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Comparing Long vs Short Text Updates on Instagram

August 7, 2019 • By

Scott Ayres

Does The Length of Your Instagram Post Matter?

Is there really an ideal Instagram post length?

The Social Media Lab has conducted studies on character lengths on both Twitter and Facebook, our findings revealed tweets over 140 characters got more engagement and exposure, while the opposite was true on Facebook.

This leads us to wonder if the length of the text portion of posts on Instagram had any impact.

Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters in the original post, in addition to 30 hashtags. So you will probably want to capitalize on all those characters and hashtags, right?

The “ideal length of an Instagram post”, however,  seems to be a matter of opinion rather than facts, judging by the lack of solid data out there. 

Most blog articles state that the ideal length for Instagram posts is 135-150 characters.

HubSpot says the ideal length is under 125 characters on Instagram posts.

Reading various blog posts from other websites haven’t revealed any solid data as to an advantage or disadvantage of going over or sticking to these different character recommendations.

Fortunately, the Social Media Lab is here to dive deep into the data and do the hard research for you.

Hypothesis

Sticking to the theme of our previous character length research on Twitter and Facebook, we will test the impact of Instagram posts under and over 140 characters (a hat tip to old Twitter character lengths) and determine, with data, whether longer or shorter posts are more effective on Instagram. 

Based on the blog articles recommending shorter character length on Instagram, we crafted this is hypothesis: Instagram posts with under 140 characters will garner more engagement and reach.

instagram character length

Testing Instagram Character Length

Using 6 Instagram accounts in various niches, we will study the results of 180 Instagram posts to draw a scientific conclusion. Half of the Instagram posts will be long posts, half will be short posts.

A few important aspects regarding these posts:

  • No hashtags will be used in the posts.
  • The time of day will vary each day for the long and short posts.
  • The posts are not to be used for ads on Instagram.
  • No videos are going to be used for this study.
  • Emojis are not used in the posts.
  • Long posts will be over 140 characters (No max).
  • Short posts will be under 140 characters.

The username and “identity” of 5 of the Instagram accounts used for testing will not be revealed in this post. We don’t want to alter the following for these accounts from the Social Media Lab audience. We are purely using these for testing purposes for the Lab. The other account for testing is Agorapulse, of course.

I will, however, show blurred screenshots of posts.

Our study has Instagram accounts in these niches:

  • SaaS company
  • Pets
  • Trucks
  • Fitness
  • Motorcycles
  • Quotes & Inspiration

Below are some examples of short character length posts:

short Instagram postshort instagram postscharacter length instagram

Below are some examples of the longer Instagram character length posts:

instagram postslength of instagram postinstagram post lengthNone of these Instagram posts were selling anything. They were posts simply to get engagement and build community.

The Social Media Lab allowed the data to sit for at least 10 days before gathering data to ensure all activity had ended on each post.

Instagram Character Length Data

*Want to dive into this study more via video? Watch this episode of the Social Media Lab LIVE:

To help you grasp this data, we will show you the results per Instagram account then average together. What you’ll notice is the inconsistency per account. 

Due to such inconsistencies, the Social Media Lab prefers to test across various niches and accounts — then averaging those results together before making a conclusion.

Agorapulse:

Shorter posts performed better in every category.

  • Likes: Shorter posts 89.02% higher
  • Comments: Shorter posts 85.71% higher
  • Reach: Shorter posts 42.92% higher

Fitness:

The results were mixed.

  • Likes: Even (no winner)
  • Comments: Shorter posts 27.27% higher
  • Reach: Longer posts 2.91% higher

Quotes:

Longer posts had the advantage.

  • Likes: Longer posts 6.43% higher
  • Comments: Even (no winner)
  • Reach: Longer posts 3.16% higher

Bikes:

Shorter posts performed better.

  • Likes: Shorter posts 21.88% higher
  • Comments: Even (no winner)
  • Reach: Shorter postsn6.58% higher

Animals:

Shorter posts and longer posts performed better based on the metric.

  • Likes:  Shorter posts 3.72% higher
  • Comments:  Longer posts 49.25% higher
  • Reach: Shorter posts 1.65% higher

Trucks:

Longer posts won all categories.

  • Likes: Longer posts 8.69% higher
  • Comments: Longer posts 66.67% higher
  • Reach: Longer posts 11% higher

Varying results such as these are why the Social Media Lab insists on testing with various accounts. If we had just tested on one account, our results would not have been accurate to draw a conclusion from.

But when we average the accounts together, we see a clearer picture as to which post length performed better and can draw a conclusion.

Combined Averages:

  • Likes: Even (no winner)
  • Comments:  Shorter posts 4.55% higher
  • Reach: Short posts 0.07% higher

Data-Based Conclusion Comparing Short vs Long Instagram Posts

Our goal was to determine whether shorter Instagram posts (under 140 characters) or longer Instagram posts (over 140 characters) got more engagement and reach on Instagram.

My hypothesis was that shorter posts would be the winner. And I was right on this one— but barely.

Don’t change your marketing strategies on Instagram just yet.

best instagram post lengthLikes were dead even. Comments were just slightly higher, and reach was basically even.

These results lead me to conclude it doesn’t really matter what your character length is on Instagram.

Something to keep in mind regarding Instagram posts, after 72 characters on the Instagram feed the “read more” option appears. Users aren’t seeing the longer posts unless they choose to tap on them to read.

Here is an example of this on a post by Kelly Mirabella:
length of instagram posts

 

I would advise making the text in your post be catchy, relevant to the photo, and enticing enough to motivate your followers to tap the “read more” option.

Our data shows no real advantage of using short or long posts on Instagram. Focus on the quality of your post, not the character count.

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