The Case for Longer Posts on Facebook

If you google “Ideal length of post on Facebook” you’re met with pages and pages of the same idea: Shorter is better. You will read posts with anywhere from 40-100 characters are met with maximum engagement.

While this is certainly backed with data, and true, I want to make a case to you that on occasions, and in certain cases often, longer is better.

First, let’s clarify

These types of studies to me beg for an examination on correlation and causation. Let’s clarify the data: If you take 1,000 posts, the shorter ones have engaged better. It’s easy to read that and jump to “Shorter posts engage better algorithmically” when that statement is not proveable or even a wise guideline. Let’s be clear: No one has a checklist or 100% access to Facebook’s algorithm. Experts know the guidelines, and can test and pivot, but no one can answer these questions for you 100%.

In analogy-land the data is akin to saying that people who drink more water, on average, are a healthier weight than people who drink less. You can take that data and triple water intake, and not lose any weight. That doesn’t mean (1) the data was wrong or (2) people who drink less water are always heavy. There are many other factors that make this truth come to life.

There is a similar claim to this in the idea that scheduling posts with third-party software bring less engagement. The truth is that real, authentic, value-driven posts perform better, and that it’s easier to do that in the moment when something worth mentioning happens. Many people who use scheduling systems are using them to “fill their queues” for a week, or in extreme cases a month. It’s like meal prep to me. You probably won’t win any culinary awards with day 7 of your frozen burrito bowl. Facebook has repeated regularly they don’t punish software posting. The truth is, it’s not the software, it’s you, and it’s your content.

What makes a bad post

So let’s think about what would make a post be longer than 100 characters, and then compare them to Facebook best practices. Here are some things I see making a post “go long” that are also things an expert would advise against posting regularly or outside of a special case or audience.

  • Menus, Options, Prices
  • Calendar-esque time and date listings
  • Service descriptions
  • Esoteric industry information (that’s not learning or teaching based)
  • Rambling or unclear call to action/goal
  • Disclaimers
  • Repetition

These are just a few, but you get the gist: More information, means longer post. None of these things are good content to be posting on social media. They’re great for your website, blog, or shop, and you should be adding this information there and letting people who “Want to know more” click or comment and ask.

Further, These questions and information seeking are massive positives to the algorithm, and losing that engagement by “over communicating” in the post is harmful. Clicking your link signals engagement to Facebook and spread the post more. Comments or messages also signal engagement and the post comes to life in the “Social” part of the social media.

As you can see what I am trying to communicate is shorter is not necessarily better, but longer posts intrinsically hold the risk of including information that just isn’t interesting to your followers as a whole.

What makes a good post

It is not arguable that engagement is the #1 factor to growing your social media. That does, as a general rule, make the posts shorter. Why? Because posting “What is your favorite pizza topping?” is shorter, and spurs engagement. Posting your entire menu leaves no room for the consumer, there are no action items for anyone reading them, and most people don’t have the time or attention span to read through it.

So with my “no-no’s” list above: How do you write longer, more engaging posts that cause people to still engage in a more meaningful way in the comment section, as well as spend time reading and consuming your content, both of which will make or break your social media. People want meat, they want substance, they want real, they want to hear from you like they are sitting across the table.

And the point of the entire article, finally, is this: Stories are engaging. You should be telling stories on social media. They will run long, but you will not regret it.

Do this: You’re an IT company and one of your long-standing clients is retiring. Get a photo with him, and tell a story about how you met, what you loved about working with them, and celebrate how working with him made your job more fulfilling.

Post about this: You’re a restaurant and one of your employees showed exceptional kindness to a customer and received a compliment from them

Share this: One of your service providers went above and beyond to solve a problem you had or save the day

Everything in social media is always up in the air, ready to change, and will need technically tweaked and reinvented regularly. What doesn’t change is we crave what is real, and you are 10 minutes away from making the best post you’ve ever made on Facebook. Don’t let the data scare you.

My case for longer posts on social media is this: I cannot think of an industry where it would not be massively positive for the consumer to actually, really, truly, hear from the person on the other side of the phone.
The technical details are very important, but don’t let that turn your communications robotic. Sometimes when your engagement starts to dip or stagnate all you really need is a “booster” shot of really engaging with your consumers. Longer posts, IE Stories in this case, are a great way to re-engage with your fans and the more that happens, the more of your posts they’ll see.

Thank you: See you next week.