Twitter isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's an important social media platform for marketers. When the company announced that it was doubling the message length, many complained. However, new research shows that tweets longer than the old 140-character limit are great for getting attention and engagement.
Write longer and you can get twice as many retweets and almost that many more likes, according to data from SocialFlow, as reported by BuzzFeed. Just the chance to hear how to make Twitter more effective rather than another example of dopey brand-killing moves is a refreshing change of pace.
SocialFlow, which makes content distribution and monetization software for publishers, examined tens of thousands of tweets in the week between November 29 and December 6. Now, given that they might well focus on data from their own systems, chances are the examples were from larger publishers, so the responses may be more significant than what you typically get. Still, the results are marked and worth considering more broadly.
Tweets that below 140 characters were retweeted on average 13.71 times and received 29.96 likes. Go above 140 characters and the retweets jump to 26.52 and the likes to 50.28. Clicks per tweet were about even.
The responses are clear. No matter how some decry the death of the old limits, if you want engagement on Twitter, write longer.
I have a theory of why this happens. Writing concisely is difficult. As the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote in the 1650s, "I only made this letter longer because I had not the leisure to make it shorter." It takes time that many don't have.
The shorter the condensation of thought, the more difficult it is to craft. Eventually you start to omit the meat of the discussion. A 140-character tweet can be clever and compelling. Arriving at such a construction is not easy and many people, including professional communicators, lack the time to keep refining what they have to say.
The average word length in English is about 5 characters. Add a sixth for the space between them and a tweet has room for about 23 words if you don't consider hashtags, URLs, and specific user names. With those additions, maybe you have 10 to 15. That's little room. By doubling the potential length, Twitter reduced the barrier to catching someone's interest.
There's no reason not to give it a try. Chances are that you haven't been grousing about the length of tweets, and most others probably aren't as well. You may even have failed to notice which ones are longer, as 280 characters still isn't a whole lot of room.
Plus, you want to make use of the technique before too many catch on. According to Twitter, only 5 percent of tweets are longer than 140 characters and only 2 percent break the 190-character barrier. You've got little competition at the moment, so make use of your head start.