What 1 Million Tweets Taught Us About How People Tweet Successfully [Infographic]
Given 140 characters, how can you make the absolute most of every single word, hashtag, and link in a tweet?
Now we’re happy to share the quantitative numbers—based on 1 million tweets from Buffer users—about what seems to drive the most clicks, retweets, and engagement on Twitter!
The top takeaways from Buffer’s study on ideal tweets
We’ll dive deep into all the Twitter data and findings below. Up top, I’d love to share the overall takeaways that we discovered when looking at the success of Buffer users on Twitter.
- For tweets with images, shorter tweets of 20 to 40 characters did best
- For tweets without images, longer tweets of 120 to 140 characters did best
- The most popular tweet length was 110 to 120 characters
- Tweets with images received more engagement than tweets without images
- Tweets without links got more retweets, favorites, and replies than tweets with links
- Engagement for tweets with hashtags seems to rise steadily all the way to 4 hashtags per tweet.
We are so grateful to have partnered with Lemonly on creating the infographics and charts for this research. Here’s the beautiful design the Lemonly team came up with:
A note about engagement and data
In this study, we define engagement as the sum of retweets, favorites, and mentions divided by the number of followers of the account.
We chose to exclude clicks from our engagement measure because clicks were only recorded for tweets that included links (around 70% of the dataset), and we wanted to be careful to not skew the effects of our independent variables by giving so much weight to the link factor.
The dataset includes more than 1 million tweets sent between February 1 and February 17, 2015, in the Pacific time zone. (Toward the end of the article, I’ll share some of the limitations and caveats that a dataset like this might entail.)
Now to the results…
How long are the most engaged tweets?
What the data says about tweet length and engagement
You may have heard that the best practice regarding the length of a tweet is to use 100 to 120 characters, plenty long to get your message across while leaving room for others to add their own comments when retweeting you.
As Twitter has evolved, we were curious to find out if that recommendation still holds true.
From looking at the Twitter data, we noticed a couple of interesting trends:
- For tweets with images, shorter tweets tend to receive more engagement.
- For tweets without images, longer tweets tend to receive more engagement.
(We defined engagement as the sum of retweets, favorites, and mentions, divided by followers. We excluded clicks from engagement as the data included both tweets with links and tweets without.)
For overall tweet engagement by length—regardless of whether a tweet had an image or not—we looked at the results from all 1 million+ of the tweets we analyzed.
(This scatterplot chart shows the relationship between engagement per follower and character count, and the blue line running through the data is a smoother, to better visualize the relationship between tweet length and engagement per follower.)
You might notice here that although there seems to be a slight rise in engagement when the character count is less than 40 or greater than 120, the increase isn’t significant enough to quite warrant a claim that tweets with less than 40 characters are best.
In terms of raw numbers, tweets with 20 to 40 characters get around 60 percent more engagement per follower than tweets in the 60- to 80-character range.
We’re a bit hesitant to fully claim that 20 to 40 characters leads to more engaged tweets, due to a number of extraneous factors that could be influencing engagement also. For instance, one of the most significant factors to consider here is how many of these shorter tweets include an image. And it’s possible that fewer tweets have these shorter character lengths so the averages are more volatile.
So how many characters do tweets usually have?
Generally-speaking, most tweets are 80 characters or more.
From our Twitter data, the volume of tweets started rising steadily just after the 40-character length, and the volume peaked between 110 and 120 characters (the long-held idea for best length), with another spike just below the 140-character limit.
In another look, we cleaned the text field by removing hashtags, punctuation, URLs, and empty whitespace. We thought this might help better represent the true message of a tweet, minus the branded/business elements.
After cleaning the text we can see that the character count is more normally distributed around 60 to 80 characters.
To read more, head over to buffer.com.