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Target the Best Time to Tweet and Share

The goal of social media communication is to get as many eyes on your message as possible, right? Right. We’re aiming for interaction — we want people to reply to, reshare, or retweet our posts. Otherwise we’d all be talking into a void, and the internet wouldn’t be nearly as fun and engaging. Plus the production of cat memes would drastically taper off, and then what would we do with all of our time?

And so it follows that many folks try to post in their social networks at peak times — generally speaking, these start around the middle of the day and tend to crest in the late afternoon. For Twitter specifically, max usage is usually around 5:00 p.m., and for Facebook, max usage is around noon.

This makes sense. The more active your social channels are, the more people are going to see and interact with your post.

Have you got your timing right?

Right?

Well, hold on there, social media cowboy (or cowgirl). What if this isn’t the right technique after all? What if you’re risking friends and followers passing over your peak-usage post because there’s simply too much information for them to parse? Think about it. If your gentle social media stream has temporarily turned into a raging torrent, it’s all too easy to miss things, or give up and check out of the mess entirely.

Add to this the fact that third-party applications provide different ways to read your feeds — Tweetdeck, for example, shows you tweets in chronological order instead of showing the newest first (it picks up where you left off, which could be hours or days ago) — and the fact of time difference (those on the east coast are just starting to head to lunch when the west-coasters are still rubbing sleep out of their eyes), and the social media rules about targeting “peak usage time” start to seem slippery indeed.

The answer? Is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But there are a few tips you can follow in order to help maximize your impact in your social media:

Get help.

There are numerous applications out there that aid you in finding out who’s reading when.

For Twitter, check out WhenToTweet ($4.99), which measures both the success of your past tweets and when most of your followers are online to graph the best time of day to tweet. TweetStats (free) shows you when you are most active, and provides a density chart that illustrates what times of day the most tweets appear in your stream. TweetWhen (free) measures what days and times you get the most retweets per tweet. And Tweriod (free) is a comprehensive tool that uses a variety of parameters based on your usage and the usage of your followers to provide you with stats.

Facebook is a bit of a different animal. Because Facebook’s dynamic algorithm chooses which posts will be most interesting depending on the individual, your post might not appear as a top story for some fans. Moreover, most posts drop out of the Facebook News Feed after a variable period of roughly 10-30 hours, but the “reshare” button can extend the life of a post for however long users keep resharing. Confusing, right?

Fortunately, there are tools available to help you sort things out. First, you can turn to Facebook’s built-in analytics, called Insights, which tracks impressions-per-post, comments-per-post, and likes-per-post. Using Insights, you can experiment with different posting times and track the results in Excel. Over time, you’ll get an idea of which posts performed the best at which times of day.

If the thought of all this hand-tracking makes you want to weep into your coffee, you can seek out services to do all this work for you — for a fee. PageLever (starting at $34/month) tracks your fans, content, daily interactions, and level of engagement. Skyttle (free trial, varying cost afterward) tracks metrics and activity across several pages, provides the ability to compare your pages/brands, and identifies your fans’ hot topics.

Experiment.

Try tweeting and sharing at different times on different days, and watch your resulting stats. Do you get more clicks when you post during on- or off-hours? On weekdays or on weekends?

Plan in advance.

The Boy Scouts got this one right. Once you have an idea of what works, prepare to make it happen. If you find, for example, that your tweets and shares get the most exposure when you post at 6:00 a.m. and you’re not a morning person, well, there’s an app for that. Hootsuite, TwAitter, and SocialOomph are among those applications you can use to schedule both Twitter and Facebook posts in the future.

In summary, no rule of social media is ever unbreakable. You know your industry and network base best. By keeping a careful eye on your stats and using a few tools, you can figure out your own optimal social media timing — and it might just be different from the norm.

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