Keep It Simple, Readability Increases Engagement on Twitter: An Abstract
Today, virtually all organizations are confronted with substantial competition. This is especially the case in social media, where an increasing number of firms are vying for consumer engagement on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and others. To engage with consumers in social media, firms often communicate with consumers using brand posts on social media platforms.
On Twitter, for instance, these brand posts are referred to as “tweets.” For example, Disney recently tweeted “Friends as sweet as honey” on their brand page on Twitter. Consumers subsequently engaged with this brand communication via actions including “retweets,” “favorites,” and “replies.”
The present research identifies readability as a factor that affects the extent that consumers engage with brand communications in social media. The readability of text-based communications has long been known to affect consumers (Clark, Kaminski, & Brown, 1990; Sawyer, Laran, & Xu, 2008).
Readability refers to the ease with which consumers can process and understand written text. The Flesch formula generates a “reading ease score” and is perhaps the most common method for assessing the readability of written text (Flesch, 1948). The Flesch formula suggests that shorter sentences and words with fewer syllables increase reading ease.
As brand posts on Twitter are largely text based, we analyzed the readability of 5320 brand tweets over the period of 625 days. Consumer engagement was assessed by considering the number of retweets, likes, and replies associated with each brand post.
The results suggest that more readable brand posts on Twitter are associated with significantly more “favorites,” “retweets,” and “replies.” This finding has important implications for managers seeking to engage with consumers in social media. By simply increasing the readability of brand communications, managers are likely to experience higher engagement rates with consumers in social media. Notably, such a strategy does not imply that managers need to change the message being communicated; rather, they only need to consider how to convey the message using shorter sentences and smaller words.