In the latest of many recent moves to expand its content marketing business, LinkedIn released a new format for branded pages on Tuesday called Showcase Pages.
Instead of following all updates from a company—which may include everything from job opportunities to news about charitable initiatives—users can now choose to follow pages focused on a specific product or initiative they are interested in. The idea is similar to Pepsi having both a general brand page on Facebook and a page specific to its Pepsi Max brand, or to Google having Twitter accounts for AdWords, Android, and Google Doodles. "It’s about having the presence, but it’s also about being targeted about who sees the message," says David Thacker, LinkedIn’s Vice President of Marketing Solutions Products.
Brands can make up to 10 Showcase Pages, which are free—but can be promoted to LinkedIn users using the company's advertising products for a fee.
Making brand pages more specific is just one of many ways LinkedIn has worked to build a better home for content marketing. Previously its most visible efforts have focused on attracting other types of content to the platform. In 2011, for instance, the company launched LinkedIn Today, which served up top news stories for individual users based on their interests and what their connections shared. Last year, it introduced a blogging program with the help of well-known users like Bill Gates and Martha Stewart, and over the past two years, it has acquired two content-related companies: a news reader called Pulse that replaced LinkedIn Today and presentation-sharing company SlideShare.
All of this work to get people using LinkedIn as a source of information and insight ostensibly supports advertising products like Sponsored Updates, a promoted post the company launched in late July that, much like sponsored Tweets or sponsored Facebook Posts, puts updates from brand pages in front of users who haven’t followed them yet.
As Facebook has demonstrated, this can be quite a profitable business. The company relies almost solely on in-stream branded updates for its mobile revenue (it recently began offering ads that promote apps as well), which has grown to $882 million last quarter from $152.6 million during the same quarter last year.
LinkedIn has yet to see the revenue from its sponsored content come tumbling in. Advertising represents 22.5% of its business, slightly less than it did a year ago, before sponsored updates launched, and it still makes the majority of revenue from its product for recruiters. One thing that should help LinkedIn’s content marketing business grow, says Thacker, are that users often go to the site to learn about companies in the first place. "Our users come to us in a professional context," he says. "They’re coming to see news, information, and insights that will help them be more successful in their careers. And a big part of that is getting content from companies."
[Image: Flickr user Victor Bergmann]