When it comes to digital marketing, social media plays a huge role in generating brand awareness, promoting your products, and connecting with your target audience. Each social channel serves key demographics, and different platforms have varying levels of functionality that allow you to communicate your brand message in different ways.

Facebook has always been the home of the ‘longform’ post, where you can talk for days about what it is that you do and how you do it. LinkedIn is the professional network, where you communicate in a more formal setting. Instagram is the visual platform where images do the talking, and Twitter has always been the channel where busy users scan succinct posts for key information.

Marketers have got used to the way that these channels work, tailoring their writing to get the most out of the post. That was until Twitter changed its character-limit from 140 to 280. This got us thinking, Will this have an impact on the way that businesses communicate with their audiences on Twitter? – so we teamed up with our friends at Manchester Metropolitan University to find out how users engage with tweets of different lengths.

The hypothesis

We thought that being able to write twice as much in a Twitter post is great news for marketers because this essentially allows us to cram in double the amount of information. But would Twitter users engage with longer posts when they are so used to using the platform for short, sharp bursts of news?

There are two parts to the hypothesis that we wanted to prove:

1. Twitter users do not consume 280-character tweets in equal measure to 140-character tweets.
2. Tweets with media will receive greater attention, regardless of character length.

The experiment

In the MMU usability lab, we used eye-tracking software to monitor how a group of Twitter users reacted to tweets of different lengths.


To carry out this qualitative piece of research, we asked 10 volunteers for their Twitter handles, which we used to create a dummy account that would feature other accounts similar to their own. Each volunteer was then hooked up to the eye-monitoring software and then instructed to browse their Twitter feed as they normally would. Users were also split into desktop and mobile so that we could distinguish any differences between devices.

The findings

On average, across mobile and desktop, users engaged more with tweets that were longer than 140 characters.

● Users who read less than 140 characters: spent an average of 1.7 seconds reading the tweets.
● Users who read more than 140 characters: spent an average of 2.2 seconds reading the tweets.

What these findings demonstrate is that users don’t skim over longer tweets; in fact, they take the time to read them through, and although half a second doesn’t seem like a long time, it actually is in terms of social media engagement.

What does this mean for your business?

Our findings show that businesses should take full advantage of the longer character count, because users will take the time to read over the longer tweets. Whether the tweets contain images or not, users still engage more with the longer tweet – so if you feel that you need to use the full 280 characters to express your brand’s message, then you should.



By Danny Sefton, content marketing executive at theEword

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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