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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Characterful posting on social media

Whether you're raising profile or engaging on social media, it's really annoying to be in full writing swing, only to see you've run out of space. Those pesky character counts* include absolutely everything you type: letters, spaces, numbers, and punctuation.
So here's the latest on the character counts for some of the most popular social media sites.

Your Twitter Space

Since Twitter is renowned for tight character counts, we'll start there.
Most people know that Twitter allows tweets of 140 characters, but if you are using a third party Twitter client to manage your posts, you need to have space to add RT @username to encourage the person being re-tweeted to engage with you. So allow up to 20 characters for that.
But did you know that a link with a tweet takes up 24 characters, so after leaving room for retweeting, that leaves 96 characters for your post? And that's if you have used to shorten your links, which is highly recommended.
A tweet with both a link and an image or video~ leaves a just  73 characters.

But that's not all bad. Given that clarity and brevity is really appreciated online, your posts should stand out more if you generally aim for around 70 characters. That should give you the latitude to post with or without a link or visuals, plus leave room for RTs without resorting to a calculator.

You also get:

  • 116 characters for a quote tweet
  • 160 characters for your description 
  • 15 characters for your username
  • 20 characters for your real name
  • 10,000 characters for a direct message

~NB:  video on Twitter is up to 30 seconds.

Within the tweet, Hubspot, the inbound marketing experts say the ideal length of a hashtag is less than 11 characters, and the shorter, the better. With a max of 1-2 hashtags per tweet.

All change on Twitter

For months various trade press have been dropping hints that Twitter is going to increase the number of characters to 10,000. If true, it's tempting to think that this change makes most of the above redundant. However, I don't think that will happen because insiders are saying that our tweets will still appear in the same size of box. That means you still have the same amount of visible space to entice people to read more, but instead of waiting for a separate link to open, they will just open up the rest of your tweet.
I'm guessing that, by removing the wait for a page to load, that removes the friction involved in following a link, leading potentially to more views - especially as most online activity is done on mobile devices.
It looks like it would be worth uploading whole blog posts on Twitter (or a long-form post showing a different aspect of a blog piece to avoid duplicate content) rather than relying on someone having the patience to wait for your blog to load separately.
I'm assuming you will also be able to continue to post links too.
Many trade media are hinting that the new expanded tweets will be rolled out in March.

Customer service impact on Twitter?

According to Elizabeth Clar of Clarabridge (customer experience experts), writing in Social Times, the move to expand tweets has been called "Beyond 140" within Twitter. It was prompted by people getting round the 140 character limit by posting screenshots of larger blocks of text, often posted in sequence. Personally, I access social media most often on a mobile device. Trying to read text screenshots is fiddly, so I can see why the expanded tweet is likely to produce a better user experience. Plus posting a series of images uses up a lot more mobile data than a simple tweet, and the reader can't copy and paste the text.
Clar points out that the expanded character setting will allow companies to save on call centres as they will be able to deal with more customers' enquiries in detail transparently on Twitter. That's almost impossible within the current 140 character limit.
I for one won't miss the terrible music while on hold waiting for a call centre operative...

Facebook limits:

FaceBook offers up to 63,206 characters for status updates.
They point out the average novel is c500,000 characters - or 9 FB posts. Could this be a novel marketing idea (pun intended)...?
Facebook Messenger gives you up to 20,000 characters
Your About section is 255 characters

You also have options to expand beyond your network through their groups. For people who are actively using FB, your group posts pop up alongside key updates from your network making it easy to engage with people either in your network or in your groups.
AdWeek reckon the optimum length of video on FB is 30-45 seconds.
Hubspot say their best performing videos are around 30 seconds on social media in general.

LinkedIn allows:

600 characters for status updates,
120 for your professional headline and
2,000 for your summary.
You can, of course also publish articles on LinkedIn Publisher: 40,000 characters.
LinkedIn has an extraordinary variety of ways to post on their platform: 31 of them are listed by LinkedIn coach, Andy Foote* here.
You can build up a rich tapestry of information and content on LinkedIn. Plus loads of  engagement opportunities with people through the massive variety of groups (you can join 50 of them giving you access lots more people than the ones in your LinkedIn network). Because the site is so full of content, it will probably perform much better than your own website - it's often the first thing that comes up when a name is Googled.

Other Social Media:

Instagram gives you 150 characters for your profile bio and 2,200 for an image caption, but only shows the first 3 lines, so adopt a tweet like approach and keep the best up-front

500 characters for your board description  
100 for the Board Title (but it only shows 26)
500 characters for a Pin 
37 characters for your name 
15 characters for the URL
160 characters for the About section

Blog post headlines - keep below 70 characters to ensure they appear intact in search results

Reddit Title: 300 characters

Yelp: 5,000 characters

* Andy Foote recommends this handy tool which counts up your characters for you

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK.


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