Have you ever found yourself looking for “the one true best posting time” for your brand? As you can tell by the countless existing posts on the topic, many claim to have the answer, free for any social media professional to read. You don’t even have to read if you don’t want to, simply find an infographic offering the “best” posting time displayed graphically – there’s no shortage of them.
It’s seductive, the idea that there is a way to get a “free” boost to engagement just by posting at the right time of day (or night!) The truth is, there is no universal “best” posting time for any platform. This is fairly a no-brainer when contrasting the audience of a consumer lifestyle brand and that of a B2B IT provider. But what about two consumer lifestyle brands or two B2B IT brands? One can reasonably assume they may share similar posting times that correlate with peak engagement because they share similar audiences. The reality is you shouldn’t bank on identical “best” posting times for any two brands, even if they occupy the same niche. Each brand’s audience can be different enough that it’s dangerous to assume that they will see peak engagement at the same time.
Now after understanding that you’re still looking for something at least resembling a “best” time of day to post, don’t fear. There are ways to find out when a specific audience is most likely to see your post and shower you with “likes,” “shares,” and whatever else keeps community managers up at night.
Here are a few steps you can take to discover the best times to post for your own Twitter and Facebook accounts, using data from our agency Facebook and Twitter:
1. Eliminate any abnormalities.
Before you begin to analyze all the data you just pulled, you’ll want to clean it up a bit. What does this mean? We recommend eliminating any paid posts because their engagement will be higher due to the money put behind it. It won’t give you insight into your organic performance. In addition, if you had any large events that happened where social activity was heightened, use your best judgment on how you want to take this into account. Engagement may have been higher due to the event – which might not give you the exact representation you’re looking for.
2. Get friendly with your data.
The key to all of this lays within your own data. There is no better place to look than your own posts to find out when your audience is most tuned in. Twitter and Facebook offer full exports of post data that includes engagement metrics such as clicks, retweets, comments, etc. If you can, use the largest possible data set – the more data you have, the easier it will be to draw accurate conclusions. The ideal date range to pull from will be as large as possible while still timely.
3. Get your analysis on.
Now comes the good stuff. It’s time to dive into your data. Your main factors to look at will be post times (which Twitter and Facebook both provide) as well as engagement metrics. You can drill down to more specifics such as – top times for comments vs. likes or even impressions for when people are more likely to see your post, etc. For the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on overall engagements and times. Sort your data by the highest engagements. This will allow you to easily view which posts garnered the most interactions.
Once you have your data sorted, the easiest way to take a step back and find any outliers is to visualize your data. Tools like Tableau are perfect for this, but you can also chart out your data manually. Visualizing your data allows you to observe the trends that may be invisible in your day-to-day social media management. What you’ll get as an output is something that looks like this:
Here, we see that engagement in January 2016 peaked multiple times around the hours of 5:00 AM ET to 7:30 AM ET and 9 AM ET to 10:30 AM ET for Facebook and 4:50 PM ET for Twitter. You can also replicate this to reflect the best days for posts. Work with the data similarly but examine day versus time. For example, it may surprise you to find that posts on the weekend get a ton more action than those during the week. Overall, the data gives us some clues as to when to share our collections of industry news, charming office life shots, and glorious GIFS of Flappy the Dog.
4. Test it out.
Now that you have a working idea of when your posts are getting the most love, try out a schedule that reflects it. If you find that overall you begin to see more engagement based on your adjustments – great! Or if you don’t see much of a difference, it may be time to try out something new.
Repeat the above process of analysis periodically, and see if any of your hypothesized times of peak engagement continue to see higher than normal attention. If they do, then there is likely a relationship between that posting time and your audience’s time viewing and connecting with your content.
Ultimately, the best way to find out when to post for maximum exposure to your audience is to do the research yourself with your own data. Use caution when taking advice from outside resources who haven’t looked at your data or don’t know your audience. Every audience needs specific attention to assess their habits and patterns of engagement. Smart social media managers will need to stay true to honest analysis of their data, if they want to show up at the right time to catch follower’s “hearts.”
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