Their products are similar. But their marketing differs, and so do the outcomes.
LinkedIn success remains elusive for investment marketers. But analytical comparison can offer insights on best practices.
In the asset management world, Vanguard and BlackRock have been this past decade’s big winners. As of 2020, BlackRock is the largest asset manager globally ($7 trillion AUM) closely followed by Vanguard ($5.6 trillion AUM). Their products have won over fans in both the retail and professional segments.
LinkedIn may be just one channel in an investment firm’s marketing mix– but it’s an important one:
On the week of 8-15 March, FinText collected the 40 most recent posts on the Vanguard and BlackRock LinkedIn pages. We collected engagement data (emoticons, video views, comments). And we analysed both the written content and the types of added media (links, images, video) on each of the posts.
FinText also explored a secondary LinkedIn page (for each of the two companies) featuring mostly investment content.
For Vanguard, it’s the Vanguard Investment Research (VIR) page, which publishes mostly expert investment commentary. For BlackRock, much of BlackRock’s retail commercial success is tied to its iShares subsidiary, which specialises in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). It therefore made sense to analyse the iShares page as well, which BlackRock manages.
This sample represents a hefty portion of the annual digital effort of each of the two giants. It covers roughly two months’ worth of activity for BlackRock and three months’ worth for Vanguard.
Both Vanguard and BlackRock have a similar number of employees on LinkedIn. (Around 20 thousand at time of writing.) This matters, considering LinkedIn reports that, on average, 30% of engagement on corporate posts comes from companies’ own employees
When looking at the distribution of social signals, we see both companies share a very similar profile – many posts receive relatively low engagement, while few are more successful. But the profile differs in two meaningful ways:
On top, the number of types of reactions suggests emotional resonance. For a user to signal affiliation with content, the ‘Like’ is the safest, revealing no further sentiment. The difference in number of reaction types offers further clues on the difference between the two companies.
Emotional resonance also correlates with comments. Only 18% of posts with one reaction type only had a comment. But 50% of posts with more than one reaction type had at least one comment. For posts that had three reaction types or more, the odds for a comment were over 70%.
2. Surprising findings
1. Very short posts didn’t outperform longer ones. Across all four pages, there was no material difference in average engagement.
2. For Blackrock, nearly 50% of its posts included a Call to Action (CTA) verb (most commonly – ‘Learn more’, followed by ‘Read more’). For BlackRock, average engagement on posts with a CTA was nearly double that of posts without one.
3. BlackRock doesn’t use the second-person pronoun (“you”, “your”) to speak directly to the reader, but Vanguard does. And within our Vanguard sample, posts that used “you” or “your” received on average 50% higher engagement than those with a verb CTA.
3. Topics profile
Each of the four pages had a different content profile. While the elements of the content strategy were broadly similar for both companies, the mix differed.
Notably, only the iShares page featured any kind of product push. Additionally, BlackRock only features consumer-investing advice on the iShares page, whereas Vanguard chooses to place this content on its main page.
The biggest difference between the two companies is in how heavily they lean towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) topics. For BlackRock it’s a key theme, by far overtaking any other content type.
Unlike many investment management firms, both BlackRock and Vanguard’s main pages are light on investment commentary. Vanguard sets expectations for this content by allocating a specific page to it – Vanguard Investment Research (IR).
This research revealed that, despite offering very similar products, Vanguard and BlackRock’s LinkedIn tactics differ materially and leads to different outcomes.
On most engagement measures Vanguard outperforms BlackRock, despite its smaller following. Studying these strategies can help investment managers struggling to cut through the noise.