Are social networks demoting content that contains links?

The answer is ‘probably’.  We’ve known for a while that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc etc want to keep people on their pages for as long as possible.  This is not a huge surprise because most social networks make their money by advertising to people who are using their platforms.  If you make a Facebook post that is essentially a signpost to your content (so a brief intro, then a link to content on your own website), then you are actively encouraging Facebook users to leave Facebook in favour of your website.  When you put it like this it seems really obvious that none of the social networks like us hammering our profiles with links.

So how do social networks try and discourage link posting?
I’m going to stick with Facebook for now, I’ve got no beef with Facebook, but they’re the biggest so a good common denominator for this post.  There is compelling evidence that posts containing links have lousy reach.  Recently Facebook told the world that they were going to be favouring personal relationships over brand relationships when deciding which updates to show users.  I wrote about it in my previous post.  By setting their algorithms to lessen the reach of link posts Facebook are moving this theory forward another significant step.

Can we go to panic stations yet?
No. That’s silly.  It’s worth remembering that traffic from social is just one method for driving traffic to our websites.  Even if it’s the method that’s currently driving the most traffic then just be mindful that it might be worth re-thinking how you’re using social.  If driving people to your website the only way to make sales and develop your brand.  Perhaps not.

In a recent post by Moz.com Rand Fishkin advocates taking a diminished link post reach with a pinch of salt.  In my own experience some social networks can drive impressive amounts of visitors to websites, but the value is low.  Using the Facebook advertising platform to place ads on Instagram can result in a lot of visitors being driven to your site, but again, they are often low value.  If a paid-for visitor to your website isn’t buying, subscribing or becoming a lead then getting them to your site has been a waste of resource.

Resource is really what it all comes down to.  If you have the resource to post ten non link posts to social for every one link post (for example) then it’s probably worth it.  If the amount of time and money you can spend on posting to social is minimal, then I’d be inclined to carry on posting predominately link posts.

Every social network wants you to post original content on their network, but you have to ask yourself whether they will benefit from this more than you will.  For example, if I was to post an article exclusively on Linked In then it would likely get a reasonable reach within the virtual walls of Linked In, and would go no further.  But if I post an article to my website it can be found by anyone.  More importantly it can be found by search engines.

Social networking is not a panacea for all marketing ills.  It is an incredibly useful tool if the results it can generate help you reach your marketing goals.  But if your sales funnel lives entirely on your website then you might not find social networks as exciting as you may hope.  But if you have a broad approach to marketing and developing your business then warming up prospects on social, as one of several channels, it can be a great use of your resource.

Internet marketing is still relatively new.  Keeping track of the best way to exploit Internet Marketing may feel like counting grains of sand in a sandstorm, but in reality very little has changed in the world of marketing for a very long time.  But now we have more information to play with and can get to market a whole lot faster.