In other words, how long is long enough? Now, now, my dear readers, please take your mind off the gutter. I’m simply referring to the ideal length of a social media post – any social media post.
Abraham Lincoln was asked, “How long should a man’s legs be in proportion to his body?” He famously replied, “Long enough to reach from his body to the ground.” Similarly, a post should be long enough to grab a reader’s attention. But just how long is that?
Once again, science comes to the rescue. Buffer, one of the more helpful applications I use, posted a research on the ideal length of everything online. Here are its findings, in a handy bullet list:
- The ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters. Yes, you have a whooping 140 at your disposal, but science says you don’t need to use them all. So, don’t be greedy! By the way, I seem to remember reading about a service (sorry, I forget which) which allows only one word per message. Germans, with their compound words, should be happy!
- The ideal length of a Facebook post is under 40 characters. This basically means a catchy title, a link or a photo and you are done. Goodbye lengthy texts! The next best thing is posts with 80 characters.
- The ideal length of a Google + headline is less than 60 characters (thank you Google for allowing us to indulge ourselves). The reason is that the 60 characters fit in one line, rather than on two, which makes people more likely to read the post. Incidentally, the ideal length of a Google+ post is three lines (because the new layout of Google+ only shows the first 3 lines of a post). Apparently, posts of around 440 characters do well in Google. An accidental takeaway from this: Google+ users read more than Facebook ones.
- The ideal length of a headline is 6 words. People tend to read the first 3 words of a headline and the last 3 ones, so 6 words in total means that you will have read the entire headline.
- The ideal length of a blog post is 1,600 words (as discussed in my post, “The Science of the Perfect Blog Post“).
- The ideal width of a paragraph is 40-55 characters, because such paragraphs appear simpler and clearer to the eye of the reader. This means between 8 and 11 words per line. A clever trick is to adjust the fonts to a larger size at the beginning of a paragraph or a text, so that you have fewer words per line. People get hooked. Then, for the following paragraphs, you decrease the font size; since you have already caught their attention, readers are likely to continue reading even if the paragraphs are longer and larger.
- The ideal length of an email subject line is 28-39 characters. If you really want the person to open the email you sent, don’t make the subject line too long. With 28-39 characters, the open rate is 12.2% and the click rate 4% (the highest you get).
- The ideal length of a presentation (Youtube, video etc.) is 18 minutes.
- The ideal length of a domain name is 8 characters: it’s short, easy to remember and read, makes sense. Better not to have hyphens and numbers. The .com extension is the preferred one.
So, how important is our adherence to these?
Probably not that much; I see them more as guidelines rather than rules. Even I don’t keep to all these nifty little tricks. This post, for example, is far less than 1,600 words. I don’t normally count my email subject line characters, nor do I calculate how to write my paragraphs and how long they should be.
However, in some instances – for example, a marketing campaign – I will take the extra time to optimize the subject lines and follow these rules as best as I can. After all, if my campaign fails, it will be nice to have science to blame!
Interesting. As to the size of blog posts, mine rarely reach that length. I try not to make them too long so that I can help keep the reader’s attention. As suggested by Seth Godin, I keep them to about 800 words.
That sounds about right. I have a confession to make: I’ve given up trying to make my posts a given size; they’re as long as they need to be. 🙂
Thanks for the insightful post!
I’m glad you found it useful! 🙂
Reblogged this on Be My Guest and commented:
Great information Nicholas.
I read something recently about blog length. I think it was less than 1,600 words. In my opinion it should be long enough to capture the reader’s attention and get your message across (be it 500 words or 1,600 words).
Difficulty would be in making a tweet only 100 words. This is a very informative post.
I still don’t understand twitter. The blog post thing seems reasonable. I could even see half that at 800…vary it up.
Not a bad idea. Consistently writing long posts would get exhausting rather soon – both for the blogger and the readers! Variation is a good way around it.
Twitter is a funny beast. For ages I avoided it, now I quite like it. Nothing beats a blog, though! 🙂
1600 words? Whew. Need to think about that. Great post though.
Thanks! Like most things, treat it as a guideline; not a rule. 🙂
Interesting… and handy to know!
Thank you, you’re always so sweet! 🙂
Actually, that’s the last thing I am, but thanks for seeing that in me lol!
Sixteen hundred words for a post? If the people who post three to six times a day post that many words, I’d pack it in. I would read half the post I do as well. As it is, I can hardly keep up but 1,600 words each or thereabout? My brain drain would be complete. 😮
Lol – I know what you mean! 😀
Maybe it’s a great length for SEO purposes, but not so much if you’re a regular reader?
Yes. I’d never keep up with all the blogs I follow and newsletters I read. As it is, I find it time-consuming but can’t unplug. Still, your post is illuminating. 😀
Ever look at these stats and get the feeling people don’t have the attention span that they used to? One shiny item and most of humanity will forget what they were doing.
Lol – I couldn’t agree more! In fact, I’ll go as far as ooh, look at the sparkling banner – gotta click – bye now
We really should take advantage of that weakness.
My google ad banners started running today. As you can see, I’m trying to! 😀
That’s funny. I went back to my most popular blog post, the popularity of which I don’t see repeating, to see the word count, thinking that it was way longer than 1,600 words. It turns out that it was 1,700. Seriously, initially, I thought I should have split it in two, and I got comments of the “even though this was too long…” kind, but it turns out, 1,600 words work! Provided, of course, that the subject is helpful and not a study in the bald patch of your beloved cat’s head and what may have caused it.
Thanks for sharing!
Lol – we had a bald batch on Perro’s head a few months ago (yes, that’s the cat’s name). I would have gladly read a 1,600-word post on that, at the time! Which goes to show you, it’s all about the audience you’re targeting! 😀
Very interesting. When it comes to length of my blog posts, I tend to just follow my heart and hope the reader follows, too. 🙂 I don’t want to bore the reader. I have a tendency to be wordy in my posts, but am learning to ‘cut to the chase’ as time goes on.
Lol – same here, as you have probably noticed! 😀
You know, Nicholas, I think as long as you’ve got something interesting to say, and the writing is crisp, you’ll hold the reader’s attention. I certainly find that true of your writing.
That’s such a sweet thing to say, thank you!!! 🙂
Informative and well explained. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂
Thank you, I’m so glad you liked it! 🙂