linkedin lookalike audiences

LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences: 3 Easy Steps to Use Them Effectively

To better understand the concept of LinkedIn Lookalike audiences, it is first important to keep in mind that every business has an ideal customer. According to Smart Insights, leads need to meet the following criteria in order to be qualified as potential customers for our business:

  • Need – do they have a need that your product or service is able to fulfill?
  • Interest – are they interested in fulfilling that specific need?
  • Budget – do they have enough money to make the purchase?

free trial saas customers

And even if your leads meet the above-mentioned criteria, it doesn´t necessarily mean that they are qualified. The task of discovering your ideal customer gets even more complicated when you consider other factors, including:

  • Geographical area – if they need to go to a physical shop to buy your product, do they have one nearby?
  • Timing – maybe they have the need, the interest, and the budget, but is it the right time to buy the product? Think of purchasing a flight ticket for a certain destination. 
  • Decision making authority – are they the decision makers for a purchase? For example, B2B products can´t be purchased by anyone in a company.
  • Professional profile – this can be especially important for some business. Think of a Business School selling an Executive Education program for people in a specific sector or with certain years of experience. 


1. What are LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences?

Let´s say that you already have the vision for your ideal customer and a couple of leads or prospects that represent it perfectly. How awesome would it be to simply replicate the winning formula?

If you found a high-converting target audience of people that share similar behavioral patterns and profile characteristics, creating a lookalike will greatly increase your chances for discovering new potential customers. And LinkedIn does exactly that.

LinkedIn Lookalike audiences is a tool that combines the traits and behavioral patterns of your existing leads, customers or website visitors with its own data in order to identify other members with similar characteristics who are more likely to buy from you.

The goal is very simple. Out of all LinkedIn members that you could possibly reach with your campaigns, lookalike audiences help you sort out those who are likely to purchase from those who don’t share anything in common with your existing database.

Let’s say that you have developed a payment gateway service for small businesses, and you upload a list of your existing customers.

By analyzing this data, LinkedIn may find out that decision makers who have the job function of Business Development are more likely to get in touch with you and become your customers later on.

linkedin lookalike audiences

Using these insights, the platform can create a similar audience of members from its database that all have the job function of Business Development. Of course, this example is extremely simplified just so you can get the general idea of how LinkedIn Lookalike audiences work.

In reality, it’s much more complex than that. But the good news is, you don’t have to do anything advanced yourself – just upload your list, or build upon an existing matched audience. And LinkedIn will take care of the rest!

This way, you can significantly optimize and improve your campaign performance to reach an audience of higher quality.

2. How do I create a lookalike audience on LinkedIn?

Creating LinkedIn Lookalike audiences is very simple. From your Campaign Manager, click on the account that you want to work with, and go to Account AssetsMatched Audiences. Then, click on the blue button Create audience, and select Lookalike from the dropdown:

creating linkedin lookalike audiences

After that, simply select the audience that you want to create a lookalike from, give it a name, and click on Create. If you don’t have any audiences to choose from, you will have to build those first. You can read more in my article All 8 Types of LinkedIn Matched Audiences (+Best Practices).

LinkedIn Lookalike audiences

Note: if you already have audiences in your account but they don’t show up, this could mean that they are still processing, or have been archived because you haven’t used them in a long time. It can also mean that they don’t have enough volume – you need to have an audience with at least 300 members before you can actually build a lookalike from it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that lookalike audiences need some time before you are able to use them in a campaign.

Once you’ve created your audience, it will take up to 48 hours for LinkedIn to process the information, and another 24 hours to start delivery. So, you will have to be patient!

3. What sources can I use for my lookalike audience?

The next step towards building effective LinkedIn lookalike audiences is to understand all that possible sources that you can build upon.

3.1. A list of target accounts or contacts

With this source, you provide LinkedIn with a database of emails (or accounts) that you’ve previously collected in your CRM. LinkedIn uses this information to match against its own database.

What does that mean? 

Well, it is more simple than it sounds. Let´s say that your lead/customer used one email address to register for your website, and the same one for creating his LinkedIn profile.

If this is the case, great! The matching is considered correct, and LinkedIn can now analyze this information to find similar profiles. 

However, if the lead used one email address to register for your website, and a different one for LinkedIn, there won’t be a match. LinkedIn recognized these email addresses as two different people, in which case it can’t analyze the data that you are requesting.

The goal is to find on LinkedIn the exact same person who registered on your website. And having different emails implies that the platform has no guarantee of confirming that the  person who registered on LinkedIn was the same who signed up on your website.

Creating lookalike from a CRM database

To build a lookalike audience based on the contact list that you’ve extracted from your CRM, go to your Campaign Manager. Remember, if you don’t have a contact or an account list yet, you will have to create it first.

To do that, select the account name in which you will want to upload your list, in case you have various accounts. After that, go to Account Assets -> Matched Audiences, and click on Create Audience from the upper right corner.

From the dropdown, select Upload a list  – Company / Contact.

linkedin matched audiences - contact targeting

Download the .csv template that you will be working with, and paste your audience emails, or in the case of company accounts, the list of Company pages that you want to target in LinkedIn.

Once the list has processed, you can either go to Create audience – Lookalike and find it there, or directly select Create lookalike from the three dots next to the audience:

LinkedIn Lookalike audiences: building upon an existing list

You can also create lookalike audiences from any other lists of contacts that you have. Of course, you have to keep in mind that it must comply with the GDPR if you are in Europe. And with the corresponding privacy regulations if you are reading this from outside of Europe. 🙂 

3.2. Lookalike from a retargeting audience

You can also build LinkedIn lookalike audiences based on an existing retargeting audience.

Retargeting audiences work the same they do in Facebook and Google.

And that is, by collecting cookies from users coming to your website from your LinkedIn campaigns. In other words, once you’ve created a retargeting audience, LinkedIn will start collecting cookies from users who clicked on your campaigns and arrived at your website.

linkedin retargeting scheme

This way, you can build an audience of people who have visited your website, and are familiar with your business so you can re-impact them with a second, more personalized message.

By building a lookalike upon a retargeting audience, you can discover people with similar traits and behavioral patterns who are more likely to click on your ad and visit your website.

subscriber and customer

Creating lookalike from a retargeting audience

To be able to create LinkedIn Lookalike audiences, you will need to build your retargeting audiences first – and reach a volume of at least 300 members, which is the minimum that LinkedIn requires to be able to deliver a campaign.

In total, you can build 4 different retargeting audiences:

  • Website – allowing you to impact people who have visited your website from your campaigns;
  • Company audience – you can also impact people who have interacted with your Company page;
  • Events audience – to re-engage with people who signed up for your LinkedIn live events;
  • Video audience – to re-impact people who have watched your sponsored videos on LinkedIn;

If you want to learn more about how to configure these audiences, I again invite you to consult my article All 8 Types of LinkedIn Matched Audiences (+Best Practices). 

Once your audiences have been processed, you can follow the exact same step as in point 3.1. to create your lookalike and impact people that are more likely to interact with your business.

3.3. Lookalike from a Lead Gen form

The third source that you have to create effective LinkedIn Lookalike audiences is upon a Lead Gen form.

Lead Gen forms are LinkedIn’s native forms that you can configure to open for your audience instead of taking them to your website once they’ve clicked on your ads.

They work by automatically extracting information from a member’s profile, reducing significantly the time and hassle for users who want to leave their personal data. This also makes them highly effective for lead generation. 

linkedin matched audiences - lead gen form retargeting

LinkedIn Lookalike audiences: Lead Gen forms

Additionally, people won’t have to leave LinkedIn to go to a third-party website that they may not trust. Which means that users are more likely to to leave their personal information.

As in the other occasions, to build LinkedIn Lookalike audiences from a Lead Gen form, you need to create Lead Gen forms first – and they should be currently active within your campaign.

Once you have enough volume (a minimum of 300 members), you can create a lookalike from it.

To create a Lead Gen form, go to Account Assets, and click on Lead Gen forms:

Then, click on Create form, and start configuring your form by adding the data that you want to request from your audience. You can also check my article How to Create LinkedIn Lead Ads in 5 Simple Steps for more information on how to do that correctly.

Once you’ve created your forms and generated enough volume of leads, you can create your LinkedIn Lookalike audiences in the same way as we mentioned previously.

3 Things to keep in mind with LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences

Now, there are some important things that you need to know before getting started with LinkedIn Lookalike audiences. Let’s take a look:

1. The matching is not always correct

It is important to remember that not all emails that you provide to LinkedIn will actually be matched with the platform’s database.

Let’s say that your email database consists of 10,000 leads or customers. When you upload this list to LinkedIn, the emails that you provide will be searched among all user profiles within the platform.

However, sometimes a user will sign up for your newsletter with one email address, and create his LinkedIn profile with another email address.

In this case, since the emails are different, LinkedIn won’t recognize him within their own database, and there will be no matching. Don’t be surprised if your list is suddenly reduced from 10,000 to 3,000!

So the more emails you provide, the better! Just don’t do it illegaly, ok? Always comply with the GDPR! This way, you will increase the possibility for correct matching. 

2. Lookalike audiences include only active members

LinkedIn only shows your LinkedIn ads to active members. This means that, even if the matching is correct, not all users will be included to your active audience. Which will probably reduce your base audience even more!

However, please don´t get angry at LinkedIn for that. The platform does this so that you don’t spend your money on an audience that isn´t engaged with your content.

3. Build both specific and generic audiences

Another important thing that you need to know about LinkedIn Lookalike audiences is that you should be testing both specific and generic audiences.

Let’s say that you are selling both sports shoes and elegant shoes. In this case, and if your database has enough volume, it is better to build one lookalike audience for sports shoes, and another one for elegant shoes.

customer experience examples

This way, you will make them more precise, and LinkedIn will be able identify the things that sports shoes users have in common in order to find more potential customers with a similar profile. 

On the negative side of LinkedIn Lookalike audiences that are way too specific, going too specific also means that you won’t get enough volume – or it will take a really long time to capture it.

For this reason, creating generic audiences to be able to test them as soon as possible will be really good while you are waiting for your specific audiences to build up.

I hope you enjoyed my article on LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences. Thank you for passing by, and don´t hesitate to leave your questions or feedback below! Thanks!

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