So, you’ve set up your social accounts, and your online community is growing.
You’ve found that some posts have had loads of likes or retweets. You’ll have found that some have had none or hardly any.
The really annoying thing is that the posts that you expected to get lots of interest seemed to fall flat, whereas the silly stuff (like the Vine you did of the time a squirrel came up to the office window), got retweeted far and wide.
Essentially, a squirrel video got more interest than your Chief Executive’s latest big announcement. Try explaining that to your social-media-sceptical board of directors. #Awkward.
There’s a range of reasons why this may have been the case, some simple, some complicated. But just as they say the secret of comedy is timing, this can be just as true for social media postings.
So what is the best time or times to post stuff so it reaches as wide a proportion of your community as possible?
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself when planning your next campaign or big announcement:
1. Who am I aiming this at?
The first rule of communications is “know your audience”. And just because social media is seen as a new(ish) phenomenon, this rule still applies.
Are you looking to attract the community? Are you looking to reach members of your workforce who work out-of-hours? Do you want people to read it on their lunch hour? Are you hoping to reach people in other time zones? Is it an announcement that about your local road and rail network that will particularly affect commuters?
Or is it a new squirrel video that you’re just hoping to make people laugh with?
The nature of the content, and who it’s aimed at clearly impact on when to post for highest impact.
2. How “important” is it?
The squirrel video. You might post it once, and it might get nothing. Or you might get lucky and it’ll get loads of traction. You may decide to repost it, because it’s gone viral. You can’t really plan for this. It either strikes a chord or it doesn’t. That’s the nature of “viral” content.
But for the stuff that is considered of real significance to the organisation, this may require a bit more thinking about, and you may need to do some prioritising.
If it is, say, a major announcement from your Chief Executive that you want to see picked up as widely as possible, you will want to consider the timing a lot more carefully.
But, what about a third category? What if it’s tracking an ongoing emergency situation? The lesson here is to do it as often as possible. Your community will expect continual updates to issues affecting their services as they check their smartphones for updates. Your job is to make sure that you’re there with calm, authoritative information when they look for it.
3. Have I checked our analytics?
There’s loads of great analytical tools out there to check how well your social postings are being responded to. Facebook and Twitter in particular, have great analytics that give you loads of detail.
However, what we’re looking at here is when stuff gets seen rather than just whether it has been seen at all.
For this, you might want to check out a brilliant (free - up to a certain level) online tool called Followerwonk.
With this you can type in your Twitter handle, and see (among loads of other brilliant details) a full hour-by-hour breakdown of when your followers are most active. A quick analysis of this, and some scheduled posts via Musterpoint, and Hey Presto! You’re posting at times that suit your audience, and are most likely to get your stuff seen.
4. Have I looked at demographic trends?
Of course, as well as the highly variable factors described here, there are some bigger trends about when posts get seen.
This post on hubspot in particular sets out, in really simple to follow detail, when the best times to post are for the various main social channels you’re using.
It confirms a lot of the “it depends” factors listed in this post, but adds some really important insights, such as:
The best times to post on Facebook are 12:00 - 1:00 at the weekend, and 1.pm - 4pm Wednesday - Friday as people start thinking about winding down for the week, and start seeing what their friends are up to.
Twitter is most used during downtimes such as commutes and breaks - so it’s best to post 12pm - 3pm Monday to Friday, or in the evening after about 7.30pm once the evening chores are done.
LinkedIn is used mostly during professional working hours, and between 7.30-8.30am, as people either check in on new people they hope to meet that day, or despairingly look for a new job before the work day starts!
What this shows us is that it’s about what’s right for the audience of each channel, and putting their needs first.
Which is a lot like every other communications channel, when you think about it.
5. Have I scheduled multiple postings at key times that are right for my audience?
The real power (and challenge) of social media is how fast things move, and how things can quickly become out of date. So, really, the rule of thumb should be, as soon as it’s ready, post it.
However, if this doesn’t happily coincide with a time that is likely to get a huge amount of traction with your community, this doesn’t have to be the end of it. So post it again. And again. And again if necessary. Post it at midnight and 3am if necessary.
The good news is that, no, this doesn’t mean bringing a sleeping bag into work.
MusterPoint has a brilliant tool whereby you can schedule posts across all of your channels in advance, so once you’ve done a bit of analysis on the times you get most traction with your posts, you can make sure posts go out at those precise times. You can then analyse which ones were seen more and which ones led to calls to action.
It’s about being smart, and realising that there is nothing wrong with posting things multiple times.
So, as with much to do with social media, there are no easy answers, but if you stay audience-focused, and use the right tools, there are solutions out there to help boost your interaction rates.
Maybe next time your CEO’s announcement will do better than your Vine of a cute furry friend. But maybe there’s some things not even Musterpoint can help with...
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