The Perfect Post (Tribute)

This blog article is largely about digesting a fascinating article by Kevan Lee from Buffer that looks at “The Ideal Length for All Online Content”.  This guy should know right? Buffer is a social media tool that enables users to schedule and organise their future posts and tweets.  It’s literally responsible for posting billions of messages a year.

However, statistics are one thing

They help us find patterns from a lot of data but they are not necessarily great at matching the quantity with the quality.  So I thought I’d check it out and see if they were at all accurate with my small test group.  I picked 10 top personal trainers and related influencers that I follow and have a  large enough twitter bases to get some good insight.

Here’s my list.  This experiment is not about statistics but just seeing if the research stacked up with some of the inspiring people I follow online:

  • Leo Babauta @zen_habits
  • Bedros Keulian – @BedrosKeuilian
  • Mike Campbell – @mcampbell21012
  • Precision Nutrition/ John Berardi @inside PN
  • Jill Coleman @JillFit
  • Bret Contreras @bretcontreras
  • Jonathan Goodman @Jon_PTDC
  • Neghar Fonooni @NegharFonooni
  • Ish Cheyne – @IshCheyne
  • Greatist @greatist

Is the ideal length of a tweet 100 characters?

Tweets are usually limited to 140 characters and if you’re like me, I’m often needing more, not less.  But Kevan’s article hinted that 100 characters gets a “17% higher engagement rate”. I was a little sceptical to begin with.  Isn’t it a waste not to use all your characters?

When I read into Kevan’s idea, I thought that it actually made sense.  By having characters left over, it gives retweeters enough space to add their own take on your message.  When you make it easy for twitter followers to share your message, customised for their followers, you’ve got a better likelihood of going viral.

Neghar Fonooni personal trainer tweets

To test this out, I found a fantastic free tool I found called that let me see into what these influencers had success with recently.  Here’s a screen shot of what it looks like.  You can easily see top tweets by their engagement with followers.

I used it to narrow in on the top 5 – 10 recent tweets from these people, count the number of characters and then average them out to provide a reference.
What were the average characters for these great tweeters?

  • Leo Babauta average tweet character count = 88
  • Bedros Keulian average tweet character count = 75
  • Mike Campbell average tweet character count = 109
  • Precision Nutrition/ John Berardi average tweet character count = 82
  • Jill Coleman average tweet character count = 109
  • Bret Contreras average tweet character count = 82
  • Jonathan Goodman average tweet character count = 101
  • Neghar Fonooni average tweet character count = 110
  • Ish Cheyne average tweet character count = 103
  • Greatist average tweet character count = 127

And guess what the average was…98 characters.  Huh! That’s pretty cool.

So the takeaway is:
Tweet in under 100 characters so that your followers have 40 characters to add their flavour to it.

Is the ideal length of a Facebook post 40 – 80 characters?

What’s even harder than 100 characters in a Facebook post? Writing 40 characters (*Note this pervious sentence was 38 characters long).  Kevan suggests that these short posts typically receive 88% higher engagement while “posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement.”

My initial questions here were, why would it be better to to write less in a Facebook post than a tweet when you’re not constrained by a word limit and people can write as much as they like in the comments?

Top trainers and personal trainers

I wanted to check this assumption out with our same test group of influencers.

I used a pretty awesome tool called that allows you to pull out the most popular posts of any Facebook page and even compare them.  I could quickly see the most popular posts and I averaged the word limit of these most popular posts.

This time the theory really didn’t stack up.  The most popular, engaging and well shared posts were actually the longer ones (anything from 38 characters to 2011 characters).  I personally think this data might be skewed by just the massive volume of posts which are often just images…possibly cat videos ;)

Overall the most engaging posts hovered between 250 words to 500 words, median of 222 words. (Admittedly this is not a large enough test to be statistically useful but there we are). The only Facebook page that got anywhere close to the 80 character goal was Greatist with an average of 99 words in their most popular posts with 3 of the top being between 38 and 82 words.

  • Precision Nutrition/ John Berardi average Facebook post character count = 186
  • Jill Coleman average Facebook post character count = 782
  • Bret Contreras average Facebook post character count = 241
  • ThePTDC / Jon Goodman average Facebook post character count = 460
  • Neghar Fonoon average Facebook post character count = 398
  • Ish Cheyne average Facebook post character count = 69
  • Greatist average Facebook post character count = 99

So I think the takeaway here is:

  • Post on Facebook with however many words you want to get the message across.

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