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Sprout Tested: The answer to why you put links in the comments on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become a different kind of social space. What used to be a place to post job openings has become a go-to hub of thought leadership and engaging content for job-seekers, employees, investors and customers alike.

This content explosion isn’t imagined. According to LinkedIn, platform members viewed 22% more Feed updates in 2022, year over year. But ramping up your content and LinkedIn marketing strategy on the platform will inevitably lead to questions in the effort to get it right. And one of the biggest questions we’ve seen about LinkedIn content is whether or not you should put links in your posts, or in the first comment.

We were curious too: why put the link in comments on LinkedIn? So we designed an experiment to find out. Keep reading to see what we did, our results and learnings to bolster your strategy.

Why put the link in comments in LinkedIn posts? (And does it matter?)

Comments vs. post? Does it make a difference for engagement? Impressions?

As marketers rethink their LinkedIn content strategy, these questions are surfacing more and more. With bandwidth already thin for social teams, it pays to be sure the posts you push out on the platform are optimized for maximum social media engagement.

Our social team designed an experiment to answer this question. “I have seen an increasing volume of text-only posts on LinkedIn, which is why we wanted to do this experiment,” Sprout’s Social Media Strategist—and designer of this experiment—Greg Rokisky tells us. “I’ve seen a lot of carousel and document posts, and I’ve seen a lot of creativity being executed there. So it’s exciting to see how LinkedIn continues to adapt for various post types.”

How we tested adding links to content on LinkedIn

Social media is part art, part science. Conducting social media experiments is one of the best ways to evaluate what content your team should be spending more time on.

Here’s how we designed our experiment—and the variables we controlled for—to get the most accurate results possible.

The post content

Over the course of a month, we created 8 posts designed specifically for this experiment on LinkedIn. First, we picked four articles from our blog that:

  • We wanted to post about in the upcoming weeks
  • Had actionable, social-first lists and takeaways we could include in a post
  • Shared similar takeaways

Then, we created two posts for each article: A post that would contain the link in the comments, like this one:

One of the link-in-comments test posts designed for our experiment. This LinkedIn post reads "what does social media impacting the customer journey look like?" and then lists 9 ways to impact the customer journey via social. The last sentence prompts users to dive deeper into the link in the comments.

And another that would contain the link within the post itself, like this one:

One of the link-included test posts designed for our experiment. This LinkedIn post leads with a paragraph about the article's theme, and then features a clickable graphic that will take you to the blog post the post is talking about.

That left us with four link-in-comments posts, four link-included posts.

The post design

The key here was ensuring that our 8 posts weren’t repetitive, and fit in with our normal flow of content.

To do this, we changed up the text and how information was presented in each post. The link-in-comments posts had a “social-first” design. That is, the post itself had enough value to be sharable and were designed to be:

  • Engaging
  • Long enough to show the “see more text” prompt
  • Value-driven (i.e. included a list of takeaways that provided readers with insights, while also teasing the full article)

A link-in-comments LinkedIn post designed for this experiment. The opening copy of this post introduces the idea of social media experiments, then lists 7 steps for running a social media experiment before prompting readers to look at the link in the comments.

The link-included posts had shorter text overall. Where the link-in-comments post copy was designed to be social-first, this copy was geared towards getting readers to click through to the article.

A link-included post designed for this experiment featuring an article link to an article entitled "how to run and measure social media experiments."

The post frequency

We confined this experiment to a month to spread out and analyze the posts within our regular reporting period. We also published no more than two experiment posts within one week, alternating link-in-comments posts with the link-included ones to avoid redundant content.

A screenshot of Sprout's New Post compose interface where there's a dropdown showing the top 7 optimal send times for the post on the day it will be scheduled. This feature helps you post when your audience is most engaged.

Finally, as Greg explains, “We also scheduled using one of the top two of our Optimal Send Time recommendations in Sprout Social to ensure we were scheduling at peak recommended times as an added control.”

Result: Does putting the link in the comments improve performance?

Now comes the fun part. Without further ado, here are the two most impactful results. Drum roll please:

A graphic that reads: Result: does putting the link in the comments improve LinkedIn post performance? One: the link-in-comments posts performed better. 2: Text-only social-first posts performed better

The link-in-comments posts performed better

As Greg explains, “In terms of overall performance and how these posts performed on LinkedIn, the link-in-comments posts performed better and had higher numbers from both an awareness and engagement perspective.”

Not only did these posts perform better than the link-included posts—they also performed well in the context of our larger strategy. In our testing month, two of the link-in-comments posts were among our top 10 performers across all platforms for awareness and engagement.

Here’s a better look at those numbers:

  • Awareness results: Link-in-comments posts had a higher average of impressions per post—around 8,136. While the link-included posts had around 3,309 impressions on average—roughly a 3x difference.
  • Engagement results: The link-in-comments posts had an average of 261 engagements per post, while the link-included posts fell to 141 average engagements.

To track our results, we tagged our experiment posts in Sprout. Tags helped us pull reports solely featuring our experiment results, which is an effective way to track specific post results, or campaigns. See the tags we used for this experiment below (in Sprout’s dark mode.)

A screenshot of Sprout's compose post window where you can add sprout tags to track posts in a specific campaigns. The tags we've added to this post are social + content team experiments and A test.

Sprout’s Tag Performance Report gave us an overview of the experiment’s post performance. And we used the Profile and Post Performance reports to analyze how the experiment performed within our overall LinkedIn strategy, including if any were top performers within the month.

A screenshot of Sprout's LinkedIn Pages report. At the top of the page is a performance summary listing LinkedIn page impressions, engagements and post link clicks for the selected time period. And below that is a line graph charting audience growth over the same time period for organic and paid followers gained, and followers lost.

If you’re interested in trying these reports for yourself, start a free 30-day Sprout trial.

Posts that were “social-first” performed better

The link-in-comments posts had rich captions that contained takeaways from the link included in the comments. These posts were text-only and “social-first”—that is, designed to fit the platform and acted as a “foot-in-the-door” to lead interested readers in taking the next step to click the link in the comments.

And as mentioned earlier—several of the text-only, social-first posts were in our top 10 posts across all of our channels during our testing month.

These strong test results revealed the right formula for our LinkedIn link posts: a combination of the social-first approach, and putting links in the comments. Testing this post format has the potential to supercharge your post performance as well.

5 Takeaways to use in your LinkedIn strategy

Data is nothing if you don’t put it into action. And there are plenty of ways you can use this experiment to feed how you structure your LinkedIn content, and your LinkedIn best practices.

According to our 2023 Content Benchmarks Report, over half of marketers cite “changing content formats” as a challenge when planning and scheduling content. Use these five takeaways to alleviate some of that stress by knowing where to take your strategy next.

A graphic that reads: 5 takeaways for your own LinkedIn strategy: one, design posts for the platform you're posting one. Two, lead with your goals. Three, plan to track links separately. Four, add the link to your comments to test it for yourself. Five, craft an experiment of your own.

1. Design platform-first posts

Creating posts designed to look native to the platform you’re posting on is like “speaking the language” of the social channel. Not to mention, it works. As Greg puts it, “The posts that felt like they were designed for the channel, or ‘social-first,’ and native to it seemed to perform better overall.”

This also meets your audience with the content type they look for on the platform you’re publishing on. And this goes for any platform—not just LinkedIn. For example, you probably wouldn’t include the same framing or voice effects in a YouTube video that you would in a TikTok or YouTube Short video.

As Greg says, “I think this reinforced our strategy to create content catered to each individual platform.”

Our LinkedIn for Business Template will help you explore ways to make a bigger impact on this channel.

2. Lead with your goals

In this experiment, our goals were social-first—generating more organic engagement and awareness.

But your goal might be focused on other objectives and key results, like driving website visits or purchases. In this case, your social posts may have cross-team implications. Align with other teams on KPIs and the parameters of your experiment to get the data each contributor needs to make informed decisions, and ensure you have access to the necessary tools—Google Analytics data, for example.

For example, if your content team uses Google Analytics to track blog links, work with them to ensure you’re properly tracking your links with UTMs, and can access those results. We go deeper into link tracking in the next section.

3. Plan to track your links separately

One limitation we identified in this experiment was the ability to measure link clicks when the link was in the comments vs. in the post.

Sprout reports measure post link clicks for published posts. However, when the link is in the comments, there’s no way for social platforms to capture that information for the post in LinkedIn analytics.

The solution: To track how many people clicked on your comment link, use UTMs to track your URLs. A UTM is a basic code snippet added to the end of your URL. It tracks the performance of your links and helps you get deeper insights into how people interact with them.

To employ UTMs, use Google’s UTM builder. Or, when you use Sprout, our platform makes it easy for you to implement URL tracking within your publishing workflow, and to shorten your links before you publish.

A screenshot of Sprout's URL tracking parameters where you can set up trackable links to better measure the impact your social strategy has on the whole business.

4. Add the link to your comments to test it for yourself

LinkedIn is already the organic platform that B2B content marketers find the most effective. As you ramp up your posting strategy, try putting links in the comments to potentially kickstart your awareness and engagement.

And if you’re not ready to take the leap, strike a balance. Include your link in the post. But make your text social-first and designed to be engaging for LinkedIn readers. Think: teasing your content with a list of tips, key takeaways and more.

If you use a social media management platform to schedule and publish posts, just remember to comment with the link manually due to API limitations. You’re already engaging with your audience in the comments—which Sprout can also help streamline with our Smart Inbox. Add this step to your current comment and engagement strategy to keep it top of mind, or set reminders.

5. Try crafting platform-specific content experiments

The best way to truly know what makes an impact in you content strategy and what leads to the strongest ROI is to experiment.

Use this article as a guide and design a social media experiment to test different content types, designs and formats in your strategy.

The key is having controls—like how we controlled our posting time, frequency and themes to limit the number of variables we were testing at once. And, to know how you’re going to measure your posts ahead of time.

Having the right tools is crucial to running effective tests. As Greg put it, “When I used to be a social team of one, I ran social media experiments like this and had to lean on spreadsheets that lend to human error. So doing an experiment in a product like Sprout makes it much easier to look back on results, understand trends, dive deeper into posts and keep a controlled experiment.” The easier it is for you to compile your findings and analyze your results, the more motivated you’ll be to test.

A screenshot of Sprout's post performance report where posts are ranked in terms of engagement to identify your top-performing posts in a given time period.

Just ensure your test posts feel natural to your strategy. “Doing a social media experiment needs to feel authentic and natural for your audience and platform,” Greg explains.

For example, this is a regular, non-experimental post on our LinkedIn channel. Compare this to the experiment posts we shared above:

A non-experimental LinkedIn post on Sprout's channel that highlights what our typical posts look like, and how they're similar to our experiment posts. This one starts with a line that reads, "could you be overlooking a major opportunity? here are 4 social stats you need to know" and then lists four social stats. The post includes a data visual about how consumers find the perfect product.

Test out what works for your strategy and audience

Social media is constantly in flux. The more content formats and audience preferences change, the more important it is to run experiments that assess what types of content your team should focus on.

The key to running an experiment that leads to actionable insights is organizing your process. Check out our social media testing worksheet to design and run personalized experiments that will fine-tune your strategy and leads to better business results.

The post Sprout Tested: The answer to why you put links in the comments on LinkedIn appeared first on Sprout Social.

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