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timing (3)

It took listening to my own words in a Twitter conversation for me to realize that I had barely brushed over the most important aspect finding the right times to post on social media for business.

This is Part IV of the series on timing. Please read Part I, Part II, and Part III first.

While engaging with @Activyst, one of @MariSmith's Twitter fans, the ideas surrounding the differences in opinions about the best times to post became clear...

That's how the conversation started, but in my head I took it further. How would time zones affect timing? Audience type clearly affects it, especially when considering local businesses versus worldwide businesses. It's easy to simply say, "test it out," but are there best practices that can streamline the process and come up with conclusions faster? These questions led to these ideas...


Establishing a Baseline

Technically speaking, "test" shouldn't be the very first step. You must first analyze what's happening with current posts before trying to improve on them, so analyzing to create a baseline is an essential start. Social media analysis comes in many forms for brands, particularly on Facebook where success can manifest in different ways. Likes, comments, and shares are one measurement. Reach is another, and while it's often affected by the comments, likes, and shares, there are other factors that come into play. Those using Sponsored Posts, for example, may find that their ads perform better at different times than non-sponsored posts.


Facebook allows you to look back at the posts that were most popular. If you're using static posting times, it's possible to look back. You will have to count the posts to determine the exact times; for example, if you know you post at 5:30am, 10:30am, and 7:30pm, then you'll have to isolate the three posts during a particular day to know which was posted at what time since Facebook only shows you the date they were posted once it gets beyond 24 hours.

There's good and bad to the way that the Facebook news feed and advertising algorithms work. Because your past influences your future, it's often hard to go back too far to find success because the influencing factors have changed. You have more or fewer fans, you have been removed or added to news feeds, and the way that you posts become popular is in a constant state of change. Still, you'll need to start somewhere.

Once you have an idea of both the type of content that was most popular as well as the times that they were posted, it's time to make your first adjustments and start...



This is the easy part, actually. Start posting at different times and see what works best at which times. Keep track of your results, of course, and keep in mind a few factors:

  • It's not just about times but also days. Posting times differ from day to day, between weekdays and weekends, etc.
  • Take note of external factors. For example, if there are large trade shows in your industry at the time, it can affect what people are seeing and talking about on social media.
  • As long as the external factors are minimal, use a week for each test component. For example, this week you can post at 6:00am and 2:00pm. Next week you can try 5:30am and 2:30pm. Then, the following week you can go back to the initial 6:00am and 2:00pm, but this time you'll flip-flop the post types such as posting images in the morning and links in the afternoon.
  • Avoid analyzing in real time. There's no need to monitor your stats constantly. Wait for the week to be over before looking back at the data.
  • Stay consistent with your use of Sponsored Stories. The test won't work if you're promoting the Monday morning post one week and not promoting it the following week.

This entire process should be ongoing for a while. A month if often not enough to get a real feel for what works. Mix and match. Throw in additional posts every now and then. Most importantly, don't let the testing get in the way of business needs. If you have a big sale in a couple of weeks and you really want to make it successful, post more, advertise more, and make it happen.


This isn't very hard. It just takes patience and persistence. It's your business. They're your customers. Focus on your goals and let the data guide you. If it works, stick with it. If it can work better with some adjustments, try them. Analyze your results regularly and you'll have a much better understanding of how to reach the most possible people.

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They say timing is everything. In social media, quality of content is almost everything. The rest of it does come down to timing.

****This is Part II of the series on timing. Please read Part I first.****

There are two primary components to timing that should be considered when planning out what content to post. You must remember the type of content to post at the different times as well as the goals of the content itself. To do this, you have to keep a strong MAP (marketing action plan) in place to guide you in order to have the right posts going out at the right times.


Type of Content

The personality, fan base, and availability to monitor the social channels all make a huge difference in the specifics surrounding your posting, but here are some general rules to keep in mind:

  • Inspire in the morning. If your personality type is the kind that has you posting motivational quotes, positive affirmations, or even Bible verses, this should be the first thing that comes out of your social media mouth in the mornig. If you're not quite so "deep" in your business social media personality, starting off with something fun and entertaining works just fine.
  • Business in the middle. If you're posting 3 or more updates a day, the middle of the day is when these come to play. That doesn't mean lunch time - as stated in Part I, your best times for business posts actually avoid lunch. Post prior to 11am or after 3pm for your best results.
  • Be thankful in the evening. This is when you should be posting about others. It could be a charity you support, a customer testimonial, or even something from outside of your business such as industry news. If you have nothing like that top post in a day, resort back to entertaining or inspiring text or image posts. Remember the mentality of your fans at different points in the day. In the evening, they are hopefully home from work and enjoying their evening casually scanning their social media. They don't want business-oriented posts popping up at them.

There are always exceptions and these suggestions are more of a guide to get your thinking in the right place rather than hard rules. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Remember to take into account their mentality and likely location when seeing your updates. At night, for example, there's a decent chance that social media is happening as a second-screen experience. In other words, they may be watching television and surfing social during commercials. It's not a great time for hard-hitting business offers or long videos. Short videos, on the other hand, such as 30-second customer testimonials, can perform better in the evening than they do during the day.


Keeping Goals in Mind

As a proper MAP will dictate, you should be thinking ahead and planting seeds at the appropriate moments. For example, if you know you have a big sale coming up in a couple of weeks, you may want to post teasers about it every other day for a week, then every day leading up to it. This isn't the time to get boring; make them fun and increasingly informative whenever possible.


One of your goals may be to prompt your happy customers to write reviews on the various sites out there. This is hard to accomplish with social media, but there's a silver lining that has become more important lately. With Google, Yelp, and other review sites pulling down reviews left and right, it should be noted that the people who are able to be influenced to write reviews when prompted by social media channels are the highest quality. That's not to say that they'll write good reviews. It means that the personality type associated with these people is such that they are probably already active on the review sites and have a much better chance of having their reviews stick.


If, like many businesses, your goals with social media are strictly surrounding branding and name recognition, you have the luxury of posting at an extremely regular level. You could even schedule the majority of your posts well ahead of time. You also have the luxury of being able to post more often than businesses with goals that surround driving traffic to their website or landing pages.


This might sound odd, but if you are doing this strictly for the branding, you'll want to schedule your posts at the exact same time every day. Facebook batches images that are posted within 24 hours of the last one within an album. Unfortunately, they create albums for you based upon the source of the post. This includes scheduling with the native scheduling tool itself. So, if you are wanting to schedule 3 images a day, you'll get maximum exposure by scheduling them with three separate tools, including the native tool.


Posts that go up to itself manually are not constrained to these parameters. Unfortunately, everything else currently is, including mobile uploads, Instagram, and Pinterest (though Pinterest allows 2 posts in 24 hours before batching them).


As with the types of posts, this set of tips on goals is a miniscule idea-sparking teaser rather than a comprehensive guide. Because the goals of different businesses can be as diverse as the businesses themselves, it's important to put your own goals together (or contact us for some advice) based upon your specific business needs.


Days of the Week

If you want to get a leg up on your competitors, this is the easiest way to do it. Understanding when and how people are engaging with businesses on different days of the week yields some facts that surprise many (myself included).


The weekends are the untapped goldmine of social media for business. Fewer people check their social feeds on the weekends, but those who do check are much more active than they are during the week. Likes go up by a lot. People are more thoughtful on the weekends as well, meaning that they will watch longer videos, read longer posts, and check out entire albums rather than scanning through individual pictures as they do during the week.


Wednesdays weren't that bad just six months ago. Now, they're dropped below Thursday and Friday as the least engaging day of the week on social media. Don't even think about asking why - I have no idea. All I have is the data.


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Remember, you're a business. You're not welcome on social media as much as individuals, but that doesn't mean you can't accomplish your goals. You just have to do it right. Think of it like television advertising. We all believe we don't like commercials. That's a common stance. However, there are certain commercials that pop up that are entertaining or informative enough that we'll actually talk about them with friends. We may even look them up on YouTube to see them again. I'll leave you with one such commercial that I still watch every year or so since first seeing it during a Superbowl.

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I know it's the heart of football season and the beginning of basketball season, but baseball is the sport that truly helps to illustrate this particular post. On social media, not all times are created equal. It's important to know where and when to place your pitches to let your fans and followers hit home runs for you.


There have been much more scientific studies that detail this. I have to disagree with most of these because they ones I've seen have missed an important aspect or two. For the most part, they're basing their research on when people are most active on social media and the volume of posts happening at that time. Unfortunately, this is an incomplete data set. I've based my research strictly on business engagement - when are people willing to interact with the companies they like and follow.


Also, I've taken into consideration the science behind the Facebook feed itself. For example, one of the "sweet spots" that nearly every study I've seen skips the dead zone of 5:00am-5:30am. Fewer people are up and about checking their social media at this time, so it's not on the list. This is a huge mistake. Getting in line to appear on Facebook and Twitter feeds means posting at the moment or right before people pick up their smartphones, flip open their tablets, or switch on their computers to hit social media. Posts in the dead zone performed exceptionally well for businesses as they weren't shoved down on the feeds by the ever-important friend posts.


In other words, people saw and engaged with these posts first thing in the morning, setting up a nice day with quick likes, comments, and shares. This helps with posts throughout the day.


It's important to understand where this data originated. Since May, 2012, I've been researching with actual business pages about times, content, tools, etc. This has been a real-world study based on trial and error as well as result tracking. I've read the studies. I've guided my research around them and improved on them with months of testing. These aren't theories. I've seen it all working in action.


With that out of the way, let's go straight into the sweet spots:

  • 7:30pm-8:00pm - While most studies considered 5am as too early to post, most of them also considered 8pm as too late. Data shows differently. This wasn't the case in the beginning of my research; the times when people are engaging with businesses on social media has elongated. On 37 of 42 pages posting at this time, we received the highest number of likes and comments as well as retweets and reblogs for posts that happened between 7:30pm and 8:00pm starting in August. Prior to that, the numbers were better from 7:00pm to 7:30pm. This is contrary to daylight trends and did not see a change after the most recent clock change, so I can say with a near certainty that the change is based upon people either staying on social media longer or starting later in the evening. Either way, this sweet spot is a must-time to post, particularly with messages that are either not time-sensitive or relevant for the following day.
  • 5:00am-5:30am - Again, this time is contrary to other studies, but as I mentioned above it's shown to be an amazing time for businesses to post. Strangely, this was not the case for my personal posts; things that I personally post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and my other individual social networks do not perform as well as the business posts.
  • 5:30pm-6:00pm - Depending on the study, this is either too late or right at the end of the best times to post. Engagement was high for these posts and helped to set up the engagement on the later post.
  • 10:00am-10:30am - This falls well within the recommended posting times on most studies I've read and performed better than posts done earlier or later in the morning. Videos did better at this time than other times, something that makes one wonder what people are doing a couple of hours after they get to the office.

One glaring omission is early afternoon. Nearly every study I've seen proclaims this time as social media gold. It is if you're posting pictures of little Timmy sliding into 3rd base. It's not if you're a business. Your posts get lost, particularly with recent changes to the Facebook news feed algorithm. We ran afternoon testing on over 120 business profiles and found that they simply didn't reach the audience the way that morning and evening posts did.


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This post has been coming for a long time. For the sake of transparency, I should note that I've been "sitting on it" for a while and relishing in the poor data and bad studies that are guiding many others in the industry, but guilt won out and it became time to come clean.


At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to find your sweet spot. Just like in baseball, not every batter likes it right down the middle. Some like it high and inside. Others go yard to the opposite field when they get pitches low and away. Your business, your demographic, your fan base - those are the things that should determine when you post. This is only a guide.


In the next part of this series, we'll discuss ideas surrounding the types of things to post at different times as well as the importance of understanding the days. The weekend can be a flurry of activity for your business profiles, while Wednesday in general is awful - surprising facts when you consider that businesses generally post more on Wednesday than Saturday and Sunday combined. Stay tuned.

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