Less is Not Always More with Enterprise Social

While Enterprise Social Networking sites have taken their lead from consumer-facing Social Media platforms, there are many situations where good practices in social media just do not map over to Enterprise Social.

For consumer platforms the goal is to attract eyeballs to content for advertising purposes. For the Enterprise, the goal is to facilitate collaboration between staff. Social media analysts have conducted comprehensive studies for the optimal ‘post’ for maximising reactions. In this article we pick on just one such measure; the ‘optimal length of a post’.  

What do the Social Media Analysts Suggest?  

Twitter famously made its name by limiting the message size to 140 characters, recently increased to 280. One study conducted by Sysomos, when the limit was 140 characters, showed that only 29% of the 1.2 billion tweets they analysed got any reaction at all. This FastCompany article suggests the optimal tweet length is just 100 characters. 

For Facebook it depends on whether you are a consumer sharing posts with your friends, or an advertiser looking to attract eyeballs. The same FastCompany article suggests the most engaging Facebook posts need to be less than 40 characters! However, if you are a Facebook advertiser the equation changes. This Facebook advertising analysis found advertising copy should be not a sentence, but a paragraph (about 400-500 characters), to create the most leads; so more than a modern tweet.  

What we Found with Enterprise Social  

Given the different audiences and intents, we would have expected that the optimal post length might differ from that shown for consumer social media. What we found was exactly that; posts needed to be longer to effectively engage. Unfortunately, we found Enterprise staff were adopting the social media habit of shorter posts, and therefore missing out on the higher levels of engagement available to them with slightly longer posts.  

To identify what the most engaging length of post was for Enterprise Social we analysed some 120,000 posts from several large organisations using Microsoft’s Yammer and Workplace by Facebook platforms. Firstly, we looked at the number of posts and their respective lengths that attracted a written reply. Replies are key to developing online discussions and generating value through collaboration.  

The orange line shows the average %Reply rate for each size category of posts. We can see that there is a generous ‘sweet spot’ length of post from 300 – 2,000 characters (say a short paragraph of three sentences up to as long as four paragraphs) where we could anticipate a more than 50% reply rate. Disturbingly, the vast majority of posts fall in the less than 200 characters category, where the %Reply rate is lowest.   

If we aren’t able to generate a written reply, we might at least settle for a ‘like’, which at least tangibly acknowledges the contribution. As expected, the %Like rate is much higher: 

The ‘Likes Sweet Spot’ surprisingly requires an even longer post, between 500 – 3,000 characters. Admittedly, the range from a low of 83% for a post of less than 200 characters to a high of 93% for posts between 500-600 characters might not seem large. But when combined with the 20% lower reply response rate for the smallest and most popular sized post, the loss of potential engagement is significant.  

The Bottom Line? 

Write longer posts!  

Social media advice has led us to believe that less is more. We need to ignore this advice and aim to craft longer posts; providing more substance and context for our fellow work colleagues to engage and collaborate around. 

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