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Experiments

Experiment: Do Long-Form X Posts Give You More Reach?

What gives you better reach on X: a good old-fashioned tweet thread or one long-form post? Here’s what we found.

Sam Lauron January 31, 2024
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Among the many recent changes to X, formerly Twitter, one of the biggest is the ability to share long-form posts.

You’ve probably seen them in your feed already — these long-form posts can be up to 25,000 characters and can even be formatted with bold and italicized texts.

Long-form posts are one of the features you get when subscribing to X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue).

With the introduction of long-form posts, does this mean threads are a thing of the past? If you’ve been considering investing in Premium, I ran an experiment to discover which format earns more reach on the platform.

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Hypothesis: Long-form posts will earn more reach than X threads

My hypothesis for this experiment is that long-form posts will earn more reach than threads on X. Why? The answer is simple: Long-form posts are a feature of the new X Premium subscription.

It’s safe to assume that X will want to prioritize posts from paying users to reward them with a boost and incentivize others to subscribe.

In fact, X even states that one benefit of subscribing is receiving prioritized rankings in replies. This means posts that subscribers interact with will receive a small boost, and their comments will also be ranked higher on the post.

While threads have become an effective storytelling method to incorporate into your Twitter marketing strategy, long-form posts could change the game.

But the question is, if long-form posts earn more reach, how significant will that reach be? Will it impact engagement? Let’s find out.

Note: I conducted this experiment before X announced its new Premium tiers. X now offers three tiers: Basic, Premium, and Premium+.

Methodology

I ran this experiment on my personal Twitter account. For context, I have a small following (<400 followers), I’ve been a user since 2012, and I did not have a Premium subscription before running this experiment.

I started by publishing three different threads with takeaways from three articles I’ve written for various websites. I posted them a couple of days apart and reviewed their performance after another few days.

After I analyzed my threads, I started my X Premium subscription. Once I had the subscription, I published three long-form posts with takeaways from three different articles I’ve written (from the same websites I used for the threads).

I made sure every thread and long-form post was written in a similar style, tone, and subject so they could be fairly compared. I also chose not to include any hashtags because I didn’t want them to impact the visibility of my posts. This experiment is about measuring the reach of threads versus long-form posts, after all!

I built these posts around blog posts for a couple of reasons. First, I knew I could easily repurpose the long-form blog content into threads and long-form posts. Second, I think most people reading this are curious about using the platform to distribute longer content like blog posts and articles and wondering which format to invest time in.

Results

So, how did my threads and long-form posts perform? Here are the results:

PostsReachEngagement rate
Thread 18,155 impressions4.72%, 385 engagements
Thread 2247 impressions7.29%, 18 engagements
Thread 32,381 impressions6.05%, 144 engagements
Long-form post 1169 impressions5.92%, 10 engagements
Long-form post 2788 impressions2.54%, 20 engagements
Long-form post 310,889 impressions7.03%, 765 engagements

At a quick glance, the impressions were all over the map. Some only had a couple hundred, while a few others reached thousands.

I also had a breakout tweet for each format: my first thread earned over 8,000 impressions, and my last long-form post earned over 10,000.

Let’s break down each of these tweets in more detail to see what contributed to these results.

Thread #1

For my first thread, I strung together four tweets and included a link to a blog post I’d written.

Since we’re focused on the impact of reach for this experiment, I’m only including the metrics for the first post in each thread.

We can assume that the impressions on the first post equate to the number of people who saw the thread in their feed, whether or not they chose to expand and engage with the rest of it.

Source

After about a week, I checked the performance of this post in Hootsuite Analytics. Here are the results:

The tweet earned 8,155 impressions, received 385 total engagements, and generated an engagement rate of 4.72%.

I created this thread around a blog post I wrote about how to become a freelance writer. Freelance topics always resonate with my small but mighty audience on X, so it’s no surprise that this one received a good amount of reach and engagement.

The website I wrote the article for (Polywork) retweeted it, which helped this tweet reach their audience of over 26,000. There were also a handful of retweets from other freelancers and freelance-related accounts, which undoubtedly contributed to the number of impressions.

Onto the next thread!

Thread #2

For my second thread for this experiment, I followed a similar format.

I based my thread on a blog post I wrote for Hootsuite. I led with an attention-grabbing hook, followed that up with several short takeaways from the article, and ended the thread with a link to the blog post.

Source

Here are the results of this thread:

It earned 247 impressions, received 18 total engagements, and generated an engagement rate of 7.29%.

As you can see, my reach was much lower on this thread compared to the last one. There were a couple of possible explanations for this.

For starters, the account I mentioned (Hootsuite) didn’t interact with it, which is totally understandable. Hootsuite’s Twitter feed is full of social media tips and updates directly from their own site, so they don’t typically retweet content from other accounts.

Second, the topic of my post isn’t as relevant to my audience of fellow freelancers. This thread got a comment and a couple of likes but no retweets, which impacted the impressions.

That being said, these metrics are in line with my standard performance on X, formerly Twitter. My tweets usually have a reach in the 150-200 impressions range.

Thread #3

For my final thread, I shared another freelance-related article I wrote for Wethos.

I led with a personal statement and followed it up with a few takeaways from the article, along with a link to the blog post.

Source

I went into Hootsuite to find out the results of my final thread for this experiment. This tweet got 2,381 impressions, earned 144 engagements, and generated a 6.05% engagement rate.

Like my first thread, this tweet resonated with people who are also freelancers or wish to be. This led to a decent number of likes, comments, and even bookmarks.

While no one reposted this thread, it’s safe to assume that since users’ liked tweets now show up in the feed, the number of likes contributed to the over 2,000 impressions.

The next step in my experiment is to see how long-form posts perform when it comes to reach.

Long-form post #1

Before I published long-form posts, I subscribed to X Premium to gain access to the long-form feature.

With X Premium, you can share posts with up to 25,000 characters. In theory, this can be a great way to repurpose long-form content from your blog or share more in-depth thoughts that can’t be communicated in the standard 280 characters.

However, only the first 280 characters of your long-form post will be visible on the timeline, which means your first sentence or two must be catchy.

Premium subscriptions also include the ability to undo a post, edit a post up to one hour after it’s published, and customize the text format with bold and italicized text options.

Once I subscribed to Premium, I created my first long-form post. To fairly compare these posts with my threads, I shared three different blog posts from the same three companies I mentioned the first time. This ensured I was sharing similar content and could focus on the reach.

My first long-form post was a repurposed blog post from another Hootsuite article I wrote. I played around with the text formatting options available with Premium to improve the readability and make each point stand out.

Source

I analyzed this post’s performance using Hootsuite Analytics. Here are the results of my first long-form post:

The post earned 169 impressions, received 10 engagements, and generated a 5.92% engagement rate.

If we compare this post to my previous thread that mentioned Hootsuite, they performed similarly, but the thread ultimately had better reach. This post, like the thread, didn’t receive any reposts, so I didn’t get an extra boost in impressions.

Long-form post #2

I shared my second long-form post a couple of days after my first one. I based this post on another article I wrote for Polywork. I opted not to use text formatting for this one to see if that had any impact on reach and engagement.

Source

Here are the results:

This post received 788 impressions, 20 engagements, and earned a 2.54% engagement rate.

When compared to the thread I wrote using a Polywork article, this one earned less reach and fewer engagements.

The brand I mentioned did repost this post, which boosted impressions by a bit, but not nearly as much as my first thread about freelancing. This tells me that the topic matters, regardless of the format.

Long-form post #3

My final long-form post for this experiment was another freelancing topic. I knew that this subject helped my threads reach more people, so I wanted to see how it would perform as a long-form post.

I repurposed a blog post I wrote for Wethos and used my extra space to create a list of freelance communities that freelancers would find useful.

Source

Here are the results of this post, according to Hootsuite Analytics.

The post earned a whopping 10,889 impressions, generated an engagement rate of 7.03%, and got 765 total engagements.

This was by far the most successful post in terms of reach and engagement. Interestingly, none of the accounts I mentioned interacted with this post, and yet it still earned over 10,000 impressions.

A metric I found interesting is that over 80 people bookmarked this post. While this doesn’t necessarily relate to reach, it’s indicative that this content really resonated with people.

What do the results mean?

So, what’s the verdict?

It was a close call. Both formats performed well with certain topics while other subjects never gained momentum.

But if you add up the total number of impressions from each format used in this experiment, the long-form posts earned more reach than X threads.

Here are the total number of impressions:

Total impressions for threads: 10,783

Total impressions for long-form posts: 11,846

My biggest takeaway is that the content of your post matters more than the format. In addition to writing an interesting or attention-grabbing hook, the rest of the post needed to be useful or relatable in order to engage and reach more people.

Here are a couple more insights from my experiment:

Top takeaways

More retweets mean more reach

One thing’s for sure: whether it was a thread or a long-form post, retweets significantly helped boost my reach. I have a small audience on X — currently a little over 370 followers — so retweets are essential to get my content in front of more people.

There’s a reason retweets are an effective Twitter hack. If you have a small audience like me or are just getting started, retweets and quote tweets will help you increase visibility and grow faster. Plus, retweets extend the life of your posts, which means you can rack up even more impressions over time.

To increase your chances of earning retweets, the content of your posts matters more than the format. Your first tweet in a thread or your first sentence of a long post needs to hook your audience and encourage them to keep reading.

Whether your content is educational or entertaining, it should feel like you’re telling a story and having a conversation if you want more people to engage organically.

Know your audience

For my small audience, freelance tips and topics perform better than anything else. Knowing this, I’m confident I can create a post on X in either format — thread or long-form post — and as long as it’s about freelancing, I have a better chance of earning more reach and engagement than other topics.

As a brand on X, take note of what your audience interacts with. While reach is an important metric to track for this purpose, there are other interactions that can be good indicators of how your audience feels about a post.

For example, several of my tweets in this experiment were bookmarked, which tells me that people thought the idea or content was worth saving for later. I also grew my following from 330 to 378, which, while still small, is a greater increase than I typically get in a normal month.

Sharing content that they’re most interested in — and doing it in a natural, distinct brand voice — is the key to organically getting more followers on Twitter.

Ultimately, if you’re considering investing in X Premium, it can be worth it if you want to increase your reach and distribute longer content. Even if you don’t subscribe to Premium just yet, threads are still an effective way to tell an engaging story on the platform.

Either way, the key to marketing your brand on X is to understand what topics and content styles resonate with your target audience. Once you do, you’re bound to get more retweets, reach, and engagements.

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By Sam Lauron

Sam Lauron is a freelance writer who works with B2B and SaaS companies in marketing, ecommerce, business, and related tech. With a background in editorial writing and content marketing, she uses her communications and research skills to produce helpful content that inspires and informs readers.

Read more by Sam Lauron

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