Guest post: Do longer articles really get shared more often?
Which blog posts get shared the most? Everyone wants to know. So when I read that “longer articles tend to be shared far more often,” according to an article cited by “Content Marketing: Dance Like Nobody’s Looking,” I shared that quote on Facebook. I was delighted when Angelique Geehan responded with the thoughtful reply you’ll find below.
By the way, I think of this post as an example of the serendipity of Facebook. I would never have met Angelique without Facebook, where she followed her boss in becoming a fan of the Investment Writing Facebook page. We’ve had some great online exchanges since then.
Do longer articles really get shared more often?
by Angelique Geehan
I saw “longer articles tend to be shared far more often” and my immediate inner “Huh?!?” made it clear I had better stop and reconsider what I’ve been harping on my coworkers about.
I’ve been telling them to write shorter articles and posts. I’ve told them people don’t have time for long pieces regularly (which may still be true). I’ve forwarded them links to articles about getting mileage out of topics that require longer explanations by using the blog equivalent of chapters.
So the question you posed, Susan, about whether that takeaway agreed with my experience, was a reality check.
It didn’t take long for me to reflect and realize that I do tend to both “like” and share more longer articles than shorter ones. I do so when they are particularly meaningful on a personal level — when I perceive they might add to the discourse on their topic, either in ways I have not encountered before or in ways I think are so fundamental that (1) I would like my friends to read it so they can understand me better, or (2) we can continue the discussions in person when we do meet.
That said, it can take me a very long time to get to these longer articles. Some of them I open in a tab or send to myself in an email to read when I can spare the time. In contrast, I read and possibly “like” shorter pieces right away. And I know I read more short pieces than long ones, mostly through my RSS feed, Facebook shares, and email subscriptions. Often, the short pieces are what I’ll email to friends who are not active on social media or post links to directly into Facebook groups where the topic comes up. I’m also more likely to comment on a shorter post, because I might have a few thoughts or contributions in response, instead of a zillion to mull over and take with me for a week and into conversations. And I will have had time to comment before other tasks call.
For me, it isn’t as much about pure length as it is about how complete a piece is. Posts that are topic-based “101s” or introductions to something must usually be longer than newsy or single-point posts, but they can be the most useful to me for sharing. If I do manage to read a longer, atmospheric piece, one that has snared me from the beginning and kept me hooked … well … it has obviously made an impact and earned some of my loyalty. From there, the “share” is a natural consequence: something meaningful has an impact on me, and I want my friends to experience it, too.
Besides, using that button’s faster than taking scissors to newspaper, addressing and stamping an envelope, and waiting for delivery. And it goes to a few hundred folks without my ever having to go near a copy machine.
Angelique Geehan is a Managing Director for Index Strategy Advisors, Inc. (ISA), a Houston-based Registered Investment Advisor that specializes in optimizing a range of investors’ portfolios using exchange-traded funds. She hopes one day to slay an elusive but persistent writer’s block that has been her poor excuse for not posting for ISA’s blog for a few (erm, ahem) weeks.
As a reader there are certain bloggers whom I enjoy reading and they tend to write long, 500-1,000 words, and like you, I save those posts for when I have time.
As a copywriter, I am almost evangelical when it comes to defending long copy with web designers and other writers. I’ve even come across sites with so little content that I’m not sure what they’re selling exactly. So I appreciate your perspective that the emphasis should be on completeness and not just on length.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Krista! I’ve sent Angelique an email so she knows you’ve commented.
It’s funny, but I remember when 500-1,000 words was considered short.
Hi, Krista. Thanks for the warm feedback! I do love some long exposition.
I was thinking about the burden of discovering a new, stellar online writer through whatever method of referral. What happens to me is that I’ll love the one piece so much I’ll decide I MUST subscribe to the writer’s whole blog. And then if all the other pieces are just as good but loooonnnnngggg, I of course get behind in reading them. They stick around like so many treasured piles of Smithsonians, National Geographics, and Harper’s (which I began reading in high school, I think). It was all I could do to stop subscribing after a few years of not reading them for months at a time…after college sometime. Thank goodness I managed to restrain myself from tantalizing offers from The Sun and countless other beautiful pubs. I am always sad to not support them more. Lots of good stuff in the world, no matter how much I complain some days.
Thanks for your essay! After reading it, I found there’s really not much I could disagree with.
As a contributor to 3 – 4 online trades myself (in the insurance fields), I’ve tended to run over the 800 – 1,200 word guideline most publications set as standard operating procedure. However, my editors have been great collaborators, and it’s not uncommon for me to run upwards to 1,400 – 1,600 words.
Having said that, I recognize that if the piece itself doesn’t *constantly* engage and compel, you run the danger of losing your reader. If you’ve got a 1,600 word piece, that’s a great time to think about splitting it into Part 1 and Part II.
On the flipside, when I’ve read others’ pieces that run 400 – 600 words, it’s like junk food. Wasted calories. What can you even say? (Yet, some of that fluff gets shared and passed around as if it were the Ten Commandments! Which, come to think of it, couldn’t be more than 100 words. Hmmm.)
Stephen D. Forman, SVP
Long Term Care Associates, Inc.
Thank you! Those are great warnings about the risks for those who write short or long.
Hi, Stephen. You’re very welcome, and thanks for your comments as well. I especially appreciate your insight about when a serial might be called for. I’m working on better managing my time to read more widely across the industry and would love to start with some of Susan’s readers as well… I’ll be looking you up, but please do feel free to drop me a line with your URLs.
Oh, and as someone who has one or two opinions lying around, some of which might even be *gasp* espresso-grade, I want to tell you that I’m still smiling at: “After reading it, I found there’s really not much I could disagree with.” 🙂