Ideal Social Media
In this section, we wanted to discover the best way to write copy for social media.
Crafting a social media posts requires you to carefully consider how many words you should use to communicate your message. Too many words and your audience might just continue scrolling; too few words and your audience might miss the message altogether. And, of course, it all depends on the social media network.
Often times, social media experts say longer content performs better on LinkedIn while short captions do better on Instagram. But, is that really the case?
To answer the question: how does copy length impact post performance? We analyzed over 1.1 million social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to figure out how the character count of copy used in captions impact the reach and engagement of a post.
Post Reach Based on Character Count
Overall, Facebook posts with shorter copy tended to have higher average unpaid reach. Posts with 0-100 characters had the highest reach on average at 2,184, while posts with 600-700 characters had the lowest average reach at 275.
As the data makes clear, there is a sharp dropoff in average reach for longer Facebook posts around the 300 character mark. However, posts from 800-1,000 character seemed to make a slight comeback, suggesting that the decrease in reach on longer Facebook posts leveled off around that point.
The general trend here is that short Facebook posts reach more users. This could be because users were more likely to read bite-sized content in their crowded feeds, giving short posts a boost through Facebook’s feed algorithm. So, social media pros would be wise to keep their copy to under 300 characters on the platform if their main goal is to reach a wide audience and spread brand awareness.
Post Engagement Based on Character Count
Facebook posts with 900-1,000 characters had the highest average total engagements, while posts with 600-700 characters had the lowest.
This suggests that while shorter copy reached more users on Facebook, longer copy was more likely to get them to interact with a post. However, this was a U-shaped relationship, with posts under 300 characters still beating posts with 300-800 characters for average total engagements. The bump in engagements only seemed to come with truly long-form content over 800 characters.
So, while short posts certainly seem ideal for reaching a large audience on Facebook, longer copy may be the key to increasing engagement. The only way to be sure is to test different copy lengths yourself and see what your audience responds to.
Post Reach Based on Character Count
On Instagram, posts with under 50 characters had the most unpaid reach on average at 4,935. Posts with 1,000-1,050 characters had the lowest average unpaid reach at 1,031.
The overall trend on Instagram was that shorter copy tended to reach more people. There was a significant decline with each additional character added from 50-200 characters, and then a leveling off of average reach in posts with 200 characters or more. There was a bump in reach for posts from 500-700 characters, then a few seemingly random spikes in the 900-1,200 character range.
The main learning here is that short, sweet captions were most effective at reaching a large audience on Instagram. Among longer posts, 500-700 characters was a sweet spot. Social media pros should try out character limits in these ranges and check if they also see an increase in average reach over time.
Engagement by Character Count
Posts with under 50 characters had the most total engagements on average, while posts with 1,000-1,050 characters got the least average total engagements. In general, shorter copy appeared to have higher average total engagements on Instagram than longer copy.
Similarly to the trend in reach by copy length, there was a consistent drop in engagement totals from 0-200 characters, then relative stability followed by a bump in average total engagement from 500-700 characters.
So, it looks like the shorter the Instagram post, the more users both saw and interacted with it. Keeping character counts low can keep the focus on your images and videos, which is ideal on such a visually-driven platform. Social media pros should keep this in mind and strive to keep copy under 200 characters.
Reach Based on Character Count
Tweets with 140-160 characters had the highest average impressions, while tweets with 0-20 characters had the least. Overall, impressions followed a U-shaped trend on Twitter, with short tweets from 20-60 characters and longer tweets from 120 to 160 characters performing the best.
Twitter increased the maximum character count of tweets from 140 to 280 in November 2017, but interestingly so few organizations in this study wrote tweets over 160 characters that those tweets had to be left out of this analysis. This indicates that many organizations are still sticking to a maximum tweet length close to the original 140.
For social media pros, the takeaway here is that either medium-short or medium-long tweets can get solid average impressions. Focus on the sweet spots from 20-60 characters and from 120-160 characters and test how it affects your impressions over time.
Engagement Based on Character Count
On Twitter, posts with 140-160 characters got the most average engagements at 14, followed by posts from 40-60 characters. Posts with 0-20 characters had the lowest average total engagements.
The trend in total engagements on Twitter followed a U-shaped curve much as the trend in impressions by character count did. So, medium to short tweets from 20-60 characters and medium-long tweets from 120-160 characters got the most engagements on average.
This could be simply because posts of those lengths also had the highest average impressions, so they were more likely to get engagements because they were more often seen by users. It could also be a result of users finding either short, snappy copy or a more full sentence the most compelling to interact with. Whatever the reason, social media pros looking to engage Twitter users should try writing tweets from 20-60 characters or 120-160 characters and monitor post performance accordingly.