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 Boomerang you did for Instagram 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 are a few questions to ask yourself when planning your next campaign or big announcement:
The first rule of communications is “know your audience”. 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 is aimed at clearly impact on when to post for highest impact.
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.
There are a lot of great analytical tools out there to check how well your social postings are being responded to. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (when you have a business profile) have great analytics built in 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 with follow up reports and you’re posting at times that suit your audience, and are most likely to get your stuff seen.
Of course, as well as the highly variable factors described here, there are some bigger trends about when posts get seen. This rough rule of thumb based on a lot of research (which we are not going into here gives these top level ideal posting times;
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.
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, keep posting and post again and again until you figure out what is the right time for your audience (not you).