Learn the data behind these social media algorithms.
Social media is always changing, and as public relations and corporate communications professionals, we must keep up with the different algorithms. External links in posts are one notable change in the world of social media. We’ll lay out the data on posting with and without external links as well as our advice on how to move forward with your social media posts.
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External links in posts and comments
Sprout conducted social media experiments to determine if external links were impacting post impressions on LinkedIn. In examining posts with and without external links, Sprout found that posts with external links in the comments perform better. The impressions were nearly three times as high for a post on LinkedIn that didn’t contain an external link, but with a link in the comments (8,136 to 3,309 impressions).
Impressions weren’t the only thing that increased with link-in-comments posts. Sprout also found that posts with links in the comments had an average of 261 engagements on each post, compared to 141 for posts that contained external links.
While it seems like the obvious answer to increase engagement is putting external links in the comments, there’s another factor that should be considered. Sprout also claims posts that perform well with external links in the comments typically share captions with key takeaways from the included link. According to Sprout, these posts were text-only and “social first.” This is why the correlation is difficult to measure.
To ensure this was a trend across different social media platforms, we looked for more data. Social Insider also conducted social media experiments for Facebook. After analyzing 51,054,216 posts from 172,338 different Facebook business pages, it determined incorporating an external link into a Facebook post reduces engagement potential by half.
To cover all of our bases, we even found a similar experiment for Twitter conducted by Hootsuite. The results were similar. On average, tweets without external links received more engagement and reach. Of Hootsuite’s most engaged with tweets, 56% did not contain links within them. Only 12% of Hootsuite’s tweets during the experiment were without links.
Here’s what we suggest
The data suggests that eliminating links from your post’s body text will increase your impressions and engagements with these new algorithms. However, Social Insider found that companies who have a habit of placing links in the comments are less than 1%.
If you do decide to switch to this posting style, it may be difficult. Many social media scheduling softwares also won’t allow you to schedule a link to be put in the comments.
With that in mind, we suggest making the extra effort. However, if you know your company will struggle with this, keep your links in the actual post but use your time to create richer content. If you can, also produce content without links at all (not even in the comments). In the end, while data shows these social media algorithms aren’t in favor of external links, they are still in favor of rich, helpful, and trending content.
To learn more about managing your social media, check out this "Essential Social Media Management Guide."
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