Prevent your online copy from becoming blah-blah-blah

by Thomas Vanbrabant - March 03, 2015

We write copy to touch people, to weave a moving story that generates a reaction. But in a time of information overload, it’s hard to reach your customer through his dozens of daily emails, hundreds of Facebook updates and thousands of tweets. This is why brands have to make sure people read their email, Facebook or Twitter post, and not the one from their competitor.

The golden rule is: Only write as much as you need to and not a word more. Start with the most important part – don’t save it for the end. Your reader might have stopped reading by then.

How long should your copy be?

Optimal length of a Facebook post: 80-100 characters
Keep It Short and Simple is key on Facebook. Multiple studies (Blitzmetrics and Buddy Media) tracked over 10,000 Facebook pages in 2011. The result: nobody has the time to read long stories on their wall, so you need to convince them in a heartbeat. Got more to say? Add a link and continue on your website. Posts between 80-100 characters receive 86% higher engagement.

Optimal length of a tweet: 71 to 100 characters
A study among 100 major brands
(Oreo, ESPN, etc.) in 2012 showed us that tweets of 100 characters are ideal to get the best reply rate and retweet rate. Not too long, but not too short. You still need to say something. Obviously length isn’t the only parameter, as photos, hashtags, timing, etc. also play a big role.

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Optimal length of a hashtag: 6 characters
The hashtag was first used in programming languages and by the IRC-network to label groups and topics. But the hashtag enjoyed its breakthrough on Twitter where it defines the topic of your tweet. Hashtags let you be very creative, but studies show 6 characters is ideal. Keep it short and clear, and watch out for special characters and slang words.

Optimal length of an email subject line: 28 to 39 characters
The main objective of your email subject line is to make sure the receiver reads it and then opens your email. That’s why clients like Gmail cut off subject lines if it becomes too long, especially for smartphone users.

The ideal length is between 24 and 39 characters. A 2012 study by Mailer Mailer looked at 1.2 billion email subject lines and identified this length as the one receiving the best open rate. 33% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. Also personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.

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Optimal length of a blog headline: 6 words
Two studies (KISSmetrics and Nielsen Norman Group) concluded that our eyes tend to read the first 3 and last 3 words of a headline. If you are not awful at maths, you can see why a 6-word headline is perfect. Also watch out for long and difficult words as they scare away readers. So make sure every word counts.

Optimal length of a paragraph: 40 to 55 words
Online content has to be shorter than printed content. Your target group gets a lot more to digest and lacks time or even interest. When they see too many words, they click away. Split up your message into different paragraphs and limit them to between 40 and 55 words. Usability studies and psychology shows this creates the biggest notice and will to read.

Optimal length of a blogpost: 1,600 words
People lack time and interest, so they click away if a story becomes too long. The average time a reader wants to spend on a page is 7 minutes, which is about 1,600 words. This sounds like a lot, but it works well for good and appealing content. But you shouldn’t aim for 1,600 words if you can tell your story in less.

This post contains
- Blog headline: 7 words
- Paragraph length: 65, 37, 64, 58, 60, 39, 57 ,59, 63, and 63 words
- Total length: 637 words

Thomas Vanbrabant