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Prevent social media disasters by knowing rules

By Craig Kissoon

An adage in the public relations industry is “say it fast, and say it quick.” And with the emergence of social media, the speed of communication has escalated further.

What happens when something accelerates too quickly though? Wrecks occur.

Students entering the communication field are clumsily navigating the uncharted landscape of social media. For many new employees, the instantaneous nature of social media has led to major communication blunders.

Take, for example, this hashtag from the American Red Cross Twitter page:

RED-CROSS-TWEET-Blog

Screencap: American Red Cross via Digital Sherpa

This example is an extreme case. Nonetheless, it illustrates that young communication professionals are often confused on how to create content.

A question I personally struggled with when I began managing social media was: How long should my content be? Buffersocial blogger Kevan Lee wrote an article about social media guidelines derived from research. Here are some of the highlights.

Twitter

Twitter limits users to 140 characters. However, managers hoping to produce effective content should only use a fraction of the character limit.

Specifically, Lee referenced a recent report by Buddy Media revealing that tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17 percent higher engagement rate. The secret lies in the fact  that 100 characters allow the poster to say something substantial and allots the audience the space to retweet and add commentary.

Facebook

As mentioned above, Twitter has a 140-character limit. Facebook, on the other hand, has a 63,206-character limit.

Ironically, the ideal length of a Facebook post is less than the ideal length of a tweet. Jeff Bullas, a social media marketing blogger, found 40 character posts received 86 percent higher engagement than other posts.

I can imagine what some readers are thinking: Forty characters is nothing!

Fortunately, Bullas also found that posts twice as long, with 80 characters or less, received a 66 percent higher engagement rate than longer posts.  If you exceed 119 characters,you risk losing the audience.

Take the data into consideration, but do not let it dictate your decisions. These numbers are only figures, not rules.

Ultimately, your subject decides how long your content should be. The fun and frustrating thing about social media is the flexibility it offers.

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