Measuring how users are engaging with content on social media helps marketers gain insights into the various factors that are resonating with the audience. In fact, engagement is the most important ROI metric for the social media advertising campaigns for businesses of all sizes ahead of leads, sales and reach, as per Buffer's recent survey.
This blog post presents data-driven analysis into what's working for tweets that generate high engagement from users. This post differs from our previous study which looks into Twitter usage as a whole but does not delve deeply into the engagement aspect of tweets.
Here's an overview of a few major findings from our research study that we hope social media managers and marketers take into account in their Twitter strategy:
- The ideal length for a highly engaging tweet is 50-75 characters.
- Videos receive 2.5 times more engagement than text-only tweets.
- The best time to tweet is usually past 6 p.m. until midnight local time.
- Adding URLs, hashtags, user mentions, and emoticons reduces engagement.
Terminology & Data
The term 'engagement' is often used as a metric in analytics for social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to provide statistics and insights into how users are interacting with a tweet or Facebook / Instagram post.
Twitter, for instance, goes into great detail on the 'engagement' on tweets showing not only the publicly available information such as the number of times a tweet was liked, retweeted, replied to, and quoted but also the stats such as the number of clicks on profiles, hashtags, links which are accessible only to the creator of the tweet.
For the purpose of this study, we define 'social media engagement' of a tweet as a combination of :
- Favorites: The number of times the tweet was liked / favorited
- Retweets: The number of times the tweet was retweeted
- Replies: The number of times users replied to the tweet
- Quotes: The number of times the tweet was 'retweeted with comment'
We collected 30 million tweets created during mid-February to early April in 2018 that were retweeted at least once. When studied as a whole, such a large collection of tweets provide a big picture into the characteristics that facilitate better user engagement with your content.
Now let's get into the details of each of the aforementioned highlights.
1. The ideal length for a highly engaging tweet is 50-75 characters
In the SEO world, answers to questions such as 'what is the ideal number of words in a webpage' and 'what is the optimal length of the title' in order to increase the ranking of your webpages can help in devising your content strategy.
In the social media world as well, stats on 'the ideal length of a tweet or a Facebook post' can give data-driven perspective into what's working for content with high engagement.
What is 'the ideal tweet length' taking into account the new limit?
Our analysis based on 30 million tweets in 2018 shows that tweets with 50-75 characters receive the most engagement.
2. Videos receive 2.5 times more engagement than text-only tweets
Our data shows that the tweets with rich media such as photos, videos, and GIFs receive more engagement than text-only ones. In fact, tweets with videos are followed by those with photos and GIFs in terms of engagement.
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3. The best time to tweet is usually past 6 p.m. until midnight local time
When to tweet during a day is critical to social media managers and marketers in order to increase the likelihood of high engagement and reach on their content.
As the audience for most topics on Twitter is often local, 'the best time to tweet' in terms of engagement is typically dependent on the language and the time zone of users. Our data shows the following are the best times to tweet in some of the most popular languages used on Twtter:
- English: 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (UTC - 05:00)
- Japanese: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Japan Standard Time (UTC + 09:00)
- Spanish: 11 p.m. – 12 a.m. Argentina Time (UTC - 03:00)
- Portuguese: 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Brasília Time (UTC - 03:00)
- Arabic: 11 p.m. – 12 a.m. Arabia Standard Time (UTC + 03:00)
Although the peak hours for each of the above major languages are not the same, the engagement on tweets usually remains high starting late in the evening. This is because not only are most people back home during these hours but also they live-tweet on sports, TV shows and news.
4. Adding URLs, hashtags, user mentions, and emoticons reduces engagement
Our data suggests that tweets with one or more entities such URLs of webpages, hashtags, user mentions, or emoticons have, on average, lesser engagement than those without. However, this does not mean that you should reduce the usage of these entities.
If your objective of a tweet with a URL is to encourage users to click on the link and visit your website, you should include the URL in the tweet preferably no more than one.
An interesting finding on hashtags is that tweets with 3-4 hashtags have higher engagement than those with 1-2.
Although tagging other users in a tweet with their mentions may increase rapport, add more context and invite a conversation, our data shows that there is a diminishing return for doing so.
Increasing the number of emoticons reduces engagement at a much lower rate in comparison to other entities. Using 10 emoticons in a tweet still receives on average 75% of the engagement of an emoticon-less tweet.
- Use at least 50-75 characters for a tweet as it typically provides sufficient context for your message, resulting in higher engagement.
- Whenever possible, embed rich media such as photos, videos and GIFs in your tweets as they convery more information than text with a 280-character limit alone, which leads to better engagement.
- Tweet after 6 p.m. so as to improve visibility and engagement of your content due to more Twitter users being online late in the evening.
- Use URLs, hashtags, and user mentions sparingly.