On Social Media, Less Is More

I was reviewing some social media content for a client today and we got into a brief discussion about the best length for a tweet. A lot of companies struggle to figure out how to get any sort of meaningful message squeezed down into 140 characters. But guess what? You actually have to make it even shorter.

100 characters has been shown to be the ideal length for a tweet because it leaves room for a retweet with no need for reformatting. Remember that if you don’t allow for the “social” component, you’re not taking full advantage of social media. Shares, retweets, +1s – these are all basically free marketing if you can get your followers to spread the word to their networks.

On Twitter, it’s hard to get those social shares unless you leave room for your followers to help you spread the word. You might have a great tweet, but if people have to do extra work to retweet it, they’ll simply give up.

So its true what they say – less is more.

What about other social media? Think you’ve got more room on Facebook? Think again. The ideal length of a Facebook post has also been studied, and it varies between 40 – 80 characters in some studies on up to 120 in others. In other words, there’s still less room than most people think. And of course most studies also show that the best engagement rates come from posts with pictures in them.

As for blog posts, some studies say the ideal post should take 7 minutes to read, and be about 1600 words long. Others say 400 – 600 words or even as many as 1000 is about right. Myself, I try to err on the short side unless the topic is extremely complex or I have some other reason to go longer.

There are 2 reasons for this – one, it is easier to be consistent with writing short posts. Consistence is king if you want your blog to find and keep an audience. The second benefit is your readers will be more likely to stay with your posts until the end if you keep it to a manageable length. If they found the post enjoyable enough to reach the end, they’ll be more likely to return.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits in the same vein:

The ideal length of a paragraph is about 2 sentences or 50 – 75 characters. I tend to be verbose, so I break this rule regularly. Do as I say, not as I do.

There are varying ideas on the ideal length of an email, but recent studies again suggest less is more. According to a recent study by Constant Contact, the ideal length is about 20 lines of text, or about 200 words. The goal is to provide the information the audience needs to take action, without anything additional that would distract from that action.

Now that we know how much to post, how often should we be doing it? The answers, again, may surprise you.

  • The ideal frequency on Twitter is up to 14 times per day on weekdays, no more than once per hour, and 7 times a day on weekends. Makes sense if you consider that Twitter is a firehose of information. There’s so many posts, it’s very hard to have one tweet seen.
  • On Facebook, twice a day is ideal. 10am and 3pm are the right times.
  • On LinkedIn, once a day is good, and the best time is 8am. Skip weekends.
  • On Google+, twice a day at 9am and 7pm. Skip weekends.

As for this post, it’s 601 words long, and I scheduled it to post at 7am. I used Hootsuite to schedule a release to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

How about you – what’s your strategy for social media posts? Long or short? Frequent or once in a blue? Tell us in the comments!