Ever been in a business meeting or social event having a conversation with somebody, when you suddenly realize you're not conversing? Rather, the other person is doing all the talking and even when they come to a spot where you could join the conversation with some clever anecdote they keep on going. It seems they just don't know when to stop. You may know the person that tells a joke then follows it with another and another and another and another until no matter how funny the joke is, you can't bring yourself to laugh yet again. When it comes to online content and social media the "rule of three" isn't as relevant as it once was. In today's world of online social media how do we keep readers engaged without over staying our welcome?
Thanks to this most excellent blog post "The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research" we have a good idea of what size content we should publish to maximize views and engagement. I've included an infographic to the right that summarizes the findings presented in this blog post.
Do you need to be concerned with the ideal length of content if you're not participating in outbound marketing activities that use social media vehicles? The answer is yes. E-mail is prevalent within corporate organizations today. The use of Enterprise Social Software continues growing as as a new way to collaborate inside the company. If we look back at "There Is No Such Thing as Information Overload . . ." you're not only competing with an onslaught of external attempts to connect with your co-workers, but also internal efforts. You do not want to be filtered out.
With e-mail the most popular form of enterprise communications, just think how many e-mail messages you receive on a daily or weekly basis, you want your e-mail to stand out. The optimal size for an e-mail subject is 28-39 characters. Not a lot of room to convey a subject, but if it's the right size and grabs the attention of the recipient there's a far better chance the e-mail will be read and not passed over. What happens when e-mails are passed over? The sender needs to follow-up with a phone call or instant message. Employing multiple means of communications for a single task is inefficient and hampers productivity.
If you're communicating externally through commonly used social vehicles or communicating internally through commonly used communication vehicles then the size of the initial subject or title matters, as well as, the size of included content. Size also matters for rich-media content and how much of it is being included in the message. I've seen many training videos that are 45, 60, 90 minutes long. I wonder if they'd benefit from being 18 minutes long- the ideal length for a seminar.
I don't use all the social vehicles mentioned in the blog, but I am trying to be aware with the ones I do use. Some are challenging for me, such as Twitter. Simply because I'm not good at using abbreviations and leaving out punctuation, but now that I'm aware of the ideal length I can make a conscience effort to meet it going forward. When you read or listen to something that had your interest from the beginning, take a look at the length of the subject and content. Then ask yourself if that may have contributed to you're sticking around until the end. Learn from what grabs your attention and use it in your future correspondences. Be more efficient and see how much more productive your team becomes.