It’s the conundrum of social media marketers everywhere: you’ve got great content to share on your social networks, but if no one sees it, does it do any good? And that’s why discovering the best (and worst) times to post on your social media sites is a critical part of your overall digital marketing success.
When it comes to discovering the optimal posting time on a social media platform, you generally have three options: trial and error, data analysis or implementing others’ research. Let’s dive in and take a quick look at each—then you can be the judge about what works best for you.
Trial And Error (and A/B Testing)
Experimentation and testing is not only fun, it’s imperative. And we’re believers in the adage that if you’re not measuring (and testing), well, you’re not marketing. We’re huge fans of A/B testing all kinds of content we produce for ourselves and for our clients. We test tweets, blog post headlines, email subject lines–you name it, we test it. We also test how content posted at one time of day performs against how the exact piece of content performs at a different time that same day, or on another day completely.
If you’re not yet testing how your content performs, start. Make sure you are tracking what’s working (and what’s not) so that you can use those findings to guide your strategy.
Let your data be your road map. Social platforms and a wide variety of tools you could use provide lots of data you can tap into to judge the efficacy of your posts, their collective reach, how your audience responds to them and whether or not they are driving the desired action (and hopefully there is one). Look at your Google Analytics regularly, especially the social analytics component of GA. We wrote a comprehensive post on how awesome those are, back when Google launched Social Reports as an addition to Google Analytics and we use it all the time. I’ll link the post at the bottom of this page for you to reference if you’re not yet familiar with and using Social Reports.
Check your Facebook page insights regularly and do monthly reporting so you can have a look at month-over-month performance (which is sometimes annoyingly difficult to do on Facebook), look at your LinkedIn Company Page Insights and look at your link performance analytics for Twitter in a dashboard like Hootsuite. That way, you’ll use data that pertains to your specific audience, the preferences of which may sometimes differ from generalized research on tactics like the best and worst times to post. Past data reports, for example, indicate that Facebook posts are largely ineffective at night and on weekends. Yet your audience may prefer posts during that time, which is why it’s so important to gather and analyze your own data.
While we can’t over-emphasize the importance of collecting and analyzing and using your own data, it’s sometimes helpful to turn to third-party data as a starting point. Take, for example, an infographic from Social Caffeine that discusses the best and worst times to post to social networks. Here are a few of their findings:
- Facebook posts do the best between 1 and 4 p.m. and the worst from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and on weekends.
- Tweets are most likely seen between 1 and 3 p.m. Traffic tends to diminish after 3 p.m. Social Caffeine recommends not tweeting after 3 p.m. on Fridays.
- LinkedIn posts tend to do well between 7 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. Overnight posts between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. don’t drive much traffic.
- The golden hours on Google+ are 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Traffic starts to fade after 5 p.m., making 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. the worst times to post.
And I’d be remiss not to mention that there a multitude of sources out there, all giving different advice (based on their own findings) about best and worst times to post. Make sure you understand that what’s best is what you test and discover what works for you and your audience—there’s no one universal right answer. No matter what the experts say.
I participated in a discussion in a LinkedIn group where people were talking about whether or not members duplicated content shared on Twitter. Almost to a person, the group indicated they never replicated content and, in fact, they thought it was spammy to do so. I wholeheartedly disagreed, because it’s impossible for most people on any given day to see all of the content shared online. So to share content (which is often a marketing message of some sort) only once – on any social network, and expect it to have an impact and drive action is, well, somewhat naïve.
So, knowing what your audience likes, when they like it, testing your messaging (both the construction and wording of your messages and the timing of when they are shared) is truly the path to any kind of successful return on what you’re doing for and with your brand in social media channels. And the audiences across channels all have different preferences and keeping that in mind as it relates to your brand is important.
What do you think? When it comes to determining the best and worst times to post on social networks, what sort of information sources do you use? And if you’ve analyzed your own data, do you find your audience’s preferences tend to contradict the generalized findings of third-party data?
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