LinkedIn Content: Vanguard vs. BlackRock

Summary: Which LinkedIn Tactics Work Best?

  • LinkedIn success remains elusive for investment marketers. 
  • Vanguard and BlackRock: offer similar products but use different LinkedIn tactics
  • On most engagement measures Vanguard outperforms BlackRock, despite its smaller following.
  • Analytical comparison offers insights on best practices.

BlackRock, Vanguard and the Rest

For active managers, the past decade has been anything but business as usual. Competition from cheap index-trackers and Exchanged Traded Funds (ETFs) has led to record outflows and fee compression.

Vanguard and BlackRock have been the 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:

  • In 2020 LinkedIn was the social media channel most frequently used by asset managers in Europe, ahead of Twitter and Facebook. 
  • Most lead conversion came from LinkedIn, shows a survey of 400 financial advisors.

Vanguard and BlackRock’s LinkedIn strategy differs materially, and leads to different outcomes. Studying these strategies can help investment managers struggling to cut through the noise.

Investment outflows from active to passive investing

Figure 1: Investors bought into the passive-investing narrative
Left: cumulative flows ($tn), index-tracking funds vs active funds (2010-2019)
Right: BlackRock, Vanguard AUM ($tn) (2009-2019)
Source: EPFR, Companies, Financial Times 

Research Outline

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. (See the report for full details.)

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.

Engagement Results

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:

  • Vanguard’s engagement distribution has a heavier weighing in the mid-range than BlackRock.
  • Vanguard’s overall follower numbers are much lower. With roughly only a quarter of followers, Vanguard achieves higher average engagement compared to BlackRock – suggesting its followers and occasional readers are far more engaged!

Figure 2: BlackRock and Vanguard: post engagement distribution
Vanguard (left) and BlackRock (right)
Source: LinkedIn

On top, the number of types of reactions suggests emotional resonance.

LinkedIn currently offers its users six reaction options. 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. 

It also correlate with whether a post will attract comments:

Across our entire sample, 50% of posts with more than one reaction type had at least one comment. With one reaction type, only 18% had a comment. For posts that had three reaction types or more, the odds for a comment were over 70%.

Figure 3: BlackRock and Vanguard: count of different post reactions
Vanguard (left) and BlackRock (right)
Source: LinkedIn

What Does Your Gut Say?

LinkedIn only shows the beginnings of posts, with the rest presented only once the user clicks “see more”.

The exact amount of preview text varies, depending on the characters used and on whether a post features added media. The cut-off point is around 235 characters for posts with added media. (On mobile view the preview length is much shorter.)

To test if average engagement depended on whether users had to take action to read the entire posts, we used this figure as a rough guide. We tested this across all four pages. 

Very short posts do not outperform longer ones. Across all four pages, there was no material difference in average engagement. 

For Blackrock, nearly 50% of its posts included a 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.

Generally, LinkedIn is known to discourage adding links, with posts receiving less views compared with posts that don’t.

When it comes to the two investment giants, Vanguard is far more aggressive than BlackRock in linking to external content: 90% of Vanguard’s posts on its main page featured a link, compared to just 55% for BlackRock.

Yet in both cases, average engagement on posts featuring links is only marginally lower (on average and excluding outliers) compared with posts that do not feature links.

Practical LinkedIn Tips for Investment Marketers

It’s tempting to believe a formula exists for a winning engagement post. But it’s not quite as simple as that. Our results show that the two investment giants differ in their content-mix profile:

  • In how they tend to address themselves
  • In how often they directly address clients
  • In the mix and balance of topics
  • In the types of media (video, links) they use.

But some clear patterns emerge!

The full brief is in the playbook. Click on the big red button at the top of the page, no sign-up necessary.

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