We’re not talking about broems or posts that bait engagement. You’ve seen them. The ones that ask people to respond to a poll with different reactions. Look, they were kind of clever at first, but people are getting tired of them.
The social media team at Hootsuite uses posts without links to ask questions and get to know the LinkedIn community. These posts are all about sparking conversation — a task that is easier said than done, especially with LinkedIn feeds getting more crowded by the year.
To see how this linkless LinkedIn posts strategy stacks up (say that five times fast), we decided to run an experiment. Continue reading to see how Iain Beable, Hootsuite’s Social Media Strategist (EMEA), pulled up the numbers and broke them down.
Bonus: Download a free guide that shows the 11 tactics Hootsuite’s social media team used to grow their LinkedIn audience from 0 to 278,000 followers.
Hypothesis: LinkedIn posts without links will get more engagement and reach
In a recent Hootsuite experiment, we found that tweets without links get more engagement than those with links. We thought we’d see if the same holds true on LinkedIn.
As with the Twitter experiment, our hunch was that our LinkedIn community finds posts without links and calls-to-action more engaging — and thus that these types of posts would obtain further reach.
Hootsuite’s LinkedIn marketing strategy involves a mix of posts with and without links.
Like in past experiments, the goal here was not to stimulate a perfect test environment. Instead, we proceeded with our usual programming to test how linkless posts perform within it.
Our test period ran from January 22 – March 22, 2021, amounting to 60 days. This timeframe happened to coincide with a big campaign period. As a result, Hootsuite posted 177 posts with links, compared to only 7 posts without.
Although this may seem like an imbalanced sample set, it let us put linkless posts to a much tougher test. Posts with links had 177 chances to “go viral” and skew the data set, while posts without links only had 7 attempts.
- Time frame: January 22–March 22, 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 include hashtags.
TL;DR: On average, posts without links got 6x more reach than posts with links. While linkless posts had fewer shares on average, they received almost 4x more reactions and 18x more comments than the average post with a link.
|Av per linkless post
|Av per linked post
“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 earned far more impressions on average, even though they did not have the help of hashtags or paid boosts.
The only metric where posts with links outperformed those without was shares, but even there, the results were close.
The average engagement rate for posts without links was 4.12%, slightly lower than the rate for posts with links at 4.19%. This is likely due to the fact that posts without links had 6x more impressions. So, even though average reaction and comment scores were higher for linkless posts, they didn’t quite add up to a winning engagement rate.
What do the results mean?
Let’s unpack the results a little further. These are our 4 key takeaways, based on an analysis of Hootsuite Analytics data and the posts themselves.
1. Quality engagement boosts organic reach
Likes are considered a vanity metric for a reason. “I can quickly fly through my LinkedIn feed and like a number of posts without really digesting the content,” says Beable.
Some consider comments a vanity metric, too, but they do require more effort and time than a double tap.
“Comments tell us that a user is far more invested in the content, they are willing to spend time in the conversation and share their thoughts. If we rank the quality of engagement, comments and shares far outweigh reactions.”
– Iain Beable, Social Media Strategist
LinkedIn’s algorithm picks up on this, too. The more quality engagement your post receives, the higher the odds it will appear in people’s feeds. This is likely why the average impressions for our linkless posts were more than 6 times higher than for posts with links.
2. It’s worthwhile to speak to your audience
The temptation to use social channels to push links and drive traffic is real. Click-through rates and conversions may be easier to tie to return on investment (ROI), but community engagement has value, too—even if it’s harder to quantify.
“One of our aims is to be a friend to the social media community,” says Beable. “We speak directly to social media managers out there to show them we understand the problems and challenges they face in their role,” he explains.
Posts that speak to your community build brand loyalty and promote general good vibes. Just look at some of the responses to the posts above.
“These posts might not be a big driver in terms of ROI, but with the right strategy, they can seriously improve your share of voice, and it’s hard to put a price on that,” says Beable.
3. Don’t do all the talking, spark conversations
Although it can sometimes seem this way, social media shouldn’t be a shouting competition.
“Social was designed to be social,” says Beable. Don’t just talk at your followers, talk with them. Spark conversations and keep them going by engaging with responses.
“We’ve done this by jumping on existing trends like “tell me without telling me” as well as asking our audience direct questions about their experiences working in social media,” says Beable. “I believe this works primarily because it brings our audience together and creates a feeling of unity and belonging with the community.”
Before sparking conversation, do your research, says Beable. Spend time social listening so you can identify common issues and popular topics. Pay attention to trends, too, so you can stay ahead of the curve and benefit from them while they are trending.
4. Not all platform metrics are created equal
Linkless posts only fell behind posts with links in terms of the number of average shares. But it’s worth considering what type of content people tend to share on LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is slightly different from platforms like Twitter, where retweets are a common affair,” says Beable.
LinkedIn is, after all, a professional social network. The stakes for sharing content on LinkedIn may be higher than on other social channels.
“Shares on LinkedIn are a little harder to achieve as users want to make sure they are only sharing content relevant to their professional network,” he explains.
On LinkedIn, the need for content to provide “value” is imperative, whether it’s a thoughtful anecdote, interesting article or a job opportunity. As a result, posts with links may be more shareable by default, since they should offer something of value or interest. Posts that ask questions or that speak to an audience may be harder to share (but easier to otherwise interact with), since a follower’s audience may not be the same as yours.
Although this may seem like a drawback, remember that posts without links earned far more impressions than posts with links. This means that it is very much possible to obtain reach through engagements other than shares.
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