I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn sponsored posts.

In fact, our Walker Sands and Walker Sands Digital book of business helping B2B companies with LinkedIn sponsored posts is on a serious uptick, with more and more B2B companies calling us, asking for help with LinkedIn sponsored post plans, budgets, content assets, image design, audience segmentation, daily tactical execution and ongoing optimization and reporting.

Without question, LinkedIn sponsored posts play a role in a smart B2B digital marketing plan — one that is not easily filled by any other available digital marketing tactic or platform.

But marketers need to know that LinkedIn sponsored posts can be commented on just like any other LinkedIn post, which means that if some jerk quickly adds a negative comment to your organization’s sponsored post, it will be seen by everyone you are trying to reach.

How Risky Is a LinkedIn Sponsored Post?

I’ve got an example that I saw in my LinkedIn feed today that I’ll show you in a second, but first let’s talk about how harmful this can be to marketers.

Hmm, what analogy can I make that explains how bad this is?

OK, think about Intuit’s recent SuperBowl ad for TurboTax. What if, while you were watching that ad running on your TV, the CEO of Intuit’s competitor H&R Block came on and said “Do you really trust Intuit? They just surprised all their TurboTax Deluxe customers with an expensive, forced upgrade to a more expensive product with no notice whatsoever. Try H&R Block instead. We’ll treat you right!”

Another analogy — imagine a scenario in which your competitor is running an expensive print advertising campaign in top-tier trade publications and you were able to get “Not true! Don’t believe them!” printed in big red letters at the bottom of every one of their ads in every magazine. Needless to say, this would totally undermine the intent of the ad campaign and kill their ROI on the campaign.

That’s effectively what somebody can do to your sponsored LinkedIn post.

You’re trying to get specific messages out to market, and people can just write negative comments that everybody sees.

An Example of How a LinkedIn Sponsored Post Can Be Used to Trash a Brand

Here’s an example from my feed today. Check out the comment from David and Kay Scott.

Example of a Negative Comment on a LinkedIn Sponsored Post

In this case, Fisher Investments is trying to precisely get their message in front of very specific people at very specific companies. (Seriously, LinkedIn targeting is nothing short of amazing if you haven’t tried it yet. With it, Walker Sands can get your message in front of anybody you want — anybody.)

With the LinkedIn sponsored post depicted above, I’m not sure why Fisher Investments targeted me exactly, but I made the grade.

Take a moment and give the sponsored post above a read.

With this particular LinkedIn sponsored post, they’re clearly trying to impress me with their ability to help me plan for retirement by giving me access to a thought leadership piece by their CEO and former Forbes columnist Ken Fisher. If not for the negative comment, it might be an effective piece of marketing.

But the comment quickly undermines my faith in this particular provider, making me less likely to click.

How would you feel if this happened to your brand? What heat would you quickly get from upper management when they saw their brand being trashed publicly in an initiative that you were running that they had allocated scarce marketing dollars for?

Key Takeaways Regarding Reputation Management in LinkedIn Sponsored Post Campaigns

What’s the key learning here?

The key learning is that LinkedIn sponsored posts are not paid advertising.

By my definition, advertising means you have complete control of the message. If you are not in control, it’s not advertising. With LinkedIn sponsored posts, as demonstrated above, you are not in control. QED, as my math teacher use to say.

To reiterate, with LinkedIn, you pay when somebody clicks on your sponsored post, and, as a result, many SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay per click) consultants and in-house marketers lump LinkedIn sponsored posts into the general category of “paid advertising.” Wrong.

Would Things Be Better If LinkedIn Didn’t Allow Comments on Sponsored Posts?

There is currently no facility within LinkedIn to disable comments on LinkedIn posts or to delete comments that somebody else added to your LinkedIn post.

Obviously, it would be trivial for LinkedIn developers to add that feature, but they haven’t.

Despite the marketing challenges that arise, I actually like that LinkedIn lets people comment on sponsored posts.

The upside is that it brings transparency to the market and deters inauthentic and manipulative marketing. This is the whole dynamic of social media. Brands used to be in control. Now the masses define a brand. Be good to people and you’ll end up with a strong brand. It’s that simple.

But the flipside is that LinkedIn comment trolls can very effectively get a larger share of market voice than they might justifiably deserve. A company might please a million people and have only one naysayer who hates the brand. That single naysayer can hijack a sponsored LinkedIn post and trash the brand. For activists with an anti-corporate agenda, disgruntled employees and unethical competitors, this is a powerful way to beat up an adversary.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. As the use of LinkedIn sponsored posts skyrockets, it’s clear that negative LinkedIn sponsored post comments will become a bigger topic of discussion.

It’s still early days, but it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out over time.

My final thought for today is one of self-interest. I’d be a bad marketer if I didn’t end my blog post with a call to action of some kind so here goes.

If you are a B2B firm that is thinking about improving your social media strategy and want a smart, reliable agency to assist in the effort, do get in touch with Walker Sands. We take a holistic approach to digital marketing that is extremely powerful, and you’ll love working with us!