Have you ever wanted to know the ideal length for a social media post? Or what to do if it’s too long or too short? Getting it right is especially important if your business relies on social media content getting out and being seen.

Every major social media platform has such different text and design norms. Familiarity with the specifics of each is valuable knowledge for any social media user, and content creators in particular.

In order of user numbers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the most popular profile-based social media platforms in the western world right now. Statista found, as of April 2019:

  • Facebook had approximately 2.3 billion users
  • Instagram had 1 billion
  • Twitter had 330 million
  • LinkedIn had 303 million

Each time you post on any of these platforms, you are potentially reaching millions, or even billions, of social media users.

What to Consider in Your Social Media Strategy

Two factors you’ll need to consider are your audience’s attention span and the formatting parameters of each social media platform.

  • Attention span goes hand in hand with content volume. The amount of content aimed at a consumer limits how much they can absorb.
  • Platform formatting is based on the design developed by the social media site over the course of many years. An example of this is seen in character limits.
Paying attention to character limits and ideal character ranges helps you create social media content that engages others.

Social media studies vary from the guidelines put out by the social media platforms themselves. Researchers base their studies on units of engagement, such as likes, comments or shares.

However, the social media companies themselves focus on ideal limits to fit their format. For instance, many advise writing to the character limit where your text will be cut off by a continuation tab. This is also known as the point of truncation, or shortening. Other platforms, like Twitter, strictly limit the character count, which in Twitter’s case is 280.

So why might you want to go beyond recommended character limits when writing social media posts? There are three primary reasons:

  • It’s more about optimal ranges than optimal character numbers.
  • The actual character limit never matches the optimal range.
  • Engagement truly depends on the quality of your content.

See Three Girls’ guide to crafting quality social media content by platform here.

Post Count on Individual Social Media Platforms

Character Count on Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media site, hands down, in any category. It boasts a maximum character limit of 63,206, which allows users to post long-form content.

Among the top social platforms, Facebook demonstrates the largest disparity between its recommended character count for posts and its actual limit.

This is likely because the current character limit, established in 2011, was decided by an engineer experimenting with ways to translate the platform’s name into numbers. The previous character limit was 5,000, making the current limit of over 63,000 a more than 12-fold jump in character count.

Facebook itself recommends that post descriptions range between 100 and 250 characters, citing that posts under 250 characters receive 60% more engagement than those that are longer. Meanwhile, Facebook cuts posts off at 477 characters with a “See More” tab.

Research by Social Report shows that limiting posts to a character count between 40 and 50 is optimal. Meanwhile, Facebook expert Jeff Bullas found that limiting posts to 80 characters raised engagement by 66% when compared to longer posts.

How To Increase or Shorten Facebook Posts

To lengthen a post:

  • Add an image, link or video, and comment on it.
  • Add a factual or emotional detail.

To shorten a post:

  • Edit out any oversharing.
  • Make certain your first sentence is descriptive and has impact; you may not need more than that.
  • Trim unnecessary filler words (e.g. “really,” “maybe,” “kind of,” etc.)

Character Count on Instagram

Instagram photo or video captions can be up to 2,200 characters long with a maximum of 30 hashtags. Truncation occurs at 125 characters, which is where the social platform sets its cut off for ads and promotional entries. Instagram is unusual in that outside research recommends a longer post length than the platform. In fact, Sprout Social found that Instagram posts between 138-150 characters received the highest levels of engagement.

How To Increase or Shorten Instagram Posts

To lengthen an Instagram post:

  • Dig deeper into the content you’re sharing and give it context.
  • Don’t rely on the picture or video to be worth a ‘thousand words’ – decode it for your audience.
    • Be thorough with your description.
    • Add the maximum number of hashtags – up to 30.
Tailoring your social media updates to ideal ranges challenge you to choose words wisely.

To shorten an Instagram post:

  • Since you can use up to 30 hashtags, allow them to speak for you if need be.
  • Cut long, complex words and use simple language instead.

Character Count on Twitter

Twitter’s famous 140 character-long limit doubled in 2017, to the applause of many. The reason given for the increase to 280 characters was not clearly outlined by the social platform, although the original limit was modeled after the average character count limit of a text message.

To encourage your posts to be retweeted, even with more characters allowed, 71-100 characters remains the ideal range. According to Social Report, posts at this length are 17% more likely to be retweeted than those outside the character range. Alternatively, Hubspot found that tweets between 120 and 140 characters outranked shorter posts in terms of overall engagement (likes, comments and retweets).

How To Increase or Shorten Twitter Posts

To lengthen a post:

  • Add hashtags – 3 to 4 are common on Twitter.
  • Add a hyperlink that supports your content.
  • Add details or adjectives that are compelling and drive an emotional response.

To shorten a post:

  • Simplify your language by cutting filler words, however, be careful not to change the post’s meaning in the process.
  • Use hashtags (2-3) in your text to signal important concepts.
  • Post an image alongside your update to make your point in fewer words.

Character Count on LinkedIn

LinkedIn technically limits posts to 700 characters. However, like Facebook, it is truncated with a “See More” tab at 140 characters. The social platform and outside researchers agree that 140 characters – Twitter’s old limit – is the ideal upper limit for a LinkedIn post to ensure maximum visibility. However, Sprout Social found that the ideal range was between 75-100 characters – just enough to describe the content you’re sharing with your audience.

How To Increase or Shorten LinkedIn Posts

To lengthen a post:

  • People seeing your post may not be familiar with the content’s subject matter, so be descriptive.
  • Expand your vocabulary. On LinkedIn, it’s perfectly acceptable to use industry jargon.

To shorten a post:

  • Reduce filler words and cut out any language that isn’t professional or businesslike.
  • Use hashtags sparingly (no more than 2-3) to clarify your subject matter while using vocabulary economically. If you place these at the end of your update, you’ll still get the value of the added visibility without them taking up valuable real estate in the update itself.
  • Use a hyperlink that corroborates or expands upon your content.

6 Tips for Writing Short, Compelling Content

In most social media environments, you have a matter of seconds to capture a user’s eye. It’s important your content is high-quality, free of errors and worthy of attention. Here is a condensed list of six best practices to ensure that your content is ready for your audience:

  • Check spelling and grammar while writing, and just before posting – Proofreading is not a one step process. Monitoring yourself for errors while drafting, taking a break and then returning with fresh eyes can make a world of difference in terms of catching typos.
  • Monitor responses – Regularly check comments, messages and platform analytics to see what works and what doesn’t for your audience. If you put your followers first, you will see a positive response to your posts. Gauging responses is one way to prioritize the reader.
  • Ask yourself, “What value does this provide to my audience?” – Another way to get into an audience-first mindset is to think in terms of what value your content holds for your reader. Keeping your content relevant to your core audience is essential.
Creating short, high-quality social media content increases your chances of reaching high levels of engagement metrics, such comments and shares.
  • Choose links and media carefully – They are part of your social media update’s message. Additionally, they may receive more attention than your textual commentary. Videos and other media posts currently receive the most attention on social media. If you’ve caught someone’s attention with a post including a link, they may spend more time perusing the link’s content than yours. Make sure anything you share aligns with your brand and is something you are comfortable endorsing.
  • Pay attention to advertising specs for each platform, especially for images – Single-image advertising specs for most social media platforms read like a list of best practices for creating an image-based post. Even if you aren’t paying for ads, you can learn a lot from the various platforms’ guidelines.
  • Include a call to action – If you’ve done everything to assure your post is compelling and cleanly-executed, you have your audience’s attention. Use it to inspire some kind of follow-up or action with your words. Be positive and provide motivation. This allows your audience to interact with more fully with your online output. It starts an ongoing conversation between you and other social media users.

How to Ensure The Perfect Social Media Post Length

Make sure all your social media posts are visible, easy to read and include some form of media or hyperlink. While shorter is generally better, the ideal ranges I listed above will provide helpful guidelines to follow. In the end, the quality of your social media content will determine whether people engage with it or not.

Writing engaging content helps you reach your desired audience while utilizing some of the marketing capacity of social media.

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