Keep it Short and Sweet

Every social media site is different. Vertical-oriented images work best on Pinterest, horizontal images are better for Twitter. Facebook encourages sharing posts but on Instagram, you can only like or leave a comment. It’s important to know the specific guidelines for each site in order to maximize your efforts, but there is one bit of general social media advice I’d like to share that will serve you well on just about any online platform these days:

Keep it short and sweet.

With so much information online hurtling towards us and saturating our senses every day, it’s hardly surprising that attention spans have grown shorter and people now tend to skim instead of read. Also, the human brain can process pictures 60,000 times faster than text, making us much more likely to pause over an eye-catching image than to comb through a three-paragraph post.

Like it or lump it, shorter is better on the web these days, so when creating your content, it’s a good practice to make it as concise as possible.

(There are of course exceptions – LinkedIn’s new publishing platform encourages users to express themselves at length in article format, and some authors successfully use Facebook to share longer, literary musings with their fans. But overall – trust me – shorter is better.)

In fact, here are some specific numbers to keep in mind when writing for the web:

  • Mailchimp recommends that email subject lines average 50 characters or fewer.
  • One study shows that tweets between 100-115 characters are 34% more likely to get retweeted.
  • Facebook posts kept to 40 characters receive 86% higher engagement (likes and comments) than longer posts.

Now before you lament at having to cut back on your brilliant status updates and subject headings, allow me to suggest that scaling back your word count can actually be fun. After all William Shakespeare himself, who knew a thing or two about great writing, said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Or to paraphrase – less is more (and usually funnier too!)

Sound advice from a smart cookie!

Personally, I treat editing my online content like a game. “How can I say these three ideas in one sentence?” “How can I shave a few more characters off this tweet?” “Is this hashtag helpful or extraneous?” Having to be concise in my copy allows me to clarify my point (and get rid of any fluff that detracts from it.)

So see what happens if you practice paring down what you want to say to its most essential. Play around with keeping it short and sweet. Experiment and throw some things out online and see how people respond. And then leave me a comment and let me know how it goes – i’d love to hear from you!

**Addendum for all you Facebookers: the 40-character Facebook status update recommendation is a good guide for businesses (individuals and companies using a Facebook Business or Author Page), but for personal use, there’s no need to scale back quite so much. People are more likely to engage with posts by their friends more than posts by businesses, regardless of length or number of characters. And sometimes you just have a lot to say – I myself occasionally use longer posts on my personal Facebook page. It might be a fun exercise, though, to mix up your personal post length and see which get more interactions – long or short? If you try this out, let me know how it goes!

Photo Credit: Mercedes Blanco