The Science of Social Timing
You’ve been working on a social media post for at least an hour or two – thinking through your points, actually writing them down, editing the post, tweaking it, rereading it to see that it flows perfectly, fact-checking, confirming the validity of your ideas, and to top it all off, finding the perfect picture to go with the post.
After putting in all this work, you are confident that the post will attract lots of engagement.
So you hit the send button and sit back waiting to respond to the comments.
Unfortunately, several hours down the line, your post has only gotten a handful of likes, and just a single comment.
Looking at the post, you just can’t believe it. You spent a lot of mental energy and burned a lot of precious time crafting that post.
The post is not the problem. You know it is fantastic, a masterpiece.
You know you poured your heart into it, that you spoke directly to your audience, that this is exactly the kind of post people gravitate towards, the kind of post that converts silent followers into commenters. In spite of all that, the post tanked.
Whatever could you have done wrong?
Well, have you considered that maybe you published your post at the wrong time of day?
If you had been a little more patient and posted at a more opportune time, you would be swimming in a sea of likes and comments, rather than the silence you’re experiencing right now.
Yes, when it comes to posting on social media, timing matters. A lot.
So, which is the best time to post something on social media? Why is timing so important? Does the same timing apply to all social platforms, or are there different optimum times depending on the platform?
Read on to find out.
WHY TIMING IS IMPORTANT WHEN POSTING
1. Get More Engagement
This is a no-brainer. If you post at a time when most users of the social media site are online, you will get more engagement. People can only like, share, or comment on the posts they see.
Most social platforms allow the latest posts get more eyeballs than posts that have been around for a while.
It is therefore best to post when there is a maximum number of eyeballs on the site to ensure your fresh post gets as much attention as possible.
All the major social media sites and apps are increasingly algorithm-driven.
The algorithms are more favorable to posts with a lot of engagement compared to those with little engagement.
This means you could have the best post ever, but if you post at the wrong time, when there are not enough receptive people online to see it, the post will not be a success.
On the other hand, if you post at a time when a large percentage of your audience is online, the post is likely to get more likes, comments, and shares.
After that, the algorithms kick in – the more engagement a post gets, the more it gets rewarded by the algorithm, so it is given more attention for longer while posts with less engagement fall by the wayside.
Engagement creates momentum, but the way to set the ball rolling in the first place is to get your timing right.
2. Differences in Time Zones
Timing is not necessarily clear-cut. A lot also depends on what time zones your core audience lives in. It could be daytime in one time zone but nighttime in another.
If you run a blog, the blog analytics tools tell you which countries your readers are reading your blog from.
Using that information, you can figure out what time is most optimal for your core readers depending on where your target audience are.
Of course, you might have to experiment a little before figuring out the best timing for a particular target audience.
If you are targeting people in the United States, for instance, there are 6 time zones to consider. They are (with an example city provided):
- Pacific Standard Time (PST) – Los Angeles
- Central Standard Time(CST) – Chicago
- Eastern Standard Time (EST) – New York
- Mountain Standard Time (MST) – Salt Lake City
- Alaska Standard Time (AKST) – Anchorage
- Hawaii Standard Time (HST) – Honolulu
If your content is both for domestic and international audiences, you have to figure out the most optimal timing for your particular audience.
Analytics tools can help you see what countries most of your audience comes from. With that information, you can craft an effective posting schedule.
3. Target Audience
Timing is not just about getting the maximum amount of eyeballs on your content. They also have to be the right eyeballs.
For instance, if your target audience is business executives, posting at a time when most business executives are with work rather than idly scrolling down a social media site means that majority of them will not see your post.
Sure, many other people – non-executives in this case – might see your post, but the post will not gain any significant engagement or success, since the people seeing the post at that time do not really care about your content.
If your target audience is potential clients who may be off the computer all day (like hair stylists, car salespeople, and medical professionals), it’s best to avoid posting during working hours and post during lunch or after work hours.
Post at the wrong time and you will get the wrong people (not your target audience) seeing your post.
Since they don’t care about your content, they won’t engage with the post, which in turn means that the social algorithms will consider it to be a low quality post and therefore allow the post to fall below other posts driving more significant engagement.
You therefore need to be very strategic and intentional in the times you post your content.
4. Not All Days Are Made Equal
Timing is also about the day of the week you are posting on.
Social media users are more active on some days than others.
For instance, users interested in professional content will be more active on weekdays, while users interested in entertainment content will be more active during the weekends.
The best days are determined by a variety of factors such as your audience, your message, and the medium you are using.
The best days for posting on Facebook or Instagram might not be the best days for posting on Twitter or on your blog.
This is especially relevant to marketers and anyone selling a product online. You are likely to see an increase in sales if you publish your most critical posts on the most optimal days and times.
If you are selling or marketing something, always remember to include a call to action in the post. This ensures that you don’t waste all the traffic your post attracts.
Remember that there is no single perfect day of the week that will always work for you.
There is no magic day that works for everyone.
Things are ever in flux when it comes to social media and online marketing. You have to keep experimenting and tweaking to find the best days for your audience, content, and medium.
5. Good Timing Enables Conversations to Happen on Your Post
Posting is not the only aspect of social timing you must keep in mind.
Creating an audience is not just about posting. You also have to forge a rapport with your audience by replying or reacting to the comments of your fans and followers.
Real-time interactions between you and your audience will only happen when you are online at the same time as your followers.
Being online at the same time as your followers and quickly responding to their comments can lead to interesting conversations happening on the comment section of your post, leading to even more comments, likes, shares and views for the post.
An interesting post may convert a silent follower into a vocal one, but it is interaction with your followers that creates an engaged audience.
This is especially important for anyone marketing a product. You are more likely to make a sale if you reply to a query instantly. If you wait too long before responding, the person may lose interest and move on.
Post at times when your followers are most likely to not only read the post, but also engage with it via comments.
When you post at a high-traffic time, your followers will start conversations on the comment section. They will ask questions or give thoughts, or maybe even make a joke.
Over time, these followers will create a community that eagerly awaits your posts because your posts have become points of connection for them.
BEST POSTING TIMES FOR DIFFERENT SITES
Optimal posting times differ for different social media sites. This is because social media sites exist for different purposes and each attract a different kind of audience.
For instance, LinkedIn exists for professional networking while YouTube exists to disseminate video content.
The person on LinkedIn wants to connect with people who can help him or her in his professional life, while the person on YouTube wants to find interesting content.
People on LinkedIn are not likely to visit the site at night, when the work day is over, but people on YouTube will definitely flock to the platform at night to watch entertaining or educative videos.
This means that a high-traffic time on one platform could be a low-traffic time on another. Knowing the high-traffic and low-traffic times of the social media sites you’re working with will ensure your posts attract as many eyeballs as possible.
However, you should also realize that you cannot rely on the same set of tactics indefinitely.
Social media is highly dynamic, and what worked a few months ago may not yield success today. You have to be adaptable in your approach to social media marketing. And make sure to learn all current social marketing statistics.
Furthermore, just because a certain approach or timing worked for others, it doesn’t mean it will work for you as well. You see, a lot depends on the audience you have, your business, industry, and the overall communication and engagement styles you prefer.
As we have pointed out, the best timing for each platform is unique to the platform and can also be idiosyncratic to your particular content and audience.
For that reason, we have chosen a reputable authority in digital marketer Neil Patel, and tested his recommendations.
What we like about Neil’s recommendations is that unlike other authorities on the matter, he does not provide specific times and dates.
Neil understands only too well the dynamism of social media – what worked yesterday may not work today. Recommending definite times and dates would not be useful to you, because who knows when you are going to read this post?
To ensure the advice we give in this post is evergreen, we have chosen Neil Patel’s expert recommendations on how to handle timing for different mediums. Below are his recommendations.
1. Twitter Timing
Twitter is one of the most active social media sites. Since tweets consist of only 280 characters (this was doubled from 140 in 2018), Twitter users are motivated to post often and at a rapid pace.
Neil Patel advises content creators and marketers on Twitter to post regularly, at least once every hour for all the seven days of the week.
As we have said, Twitter is extremely active, so every post you make has to fight tooth and nail for your audience’s attention.
While it is true that even on Twitter there is a peak time when posting is most optimal, Neil explains that on Twitter you must engage with people around the world at all times of day and night.
Yes, it is impossible for you to post every single hour of the day – you must sleep too, we know.
Use social media analytics tools to see what times your tweets get the most attention and engagement.
You can then ramp up your activity during those times or reserve your most important posts for those times.
A good example of an analytics tool for Twitter is Union Metrics, which comes with a Twitter Assistant tool that gives you customized recommendations on things such as best time to tweet, hashtags that drive most impressions, and best content types to post on Twitter.
Another good tool is Tweriod, which analyses your account and lets you know the times at which you are going to receive the most exposure for your tweets. Tweriod’s reports break down this information into daily and hourly periods when you can expect the highest engagement for your tweets.
2. Facebook Timing
Any digital marketer cannot afford to ignore Facebook.
While it depends on your audience (teenagers are more likely to be on Instagram than Facebook), Facebook is the acknowledged big dog in the world of social media. It has billions of users and dominates the social media space.
If you play your cards right, you can capture a bigger chunk of followers on this platform by curating great content and posting it at high-traffic times.
Facebook is especially great for selling. If you have a product to bring to market, you should have Facebook on your list of platforms to market the product on.
Most people are on Facebook, so capitalize on that with great content and strategic timing.
The best way to determine the best time to post on Facebook is using Facebook’s analytics tool. The tool will help you determine what timing works best for your content’s audience.
The advantage you get with Facebook is that Facebook itself provides the analytics tool. You can find it by logging into your Facebook page and selecting Facebook Page Insights.
Using the tool, you can observe the times when your followers are most active, the time zones they post from, and more useful data.
To get the most optimal posting time, you will need to use data from the Facebook analytics tool to experiment and find out the time that works best for you and your audience.
3. Instagram Timing
If you are on Instagram, it’s a bit easier for you because the Instagram posts have a longer life expectancy than posts on Twitter and Facebook.
However, that does not mean you should rest on your laurels as gradually more and more content is being put out on Instagram.
As with Twitter and Facebook, your best strategy when posting on Instagram is using an analytics tools such as Iconosquare. Such a tool will show you the location of your followers.
Using that information, post several times during the day, timing your posts such that it’s morning in the time zones of majority of your followers.
The idea is simple: a lot of people log into Instagram first thing in the morning.
4. Email Timing
Email marketing is a reliable and lucrative way to engage with an audience, and it gives you a good return on investment.
For every dollar you invest in email marketing, you get 38 dollars. Email marketing is the king of digital marketing as it consistently gives the biggest returns. Email also has a higher conversion rate than search and social.
Email is therefore an excellent medium for sharing content and engaging with leads and customers. To ensure your content gets noticed, just as with social, you must strategically pick the best time to post your content.
Factors such as type of content and your specific industry will affect timing.
However, we recommend mornings as a time when you are likely to get a higher engagement rate compared to posting in the afternoons or evenings.
Whatever you do, don’t post email content at night – unless of course your target audience is in a different time zone.
Where email marketing is concerned, the period between 10 pm and 6 am is considered a “dead zone” because few people check their emails at night. Even if they do check their emails, they are more likely to concentrate on personal messages and ignore marketing messages.
On the other hand, in the mornings people are more likely to open marketing emails as they are not yet very busy. As the day progresses, they become more and more busy and may not have the time to read a marketing message.
You can check your own email account and you will definitely notice that most marketing messages are sent to you early in the morning.
Send yours just as early, so your audience can have something to read right out of bed, at the breakfast table, or during their morning commute, before they get to their office and get too busy to read marketing emails.
5. Blog Post Timing
Of all the platforms you can use for posting content, your blog posts are going to have the longest lifespans. A Facebook post is lucky to last a few days.
A tweet disappears even faster. A blog post, on the other hand, can remain evergreen for year.
You can re-share a blog article you posted in 2012 and it will still get lots of hits today, if it has an eye-catching headline and good, evergreen content.
New readers on your blog can also scroll through your archives and read all your posts.
If such is the case with blogs, is timing even relevant? How often should you publish on your blog and at what time?
Neil Patel recommends publishing at least 16 articles every month, which translates to about 4 posts a week. The idea is to publish regularly. Consistency and frequency helps you build a loyal audience and drives up your blog traffic.
If you publish during peak times, you will have increased traffic on the blog and increased engagement, but you will also be competing for attention with so many other content creators.
On the other hand, if you publish during downtimes, such as the night, competition for attention will decrease, but you will have less traffic on your blog.
Owing to the fact that blog posts do not expire quickly, you can focus on promotion and sharing of the posts on different channels. Timing is not as big a factor in this case as it is on Facebook or Twitter.
Post timing is very important on social media and determines the amount of views and engagement your posts are going to attract.
The optimal post timing will depend on your content, your audience, your industry, the platform where you are sharing the post, and so on.
It is important to note that optimal posting time can be counter-intuitive. What you think might be the best time might not necessarily be the best time.
For instance, you might assume that weekdays at lunchtime is the most optimal time, but then in reality, it might turn out that the best time for that platform is in the early evening or early morning.
The point here is that you should not rely on guesswork.
Use analytics tools, and even then do not immediately accept the tool’s verdict until you have tested it like a hypothesis to see if that timing will yield consistently good results.
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