A lot of time and words are spent emphasizing the quality of your social media content. Great, well-written text plus strong imagery drives traffic, generates subscribers and brings in the bucks, or as the social media lexicographers euphemistically call it, conversions. Once you compose that scintillating Blog Opus No. 6 in D Minor, a Facebook revelation destined to be re-shared by millions or the tweet sure to be heard ‘round the world, up comes the next question: what is the best time to post social media updates?
Since the early days of social media (which still isn’t that long ago), people keep asking what’s the best time. Depending on the source, the trend for optimizing social business timing might seem to be a moving target. Luckily there’s plenty of respectable, accumulated Big Data to suggest some days and times may be better than others. But is there an ultimate answer to life, the universe and the perfect time to post? The data suggests probably, though your clickable mileage may vary.
In social media, time may or may not be on your side, but it is at your disposal and direction. And time is relative. The shelf life of your content (text, photos, images, videos, audio, etc.) varies by not only the time and day of posting, but also the social channel where your content is published.
Before you select the best time to post, a good place to start is the actual lifespan of your content. Did you know that the half-life of a link posted via Twitter is 2.8 hours? The folks who brought us bit.ly, probably the most popular of the link-shortening services, spend a lot of time studying such metrics. Since a very high number of posts have shortened links, the bean counters at Bitly parse at LOT of data to assess the duration and durability of just about any kind of post on any social channel. For those who skipped nuclear physics back in college, half-life is simply the time it takes for a quantity to drop to half of its value from a starting point. For Twitter, the half-life reflects the time a link will get half of the clicks it will ever receive. Of course, we don’t always know if those clicks lead to a read, conversion or a bounce.
It’s probably no surprise that Twitter posts have a relatively brief shelf life, considering the social channel now pushes out upwards of 17 million tweets per hour. Major events can create spikes in the data, such as the death of Bin Laden (12 million tweets/hour), the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Games featuring the Spice Girls (7 million tweets/hour). Love all things Apple? Sorry, the announcement of the iPhone 5 was slumming at 75,000 tweets/hour. How about Facebook? It fares a wee bit better. A link in your Facebook post has a half-life of 3.2 hours. Of course, if you have 4,632 Facebook friends with whom you have deeply meaningful and personal relationships (yah, right), you probably will be shaving off a few minutes from your half-life metrics. Would you be surprised that links to YouTube content have the greatest staying power? YouTube half-life = 7.4 hours. The conclusion from Bitly was more related to the type of content you post, than the channel where it is posted. Quality trumps the social platform.
Here’s a lesson from public relations: don’t post your best stuff during major international or national disasters, crises or breaking news stories. In my opinion, one of the most ill-advised strategies for publicly traded companies was the common practice of issuing major news announcements at the opening of stock market trading. Or issuing news at the start of a normal business day, such as exactly 8am or 9am (in any time zone). That effectively placed your news in a heavily competitive horserace with the odds of the Mega Millions lottery. It’s easy to confirm the news traffic jam: just ask anyone who works at a newswire service, such as Business Wire, Marketwire or PR Newswire. Based on real-world wire service metrics, you should be able to convince any company or client to avoid posting news “on the hour” or at the opening of market trading. (For you Douglas Adams fans, my favorite news release post time was 8:42am). And there are nuances to optimal post times. A Wall Street Journal reporter once offered the best time to pitch a story was Friday afternoon. Why? The Monday edition was put to bed, the newsroom was quiet and he was looking for ideas for the following week. Lesson: practical public relations timing strategies from the traditional media era can translate into your goal of optimizing visibility for social media posts. These days, we are the reporters (and news consumers).
So what’s the best time to post: weekday, weeknights or weekends? Unfortunately, if you survey enough reports you may find that the definitive answer is a bit murky. Frankly, nothing beats your own analytics (via Bitly, Argyle, HootSuite, SproutSocial, Google Analytics, etc.) to assess the posting times that work best for your content and your followers.
Bitly metrics may provide some guidance, and they are extensively quoted. For Twitter, Bitly rightly noted that you should assess the volume of people who are active in conjunction with the total number of posts vying for attention. Translation: pick a slow time with maximum user vigilance.
*Time Zone: Eastern. Source: Bitly
You will of course also find alternative views with lots of supportive data. For example, Po.st. suggests optimal times (Eastern time zone) for Facebook (5pm), Google+ (10am), Pinterest (11pm) and Twitter (1pm). Dan Zarrella of HubSpot says you should target 12pm and 7pm on Saturday for Facebook; for Twitter 5pm, midweek, weekends and off-peak hours.
Want to get granular by industry? According to LinchpinSEO it turns out that Saturday and Sunday are the ideal days to post for businesses that have pages in the following industries: advertising, automotive, consulting, consumer packaged goods, entertainment, finance, food & beverage, health & beauty (Monday too), non-profits, publishing, sports, and travel and leisure (which starts building from Thursday). Ironically, weekends get 69 percent higher interaction, but only 11 percent of page owners publish on weekends. Into Fashion? Target Thursday and Saturday. If you are in the general retail industry or technology, Monday is your day. Telecommunications? Friday, Sunday and Monday.
Mike Lewis, author of “Stand Out Social Marketing,” says your best day for overall engagement is Saturday. Best single post potential, Thursday from 1pm to 4pm. Is there is a best time of year to try to garner customer/prospect attention? Answer: according to Optify the first quarter of the new year is a good period for B2B social marketing.
Set the Big Data reports aside. Have you found an optimal time and day to post? Does weekday, evening or weekend make a difference?