Any author that writes social media copy will have asked themselves, ‘how long should this be?’ Whilst copywriters are often given a word count to work with, that’s not always the case, especially when it comes to social. So instead of over writing and wasting precious writing time, let’s have a look at the optimum length for web copy.

It’s worth remembering the hugely different online mediums and how social media has affected the way that we read and process information. A Twitter post is limited to only 140 characters and Facebook and Google + posts need to be snappy and clickable.

For those writers who wonder if they’re writing too much or too little, lets look at some facts and figures.

Of course the answer to how long should an article be could be answered with “it depends.” This however isn’t the best answer and solid research does exist that shows the value of writing, tweeting, and posting at certain lengths. It’s possible to learn a lot from scientific social media guidelines. Let’s have a look at some.

How long should your Tweets be?

The ideal length for a Tweet is shorter than the 140 characters provided. Writers looking for a successful Tweet should aim for 100 characters. This allows for other Twitter users to retweet your Tweet easily and with their own additions.

The 100-character recommendation comes from the Buddy Media research and Twitter’s best practices guide recommends that:

“Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so that they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.”

Tweets of around 71-100 characters saw a spike in retweets and favourites and these medium length Tweets were successful due to their succinct nature. These considered medium length Tweets left room for both the original poster and those retweeting to have their voices present in the Tweet.

What about Facebook?

Facebook is perhaps the most used and popular social media site; however, it doesn’t do so well when it comes to sharing content. To optimise this, site users should aim for posts to be less than 40 characters. This is interesting in itself as it falls a good 30-70 characters shorter than the Twitter recommended character count. Forty characters is really not much at all, so pick your words carefully.

According to Jeff Bullas 40 is the recommended number. Bullas found, in a study of retail brands on Facebook, that 40 characters is more than enough to convey a message accurately. The study involved measuring the engagement of posts, considered by the ‘like’ rate and comment rate, and the shorter 40 character posts received an 86% higher engagement rate than longer length posts.

Interestingly, the 40-character limit is hardly ever adhered to by users on Facebook. Only 5% of the posts considered came in at 40 characters or less so for users wanting to increase traffic on Facebook, brevity is best.

It’s not only Jeff Bullas arguing for shorter length Facbook posts, many studies have confirmed that shorter posts are more successful. According to BlitzLocal, which looked at over 120 billion Facebook posts, it found that as posts grew longer, performance and user engagement tailed off. This particular study found that there’s also a significant advantages to question posts that are between 100 and 119 characters.

Don’t forget Google+

There are so many social media sites these days and any sort of marketing campaign has to incorporate as many as possible. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious choices, but as more and more users and businesses move onto Google+ it’s pertinent to optimise posts for this website. On Google+ less is more and to maximise the readability and appearance of posts on the site, you should aim for one line of text. Copyblogger’s  Demian Farnworth found that headlines on Google’s social media site should be no more than 60 characters.

Of course it’s not always possible to wrestle a headline down to 60 characters, so instead it may be worth considering another option. Demian offers some more advice on the subject and recommends that users write a strong opening sentence.

“In the last update, Google changed the layout of posts so that you only see three lines of the original post before you see “Read more” link. In other words, your first sentence has to be a gripping teaser to get people to click “Read More.”

There is so much choice on the internet to get people clicking your links over others is a skill perhaps more important than actual the writing of the post itself. After all if no-one’s reading your work what’s the point? Your audience is just as important, if not more so, than you. You’re never writing in a vacuum and there is always someone else saying the same thing as you. Remember to consider the location of where your work will be shared and optimise it for the specific audience in question.

Follow the above steps and make your content instantly shareable and easily readable. Do this and you’ll grow your audience as more and more readers share your work with their own audiences. Brevity and succinctness is key. The old KISS acronym may be worth bearing in mind, “Keep it simple, stupid.”