Have you seen advice about the magic length your articles, posts, and newsletters should be? You might read that trends are heading toward long-form Facebook posts or shorter newsletter articles or bullet points, or no narrative, just links. Trends fluctuate, and it is important to pay attention -
to an extent. In order to provide statistics, everything must be quantified. But the truth is, averages may not be the best advice for you, and you're about to find out why.
Time and time again, either validating trends OR opposing all apparent logic, peoples' behavior proves they don't read a magic number of words then stop.
"People read ALL of what they find interesting or valuable, and they don't finish what is not relevant or interesting - regardless of its length."
Yes, organizing your content in a logical and visually appealing way helps people determine if and how much of something they want to read. Yes, we live in a world with a barrage of messages coming at us fast and furious and there is a continual competition for our attention. Yes, rules of thumb and best practices for different content delivery vehicles can help guide you when creating content. The biggest yes of all, however, is rules become irrelevant when it comes to individual behavior and preferences.
Your organization and audience is unique. The magic comes by giving your audience what they want. What they want from
you may be different than what they want or need from
It's a quality/quantity issue. Quality wins every time. What is interesting, relevant, and valuable to your ideal customers/stakeholders?
A few tips to know how much is enough or too much:
- Test - put links in different places in your content and see who clicks.
- Questions and calls to action at the end of your text invite engagement and give you valuable information.
- Survey or poll - ask people (just your people - not anyone and everyone) what they prefer.
- Stick to one topic in each piece of content.
- Package content in various ways to offer options - perhaps the entire article goes on your blog, a summary of it goes out in an email, and bullet points of a few highlights goes on Instagram and Facebook. Link all versions to each other. Test to see what people respond to best.
- Set up realistic objectives. For example, is it better to have 1200 likes on a post with no further engagement, or 12 people reading an entire article that helps them and causes them to become a client? You are the only one who knows what type of interactions are most valuable for your goals.
- Be willing to be polarizing. This applies to message and also length. It's always OK to help the wrong audience disqualify themselves. Your ideal clients will always want more.
Troubadour wisdom knows this:
"It needs to be how long it needs to be."