In March Buffer did an article that took a reasonable amount of data about the length of various forms of content and produced a set of rules defining what would likely cause engagement, and thus the virality that we all crave! It was a great article and the results can be summed up as follows:
Twitter – Tweets should be 100 characters
Facebook – Posts should be less then 40 characters
Google+ – Less than 60 characters
Headline/Title – 6 words (interesting insight on this; when we scan content, we only read the first and last three words of a title…)
Blog Post – 7 minutes to read (1600 words if no images/infographics to slow the reader down)
Paragraph Width – 40 to 55 characters – note this is not length, this is the amount of characters per line.
Email Subject Line – 28 to 39 characters
Presentation – 18 Minutes
Web Page Title Tag (the bit that shoes on the search engine results) – 55 characters
Domain Name – 8 characters
See the orginal article here; but this can all be summed up in the info-graphic, by Matt Ragland, below:
This isn’t the full story though.
Like any data insight it comes with the caveat of understanding that data rarely covers the whole picture. In this case the article is concentrating on just the length of the content, and gives fantastic lessons from that, but context and tone are to be considered.
An article by the New York Times has done similar analysis on the type and tone of content that caused the most sharing through their readership. The results were equally enlightening:
- People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes
- Readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe (factual science articles had much more greater traction than expected)
- Longer articles often performed better
The simplistic insight from the article is that the amount of emotion, ideally positive, the content exacts directly correlates to the chances of that content being shared by the reader.
In summary, make your content as digestible as possible using the the right length for the relevant format; but in itself this will not make it successful. Additionally create the greatest emotional response as you can, surprise, fear, pleasure etc. This is often done when empowering the reader with information they didn’t know and find surprising (scientific insights).