn's 200 million users are increasingly logging in through their mobile devices. Whereas on average 15% of unique visitors used mobile devices to log in one year ago, on average 27% of them are doing so today. Meanwhile, mobile pageviews on LinkedIn have jumped 250% since the same time last year. Sponsored content has particular promise on LinkedIn's growing smartphone presence, says LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.

“The tablet environment’s a lot more conducive to leveraging the same kinds of ads--display ads that are currently running on the desktop,” Weiner said in a call with investors in February. “But where there’s potentially an even larger opportunity is with regard to smartphone by virtue of the inventory being generated there. And given the more limited real estate, we’ve always wanted to be very thoughtful in terms of how we’re integrating ads into that experience. “

Marketing Solutions, the name LinkedIn gives its group of advertising products, accounts for less than a third of the company's revenue. Recruiting products make most of the money--almost twice as much as ads. But, as Weiner noted in February: “Sponsored content in our network update stream for both the desktop and through our mobile channels represents a very large opportunity for us.”

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