old fashioned communication

How Long Should Your Social Media Posts Be?

File under: loaded questions.

Generally, we advise clients to keep their posts brief. Unless, of course, a long post is warranted. When is a long post warranted? Well 😉 when it’s important enough that your followers will probably read it.

Social Media management tool Sprout Social wrote a definitive guide to social media post lengths (you can find it here) and reading it is worth your time if you’re focused on a new or growing social media following.

Here’s why shorter is better:

  1. We’re all scanning, nobody’s really reading, and
  2. That’s it.

And here’s when longer is better:

  1. When it’s really important and
  2. You’re pretty sure at least some of your followers will read it, or
  3. Your customers and/or prospects really NEED to read it, because (refer to #1).

As an example, a locally-owned restaurant with a dedicated clientele had to close on the spur-of-the-moment. In 2020, it could be COVID-related, but in this case, it was water damage. It was either close the restaurant, or convince every customer to bring their own mops.

As soon as the water main was shut off, the doors had been locked, and the plumber had been called, it was time to post on Facebook. In this case, the restaurant rarely updated its website, using Facebook and Instagram as its primary tools to communicate with customers. (Which is OK, but not for very long and only when you accept the terrible trade-offs. More on that later.)

The restaurant posted a quick “we’re closed due to a maintenance emergency” update and followed up (within an hour) with a more detailed post. That post was long. It included a video of their temporary interior waterfall (unintentionally) created by their upstairs neighbor. The video drew eyeballs so they were pretty sure the message would be read by a lot of their followers.

In that case, they had a lot of information to include, like what they’d do about already-placed catering orders (refund them, but not right away, since the computer and records were also waterlogged) and when they planned to reopen (as soon as possible, but stay tuned…).

That is one of the few situations that really, truly, warrants a long and detailed post. Read on for one more.

Longer Posts Sometimes Get Engagement, But Rarely Get Read

We’ve argued (um, disagreed) with some clients about long posts. Some businesses, particularly in the professional services arena, appropriately maintain a formal tone in all of their marketing communications material, and that may include social media messaging.

We say “may” because we think there are better ways…like short formal posts directing readers to a link with the whole story. But we digress.

As a(hypothetical) example, let’s say a company provides safety services, so its social media messages are primarily safety tips and other important information. In order to share useful information beyond “hey, be careful!” some of those posts may be pretty long. But do they need to be? For the most part, no. This is where a little experience writing headlines comes in handy. Posting a good one-sentence summary and a link to the original, complete post (on your website, for example) probably makes more sense than including a couple of paragraphs in the body of your (Facebook or Instagram) post.

Watching your engagement analytics will tell you what you need to know. Just know that a lot of “Likes” on a longer post probably don’t translate into a lot of actual reading. More likely a lot of the Likes were courtesy clicks (especially if a lot of your followers are employees or partners). If the post was really meaty, and packed with information your followers really should read and/or care about, monitoring the comments will provide the best indication of true engagement.

So How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

On a topic like “How long is too long for a social media post,” for example, this one is probably a little too long. Wink, wink.