True or False – does posting outbound links on LinkedIn impact reach or engagement?

Such a social media marketing debate!

We recently ran a poll amongst our audience and asked them if they share outbound links on LinkedIn posts or if they add them to the comments.
Here is the result of the poll:

Link in posts or comments on LinkedIn

Getting this answer from our audience made us check our posts and analyze reach and engagement to demystify this issue. 

Posting links on social media can indeed impact engagement.

Reduced Reach Due to Outbound Links: Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook tend to prioritize keeping users within the platform. LinkedIn, for instance, de-prioritizes posts with outbound links, meaning these posts are less likely to appear in users’ feeds than posts without links. Many social media managers recommend adding the post to the comment section to avoid the impact of the platform algorithm.

Engagement Impact: While outbound links can reduce a post’s reach, they can still drive meaningful engagement if used correctly. So, from an engagement perspective, adding a link in the comments or creating a post that encourages discussion around the link can mitigate some of the negative impacts on reach​ mentioned above.

Platform-Specific Trends: On Instagram, the algorithm prioritizes content that engages users within the app, such as Reels and Stories, over posts that encourage users to leave the platform. TikTok similarly emphasizes in-app interactions and prefers content that keeps users engaged on the platform.  Even if we don’t know the inside mathematics of the algorithms, it only makes sense that social media platforms are programmed to prefer keeping us scrolling.

The Best Practice would be optimizing engagement while sharing links, embedding the link in the comments, focusing on creating high-quality and engaging content that encourages users to interact, and leveraging native content formats like images, videos, and text posts directly on the platform.​ Understanding these nuances can help tailor your social media strategy to maximize engagement while still driving traffic to external sites when necessary.

For those who think this is a conspiracy story

The notion that social media platforms intentionally reduce the reach of posts with outbound links to keep users on their platforms is not a conspiracy.
It actually makes perfect sense that their strategy is to keep users of the platform scrolling on it

What does keeping users on the social platform mean?

Platform Prioritization—Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram have algorithms designed to prioritize content that keeps users engaged.
The prioritization includes favoring native content (like photos, videos, and text posts) over posts and encouraging users to click away to external websites.

The algorithms prioritizations- On LinkedIn, for instance, posts without outbound links generally perform better in reach and engagement. LinkedIn’s algorithm favors posts that generate high levels of engagement (comments, likes, shares) within the LinkedIn platform. The algorithm is programmed to support the platform’s goal of maximizing user time and interaction on LinkedIn.​ 

Engagement Strategies- To overcome platform prioritization and algorithmic preferences, marketers and social media experts often recommend placing outbound links in the comments rather than the main post. This workaround can help maintain the post’s reach and visibility while providing the link to the audience. However, this post’s audience will likely click on that link less.  The world is not perfect … 

Is there evidence? Various experiments conducted by social media marketers support the claim that posts with outbound links tend to have lower reach and engagement. We recommend testing- Create and post a company post with an outbound link and then post it again a day later with the outbound link in the first comment. Check the reach and engagement of those posts a week later.  The idea that social media platforms reduce the reach of posts with outbound links is not a baseless conspiracy but an insight backed by some experience.  

To achieve the best reach for a company post on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, follow these guidelines:

Your strategy should focus on creating high-quality, valuable content rather than posting frequently without purpose. Writing authentic and relatable content will perform better than overly polished or promotional posts. Use your data and analyze the information you have to understand what types of content got the most reach and engagement and adjust your strategy accordingly. Spend a couple of hours a week understanding your data. 

On LinkedIn

Focus on Engagement- Encourage comments and interactions within the first two hours of posting. Respond to comments promptly to foster a conversation.
Write your content and add images, videos, and PDFs. If possible, link less to external content and avoid using outbound links in the main post. 

Leverage Hashtags and Tags- Trending and relevant hashtags increase discoverability. In addition, tag people and companies relevant to your post to expand its reach within their networks.​

Consistency and Timing-Post regularly and optimally, such as early mornings and mid-week days (Tuesday to Thursday)​ 

On Facebook

Focus on creating posts encouraging users to like, comment, and share. Ask questions, polls, and call-to-actions to drive interaction. Use high-quality images and live videos; these formats typically receive higher engagement. Facebook includes Stories and Reels, which can also effectively reach a wider audience. Avoid Engagement Bait- Do not use engagement bait. That is not a strategy that will increase the reach of your posts. (e.g., “Like if you agree with us!”)​

Consistency and Timing- Regular posting and scheduling posts during peak times, such as early mornings and evenings, can help reach more users.

On Instagram

Focus on High-Quality Visuals- Use high-resolution images and videos. Instagram favors visually appealing content. Utilize Instagram Stories, Reels, and IGTV to diversify your content and increase engagement.​ 

Hashtags and Geotags- Use relevant hashtags and geotags to increase the discoverability of your posts. Experiment with both popular and niche hashtags to reach different segments of your audience​

Create Engagement Within First Hour—To boost your post’s visibility, Interact with comments and engage with followers’ content immediately after posting.​ 

Consistency and Timing- Post consistently and at the time your posts to the audience’s most active time, typically during lunch hours and evenings​ 


What if you must add an outbound link? 

Encourage Interaction—Ask a question or encourage comments and interactions in your post to boost engagement. High engagement can offset any reduction in reach due to the presence of a link. If you create engagement in your post, you can effectively include links in your social media posts while maintaining or even boosting engagement and reach.

Track Performance – Use analytics to track how posts with links perform compared to those without. This data can help refine your strategy over time. 


Guidelines for posting outbound links on social media to maximize reach for your company and employee profiles


Company Profiles
Individual Profiles

Company posts with outbound links can see a reduced reach. 

Best Practice: For companies, placing the link in the first comment can help maintain the post’s reach. Engaging content that encourages interaction is also crucial.​

Individual posts with links may also experience reduced reach, though LinkedIn gives personal profiles slightly more leeway than business ones. 

Best Practice: Individuals should also consider placing links in the first comment. However, personal stories and professional updates that include links can still perform well if they garner high engagement quickly.

Facebook’s algorithm deprioritizes posts with outbound links from company pages, favoring content that keeps users on the platform. 

Best Practice: Companies should place links in the first comment and focus on creating engaging multimedia content to drive interaction

Individual profiles can also see decreased reach for posts with outbound links. However, personal connections and the nature of the content can sometimes mitigate this effect.

Best Practice: Individuals can include links in the first comment or share engaging stories that naturally include links. Posts that receive quick engagement from friends and followers can still perform well.​

Adding clickable links in regular post captions on Instagram is impossible, but this helps maintain engagement. Business accounts should use links in their bios and direct users to the bio from their posts.

Best Practice: Use Stories with the Swipe Up feature (for accounts with over 10,000 followers or verified accounts) or place the link in the bio and reference it in the post. 

Personal accounts also cannot include clickable links in post captions. They should use the same strategies as business accounts.

Best Practice: Similar to business accounts, individuals should use the bio link and Stories to share links. Engaging content that references the bio link can drive traffic effectively. 


Summary tips

Opt for Engagement over Outbound Links

Both companies and individuals should prioritize engagement over directly including links in posts. Quick and high engagement with posts can offset some of the decrease in reach by including outbound links. Review the analytics of the posts to see how posts with and without links perform and adjust strategies accordingly.

Regularly posting and maintaining a consistent schedule can help improve overall reach and engagement. By following these practices, companies and individuals can effectively share links while maintaining high engagement and reach on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Official guidance from LinkedIn emphasizes that sharing engaging content tailored to professional audiences is vital to maximizing reach and engagement. They suggest using rich media like images and videos and interactive elements like polls or open questions to encourage viewer participation. It’s also recommended to focus on the quality and relevance of the content to your professional network to ensure it resonates and drives engagement.

For more detailed strategies on optimizing your LinkedIn posts, refer to their sharing guide here.

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