Abraham Lincoln, giant

Abraham Lincoln, giant

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!