Experiment: Are LinkedIn Posts With Links Getting Less Engagement And Reach?
These are not broems or posts that encourage engagement. You saw them. The ones that ask people to respond to a survey with different reactions. Look, they were pretty smart at first, but people get tired of them.
The Hootsuite social media team uses unlinked posts to ask questions and learn about the LinkedIn community. These posts are all about initiating conversations – a task that is easier said than done, especially as LinkedIn feeds get thicker every year.
To see how this strategy for linkless LinkedIn posts builds (say five times as fast), we decided to do an experiment. Read on to see how Hootsuite's Social Media Strategist (EMEA) Iain Beable pulled up and broken down the numbers.
Bonus: Download a free guide This shows the 11 tactics the Hootsuite social media team used to grow their LinkedIn audience from 0 to 278,000 followers.
In a recent Hootsuite experiment, we found that tweets with no links showed more engagement than those with links. We thought we'd see if this also applies to LinkedIn.
As with the Twitter experiment, our guess was that our LinkedIn community would find posts without links and calls-to-action more engaging – and that these types of posts would have a wider reach.
Hootsuite's LinkedIn marketing strategy involves a mix of linked and unlinked posts.
As in previous experiments, the goal here was not to stimulate a perfect test environment. Instead, we continued with our usual programming to test how linkless posts work in it.
Our test period lasted from January 22nd to March 22nd, 2021 and was 60 days. This timeframe happened to coincide with a large campaign period. As a result, Hootsuite posted 177 posts with links compared to just 7 posts without.
While this seems like an unbalanced example set, we can put linkless posts to a much tougher test. Posts with links had 177 chances of going "viral" and skewing the record, while posts without links had only 7 attempts.
- Timeframe: January 22nd to March 22nd, 2021
- Total number of posts: 184 (177 with links, 7 without links)
- Percentage of linkless posts: 3.8%
All linkless posts were organic and did not contain hashtags.
TL; DR: On average, posts were received without links 6x more reach as posts with links. While linkless had posts less stocks on average, they got almost 4x more reactions and 18x more comments than the average post with a link.
|Av per linkless post||– –||29,337.57||238.71||63.57||8.57||1,002.14|
|Av per linked post||– –||4,713.72||65.16||3.44||9.22||293.98|
"As you can see, the data suggests that linkless posts far outperform posts with links in terms of engagement," says Beable.
Posts without links also got far more impressions on average, despite not having the help of hashtags or paid boosts.
The only metric where posts with links outperformed those without was stocks, but even there, results were tight.
The average engagement rate for posts with no links was 4.12%, slightly below the rate for posts with links at 4.19%. This is likely due to the fact that posts with no links had 6x more impressions. While the average response and comment scores were higher for linksless posts, they didn't quite add up to a profitable engagement rate.
What do the results mean?
Let's unpack the results a little further. These are our top 4 takeaways based on an analysis of the Hootsuite Analytics data and the posts themselves.
1. Commitment to quality increases the organic reach
Likes are considered a vanity metric for a reason. "I can quickly fly through my LinkedIn feed and like a bunch of posts without really digesting the content," says Beable.
Some also consider comments a vanity metric, but they take more effort and time than double-tapping.
“Comments tell us that a user is much more invested in the content, ready to spend time in the conversation and share their thoughts. When we evaluate the quality of the engagement, comments and approvals outweigh the reactions by far. "
– Iain Beable, social media strategist
The LinkedIn algorithm also picks up on this. The more quality engagement your post receives, the more likely it is to appear in users' feeds. This is probably why the average impressions were for our linksless posts more than 6 times higher than for posts with links.
2. It's worth talking to your audience
The temptation to use social channels to push links and drive traffic is real. Click rates and conversions may be easier to link to return on investment (ROI), but community engagement has value too – even if it's harder to quantify.
"One of our goals is to be a friend of the social media community," says Beable. “We speak directly to social media managers to show them that we understand the problems and challenges they face in their role,” he explains.
Posts that appeal to your community build brand loyalty and drive the overall mood. Just check out some of the responses to the posts above.
"While these posts aren't a big driver of ROI, with the right strategy they can seriously improve your voice percentage, and it's difficult to price for them," says Beable.
3. Don't make all the conversations, trigger conversations
While it can look like this at times, social media shouldn't be a screaming competition.
"Social was designed to be social," says Beable. Don't just talk to your followers, talk to them as well. Encourage conversations and keep them going by engaging with answers.
"We did this by jumping on existing trends like 'tell me without telling me' and asking our viewers direct questions about their experience on social media," says Beable. "I believe this works primarily because it brings our audiences together and creates a sense of oneness and belonging to the community."
Do your research before starting a conversation, says Beable. Spend time listening socially so you can identify common issues and popular topics. Also, keep an eye out for trends so you can stay ahead of the curve and benefit from them while they're trending.
4. Not all platform metrics are created equal
Linkless posts only lagged behind posts with links in terms of the number of average proportions. However, it is worth considering what kind of content people share on LinkedIn.
"LinkedIn is a little different from platforms like Twitter, where retweets are a common thing," says Beable.
After all, LinkedIn is a professional social network. The stakes for sharing content on LinkedIn may be higher than on other social channels.
"Sharing on LinkedIn is a little harder to get because users want to make sure they are only sharing content that is relevant to their professional network," he explains.
On LinkedIn, it's imperative that content offers “value,” whether it's a thoughtful anecdote, an interesting article, or a job posting. As a result, posts with links are better by default to share as they should offer something of value or interest. Posts that ask questions or speak to an audience may be harder to share (but easier to interact in other ways) because a follower's audience may not match yours.
While this may seem like a downside, keep in mind that posts with no links received far more impressions than posts with links. This means that it is very possible to gain reach through exposure other than stocks.
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