ntegrity’s dangerous assumptions series is a forum for us to test common assumptions in the digital world, and show you that the best way for your brand to experience big wins online is to test and learn. You’ll be hearing that a lot…
In digital marketing circles, there seems to be plenty of conversation about the optimal post length for each social media platform. Articles are being published here, there and everywhere on ‘what’s the ideal length for your Facebook posts?’, ‘what kind of images work best on Twitter?’ and ‘are your headlines too long?’
One of the most well known articles circulating online likens social media content lengths to a zoo. So what is Dr Buffer’s prescription? Facebook posts should be no more than 40 characters, and Twitter should be 70-100 characters long. It’s cute and clever, but it’s alarmingly simple.
It’s easy to believe general rules when you are looking for answers and you want to systemise and enhance your processes, but…
Beware of simple!
Everyone is looking for a quick answer, instead of being smart about their learnings.
There seem to be some golden rules for content creation that re-emerge again and again. The trend is saying: shorter is better, because people want to consume more, and faster.
We believe this is a dangerous assumption. And we’re out to test it.
By taking these guides too literally, it can limit you from finding your own brand’s optimal content golden rules. That is why it’s essential to take the time to analyse the data and listen to what your users are telling you they like.
We decided to not just passionately rant about this topic, but to actually take a look at some of our clients and see what content learnings we’ve discovered and how implementing these strategies has helped us increase engagement, advocacy, and ultimately, our clients’ bottom line!
Vinnies – one of Australia’s most well-loved charities and all-round legendary organisation – is the perfect example of what happens when a test and learn approach is in practice. We’ve been testing and learning with them for over two years and have found some very surprising results: longform content DOES work!
Stories and close-ups are most effective!
Vinnies’ posts are often stories about volunteers, donors, supporters and clients: connecting the Vinnies community to one another and to a greater cause. These generate a lot of conversation, connectedness and general warm fuzzy feelings all around!
The Vinnies audience also engages most with close up images of men, women and children (nearly 50% of the highest performing posts included one). From a design perspective, this elps build a feeling of closeness and connectedness that Vinnies supporters feel when they see these personal and i
mpacting images. In the same spirit, the Vinnies community also love inspiring quotes on pictures and graphics, following the trend we see that this style of empathetic content helps spur action towards donation, volunteering, and understanding more about Vinnies’ crucial social services.
Overall, we found that the common content themes that really hit the spot with Vinnies supporters include stories on volunteers, homelessness, world events (such as World Refugee Day, and National Volunteers Week), and inspiring quotes (especially when overlaid over powerful images).
Vinnies have been prepared to test and learn what works, and what doesn’t. They understand that it’s important to create content your community is looking for and wants to interact with. They have fully embraced a user-led content strategy, instead of continually trying to push key campaign messages or internally-minded content that does not have people at the centre.
Harvest’s mission is to train students in ministry and theology – to enable them to follow their ‘call’.
While most of their Facebook posts average somewhere around 250 characters per post (over 6 times longer than the Buffer’s recommendation), there is no hard and fast rule for whether a long or short post will engage the audience.
Very short posts posing questions to the audience about their faith do really well, but so do longer posts examining complex topics like the environment, social justice and what it means to follow God’s call. Many users take the time to click through and read blog posts on these topics – and they even come back to leave comments on how much they enjoyed the post.
Meanwhile, some of the most widely-shared posts are linked to recent events (e.g. ANZAC day), or longer ones exploring relatable theology.
It seems no matter how long the content, if the concept being explored resonates with the audience, they will take the time to engage.
We never like using absolutes for our clients, and nor should you for your brand. As you can tell with all of these clients, we’ve learnt from testing that there are many different types of content that work, some of which many marketing gurus would tell you to avoid (like longform social media content).
Be brave and take little risks with your content. Don’t just read these absolute golden rules that land in your inbox under the headline ‘your 101 guide to creating social media content’ and think they’ll work for you. Instead, listen to your users, test what makes their hearts beat and learn from your data.
We’re cheering you on: be bold, take risks, test and learn, and be more strategic about the content you’re posting.
We can help you find that sweet spot for your brand: contact us today!