Okay, maybe perfect isn’t the right word. After all, we’re human. But you want to harness the power of social media and you want to do it right. Part of that is knowing what to say, how to say it, and how much to say to engage your audience.
If your job is in content creation, you’re a writer, even if that’s not a title you’d readily give yourself. And as writers, it’s our job to communicate ideas and tell stories. Words are our brushstrokes, our musical notation, our shaping of the clay. But good writing is as much what we don’t say as what we do. Every word should be intentional.
So when it comes to writing for social media, how long is the ideal post? How do we get those coveted likes, comments, and click-throughs? There is no magic formula, but some best practices have been found by studying the millions of social interactions that occur every single day.
With so much competing for attention in Facebook newsfeeds, it’s no wonder that, when it comes to post length, less is more. According to research by Buddy Media and BlitzLocal, Facebook posts with 40 characters or less received 86 percent higher engagements than longer posts, and posts of 80 characters or less received 66 percent more engagements.
Here’s a sample of 40 characters: Want more for less? Check out our combo package. It’s not much, but we have to remember what the post text is designed to do—incite an interaction. Going longer may provide more information, but we run the risk of people skipping past it.
Packing our message into 40–80 characters can be tough, especially when we are passionate about the message, but if we really want engagement, we need to keep it brief. Take a few seconds to announce the content, then get out of the way!
Although there’s talk of changing it, Twitter’s self-imposed limit for tweets has been 140 characters since the service launched in 2006. As Twitter itself has stated in its best practices statement, “Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core.” They go on to reveal findings from Buddy Media that tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17 percent higher engagement rate. That’s the length of the last sentence before this one. By imposing this limit, Twitter is helping people cut the fluff, forget the backstory, and take us right to the point.
I’ll be brief with other services outside the top two. If you’re using Google+, the search giant’s answer to Facebook, the ideal length is between 500 and 1,000 characters, according to recent analysis from Stone Temple Consulting. For LinkedIn, a report from Compendium shows that 16–25 words in a post is the optimal range. On Instagram, images do the talking. Captions aren’t always even read, but if they are, they should be around 140 characters or less, according to a report from AdWeek.com. Over at Pinterest, where images also dominate, short captions can be useful, but HubSpot suggests keeping them between 100 and 200 characters.
The bottom line is to keep it as brief, sharp, and relevant as you can. Remember, these best practices are guidelines. The fun part about posting to social media services is that you can experiment and see what works best for your brand or business. Try alternating between ultrashort (Watch this. or We did it!), medium, and longer posts, and see how your audience responds. It can also depend on the type of content you are sharing. For example, I manage the Facebook Page of a scientist and scholar. Sometimes it takes longer posts to communicate evidence or summarize arguments, and, for the most part, the Page’s fans appreciate this. But they also interact when I keep it very brief. Whatever you do, have fun, try new things, and let your audience engagement guide you to your own unique set of social media best practices.