Experiment: Do Tweets with hyperlinks get much less engagement and fewer attain?
Are tweets getting more traction on Twitter without links? The Hootsuite social media team had a clue what they were doing. So they decided to test the theory to find out.
I tested different types of tweets to see how they work (in terms of engagement) through the @hootsuite channel.
By far our most successful posts were linkless posts. No CTAs, no websites, nothing. Easily share thoughts or helpful information in plain text.
– Nick (@AtNickMartin) December 4, 2020
We also unpacked the results with Nick Martin, Hootsuite's global social engagement specialist.
Could it be that the Twitter algorithm prefers tweets that people keep on the platform? Or are linkless tweets just what people want?
Probably a bit of both. However, there is only one way to find out: let's get into it.
Bonus: Download the free 30-day plan to quickly grow your Twitter. A daily workbook to help you set up a Twitter marketing routine and track your growth so you can show your boss real results after a month.
Hypothesis: Tweets without links get more engagement and reach
In social media marketing, we often rely too much on data to inform ideas. But sometimes it takes an idea or an observation to uncover a data trend.
In this instance, when @Hootsuite tweeted without links, Hootsuite's global social engagement specialist Nick Martin noticed that the tweets seemed to get more engagement than those with links. "It's just something we stumbled upon," he says.
How do we define "linkless tweets"? For the purposes of this experiment, we'll define a linkless tweet as a tweet that contains just plain text. That means there are no images, videos, GIFS, polls, or even hashtags and @mentions. And of course no short short links, long links or other links of any kind. Just words.
For this casual experiment, the Hootsuite social media team ran their usual Twitter strategy, which involves tweets with and without links.
Between October 2020 and January 2021, the 15 week period we measured, the Hootsuite account posted 568 tweets. If we eliminate replies and retweets, we will with 269 tweets. About 88% of these tweets contain a link.
In other words, almost 9 out of 10 tweets sent from Hootsuites account during that period contain a link.
There are some notable variables. During this period, Hootsuite converted some tweets into paid ads. Neither of them was linkless tweets.
The Hootsuite social media team also used Amplify, an employee advocacy tool, to increase engagement on selected tweets. Again, none of them were linkless tweets.
In short, linked tweets had the upper hand.
Time frame: 15 weeks (October 2019 – January 2021)
Number of tweets: 269
Percentage of linkless tweets: 12%
Linked Tweets: Some Paid + Amplify
Linkless Tweets: Bio
To compare the performance of tweets with and without links, we used the Twitter report in Hootsuite Analytics. In the Twitter table, tweets can be sorted according to retweets, replies and likes.
TL; DR: Tweets without links have more engagement and reach on average. Over half (56%) of Hootsuite are the most engaged in tweets did not contain links to external sources.
This is pretty important considering that only 12% of Hootsuite's tweets during the trial period were without a link – and all of them organic. By far the most popular and retweeted tweet # 1 was a linkless one-sentence tweet with a total of 11 words or 67 characters.
Let's take a closer look at the results.
Results based on retweets
Five of the top eight Most of the tweets retweeted are linkless. From a perspective, it would be like Vatican City (the most sparsely populated country in the world) winning the most gold medals in the Olympics. Linkless tweets clearly exceed their weight.
If Taylor Swift could share her productivity tips it would be great.
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) December 10, 2020
Keep in mind that not only are there far fewer linkless tweets, but that many linked tweets have been promoted or endorsed by Amplify, which is the case for all three tweets linked here.
"If we left a linked post without improving it, it would never get the commitment that our non-linked posts get," explains Martin.
Results based on likes
Here again, five of the first eight The most popular tweets are without a link. If you add the response to the McDonalds tweet, linkless tweets are responsible 75% from @ Hootsuite's favorite tweets.
After you've scrolled endlessly through Twitter, take this tweet as a sign to close the app and read a book, bake brownies, or literally do anything else.
It's okay to be offline every now and then.
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) December 5, 2020
It's the equivalent of single-handedly gritty skating for the best five-player hockey layer the Philadelphia Flyers could throw at him. That's a lot of grit.
Flyers vs Flyers got me at odds pic.twitter.com/NdBdjuwpue
– Gritty (@GrittyNHL) January 11, 2021
What do the results mean?
Most of the linkless tweets from Hootsuite are a mixture of a joke and a memory. Almost all of them showcase the friendly brand personality of Hootsuite.
"We try to make sure that every post evokes an emotion," says Martin. "We want to be inspiring, humorous or a little dear to our hearts."
What makes this formula click? Here is our analysis:
Link CTAs can hurt engagement
The most obvious reason why linkless tweets outperform linked tweets is because the latter is usually associated with a call to action. "If there is no CTA, there are no expectations," says Martin. "We're not trying to push anything, we're just taking part in a conversation."
Equal! Tweets seem to work best for me when they don't ask for anything, just mood, haha
– Meg (@MegVClark) December 5, 2020
Calls to click here or read this article may discourage people from tapping the heart, retweeted, or responding to reply icons. That might be fine if you're looking for conversions. However, since the Twitter algorithm drives engagement, a direct CTA can hurt the reach of your tweet.
Linkless tweets can increase overall engagement
Turning social media into a two-way conversation creates trust, community and commitment. And that commitment can ultimately be carried over to linked posts. "Since we've been sending more linkless tweets, the engagement of our CTA posts has increased somewhat," says Martin.
It's difficult to explain to executives that everything doesn't require a CTA and / or hashtag. We can create engagement the old fashioned way – conversation, delivering a message / information – without asking the audience to do anything. Traditional techniques can be applied to modern communication.
– Ryan Hansen (@ RPH2004) December 5, 2020
The aim is to find a balance between linked and linkless tweets.
"As you build a community and push CTAs less often, your calls to action seem more valuable and important," says Martin.
Twitter's algorithm may favor linkless tweets
Martin suspects that linkless tweets are likely also favored by the Twitter algorithm. "A tweet without a link doesn't lead people away from Twitter," he says.
They also don't distract people from engaging with the tweet. And the Twitter algorithm prefers tweets that are engaging.
Social media managers are the funniest in group chat because they live online and know everyone's memes. It is a fact.
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) January 14, 2021
It's worth addressing a trending topic
Brands should largely focus on their areas of expertise. "Understand what your brand is talking about and own that topic," says Martin.
This is a great way to bring your brand's perspective to a trending topic.
Who is Marketing and Why is it Ryan Reynolds?
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) December 2, 2020
A little personality goes a long way
"When you add personality, you're no longer a faceless brand," explains Martin. "That's why I think Wendy did so well. You are a prime example of a brand that has successfully moved away from robot sound on social media."
Someone out there already has all of their posts scheduled for 2021 and we just want to say that we admire your trust.
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) December 30, 2020
Images don't always encourage engagement
Traditional social media insights suggest that it takes a fascinating image to grab attention. However, this isn't always the case, at least on Twitter.
"In our tests, linkless tweets with an image or a GIF, at least at the moment, don't work as well as simple text," says Martin. The same goes for hashtags.
I haven't found much success with hashtags lately.
People have to look for it in order for them to work and I personally don't follow too many hashtags unless it's a twitter chat. You know?
– Nick (@AtNickMartin) December 4, 2020
Less is more when it comes to word count
The Twitter community is characterized by hot takes, one-liners, moral boosts and pithy statements.
“The contributions that work best for us are often just a sentence,” says Martin. "Don't be too lengthy. If it's a wall of text, people might scroll right past it."
This is a mental health reminder from marketing Twitter.
Not every post on social media has to go viral. You're doing great ????
– Hootsuite (@hootsuite) September 23, 2020
Never underestimate the Swift Effect
If we've learned anything here, the Swifties are always on standby. Hootsuite's tweet about Taylor Swift was the most popular of all reports.
If Taylor Swift could share her popularity tips, that would be great too.
How do you explain the ROI of hot takes in your next social media report? Social media can be weird and wonderful (and terrible). For the most part, social marketers have the whims of the algorithms and the people to thank for them.
However, as you move away from the data, it only makes sense that Tweets without a sales agenda outperform those with a. So, consider adding a little personality and community building to your Twitter strategy.
That way, more people may be listening when it's time for the field
Manage your Twitter presence along with your other social channels and save time with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage your audience, and measure performance. Try it for free today.
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