LinkedIn is testing sponsored videos that will run in users’ news feeds.
On Thursday, the social network—now part of Microsoft–said that it is testing sponsored videos with a limited number of advertisers.
These will not be pre-roll or post-roll ads, which play at the beginning or end of a selected web page. Instead, these ads will play right from a user’s LinkedIn feed. As you scroll down, you will see the video just as you would see other content. But the video will be labeled as “promoted.”
Marketers increasingly see video as the best way to reach business audiences, and LinkedIn says its tools and data can help those advertisers target the optimal audience. Because the LinkedIn database knows what members do for a living, their job titles, and who they work for, that targeting gets just that much easier.
The select advertisers, which include Prudential Financial and Microsoft Canada, will be able to reach specific audiences based on the aforementioned member profile information.
Initially, the ads will run only on mobile, not desktop devices. LinkedIn offers reporting tools to help advertisers track how many people viewed the ad at all and how many watched it all the way through. The company also started letting users embed their own videos a few months ago.
Related: LinkedIn Claims Half a Billion Users
LinkedIn claims more than 500 million users, yet it does not disclose daily active user count or break out how many people are paying customers. The network offers free basic services, but charges human resources, sales, and marketing professionals for additional features and capabilities.
Microsoft (MSFT) dropped $26.2 billion to buy LinkedIn last year, so there’s pressure to make that investment pay off. Ads could help with that. Microsoft is also tying LinkedIn and its user data trove tightly into its Dynamics business software so that a user of Microsoft’s sales software can easily find prospects for campaigns from LinkedIn without leaving that application.
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LinkedIn faces competitors on several fronts—not the least of which is Facebook (FB), the social network which as of June claimed two billion users. Over the past year, Facebook has been pushing more into business applications with job postings and Workplace.
It also has to walk a fine line of attracting paying customers, including advertising and marketing pros, and alienating the members who post their information on the site. Ad clutter could do that.