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Social Networks: Stop Writing Like a 10 Year Old Kid

Readers appreciate length and complexity

  • Key4Communications

Companies write in Facebook as primary school kids. This is not an opinion by any social media skeptic, but the result of a research by Track Maven that analyzed 5,800 Facebook pages and a million and a half updates.

The company used the Flesch-Kincaid test, developed by the U.S. Navy in 1975, which analyzes the length of sentences and words to determine whether a text is more or less readable. It is a test used by Amazon and was incorporated in Microsoft Word until 2007.

Based on the Track Maven analysis 67.3% of Facebook posts are written at an elementary school grade level (5th grade or below). The most frequent Facebook post grade level is 1st grade, accounting for 17.5% of posts. Only 2.5% of posts are written at or above a college reading level (grade 13 or higher).

Indeed, the majority of texts published in Facebook are very short: 33% have between 10 and 19 words, while 24% have 9 or less. Nearly 94% of posts have fewer than 50 words.

We often think that on the internet short texts and images show more influence and better performance, but this is not entirely true. Photos are of course important in Facebook, as they are present in 88% of updates and they generate more interactions, but this does not mean that people do not want to read. In fact, interactions increase for longer texts - if we write between 70 and 79 words get 3.42 interactions per post on average, whereas if we go to 80-89, we will arrive at 6.19 interactions, reaching nearly 10 for texts of 180 words.

The study suggests that this may be a result of the " IKEA effect", according to which we all tend to place more value on items in which we have invested time and effort. But this is not the only reason – we usually like to feel treated as intelligent people.

And Yes, We Like Reading
This is true for all online content. Of course, we compete for time with millions of sites offering all kinds of information and entertainment. In fact, every day we publish on the internet the equivalent of 36 million books, says Clive Thompson on Smarter Than You Think . So it is not surprising that we only read an average of 20% of every online text.

Nevertheless, it is still also true that we value large posts (if there is quality as well as quantity, of course). In fact, we value them so much that we are more willing to share them - when a post is more than 1,500 words long, it gains 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes.

According to Medium, a new social network focused on texts and created by one of the founders of Twitter, the ideal length of an article is about 1,600 words. That’s a seven minutes read. And it is ideal precisely because a very high percentage of readers spend those seven minutes with the text, without leaving it behind.

There is another detail that is important: large posts are very positive for SEO. Google likes long texts, as it is not satisfied with just tracking two or three tags for each post. In fact, the top 10 results of any Google search are pages always including at least 2,000 words (in total, not per post).

Of course, it all depends on the contents we want to publish and on our goals, as well as the medium we use (for example, Twitter is limited to 140 characters). Anyway, we should stop thinking that our readers are not smart enough or they do not have enough interest in what we are offering. The least we should do is to show some confidence in our own product.

Also, this text is long enough already, so we better leave it here for today.

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