We’re pretty keen on optimal timing for social media here at Buffer, and I figured it was high time I collected all the information we have about online communication into one place. I’ve collected research and stats on Twitter, Facebook, email and blogging to help you find the best time to communicate with others in each format.
The tricky thing I’ve come across is that since the Web is still so new, a lot of the research available to us is conflicting. We really need more time and more studies to get definitive answers about what works best, and the fact that our audience members are constantly changing their own activity patterns makes it even harder to work out for sure. Looking at the latest social media stats seems to only confirm that.
So my suggestion would be to use this guide as just that—a guide to help you work out what to test for in your own audience, so that you can see what actually works best in your specific case.
Let’s get into the stats then.
When I posted about Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, one of the factors I talked about was time decay. This is simply the age of your post: How long has it been since you posted it? With the recent introduction of Story Bumping, time decay matters a lot less than how relevant your story is to the user in terms of getting into their News Feed (i.e., does it get in from a user or a page they interact with often, or have interacted with recently). Still, it’s good to keep time decay in mind, since it does make some difference: You won’t see posts from three months ago in your News Feed today.
In terms of specific days and times to post on Facebook, here are some of the stats I found:
Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays.
I love the way this was explained in Buddy Media’s study: As they put it, "the less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook!"
Specific industries varied slightly according to which days of the week garnered the most engagement, but most of them update around the end of the week, from Wednesday to Friday.
Another study found that engagement was 32% higher on weekends, so the end of the week is definitely a good rough guide to start experimenting with.
The best time of day to post on Facebook is debatable, with times ranging from 1 p.m. to get the most shares to 3 p.m to get more clicks to the broader suggestion of anytime between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. It seems that this generally points to early afternoon being a solid time to post, with anytime after dinner and before work being a long shot.
Twitter is such a popular network for mobile users that it can be a bit tricky to lock down exactly when the best time to post is. Here are some suggestions from the research I’ve found:
Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends.
If you’re tweeting from your company account, you might want to keep this in mind, especially if engagement is what you’re looking for. Buffer can help you spread out your tweets to post at the optimal times, so you don’t even have to work weekends to take advantage of this! Click-through rates are generally highest on weekends, as well as midweek, on Wednesdays.
On the other hand, an Argyle Social study showed that weekdays provide 14% more engagement than weekends, so this is definitely one you’ll want to test on your audience.
When we look at the time of day, retweets have been shown to be highest around 5 p.m.
For click-throughs, the best times seem to be around noon and 6 p.m.
This could be due to lunch breaks and people looking for something to keep them occupied on the commute home after work.
There are lots of Twitter users who primarily use a mobile device—rarely loading up Twitter on their desktops. Twitter did an interesting study of these users and found that they are 181% more likely to be on Twitter during their commute.
They’re also 119% more likely to use Twitter during school or work hours.
There’s been lots of research done on the best time to send emails, particularly in the case of email marketing. Some research done by Dan Zarrella from Hubspot broke down each time of day and worked out which type of emails work best for each period. Here’s what he found:
10 p.m.-6 a.m.: This is the dead zone, when hardly any emails get opened.
6 a.m.–10 a.m.: Consumer-based marketing emails are best sent early in the morning.
10 a.m.-noon: Most people are working, and probably won’t open your email.
Noon–2 p.m.: News and magazine updates are popular during lunch breaks.
2–3 p.m.: After lunch, lots of people buckle down and ignore their inbox.
3–5 p.m.: Property and financial-related offers are best sent in the early afternoon.
5–7 p.m.: Holiday promotions and B2B promotions get opened mostly in the early evening.
7–10 p.m.: Consumer promotions are popular again after dinner.
What I thought was really interesting about this breakdown is why each type of email is more popular at certain times. From 3–5 p.m., for instance, the reason people open financial and property-related emails is that they’re more likely to be thinking about their life situation and how to improve it. Understanding how these time blocks work can be a good start to sending your emails at just the right time.
And since 23.63% of emails are opened within an hour of being received, this is something we definitely want to get right.
For more general emails, open rates, click-through rates, and abuse reports were all found to be highest during early mornings and on weekends.
This probably means that most of us have more time to dedicate to our inbox during these periods, rather than during the day when we’re trying to get work done.
In a different study by MailChimp open rates were shown to be noticeably lower on weekends.
They also found that open rates increased after 12 p.m. and were highest between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
A GetResponse study backed this up by showing that open rates drop off slightly and click-through rates drop significantly on weekends.
GetResponse found that Thursday is the best day for both open rates and click-throughs.
Mark Suster offers some great advice when it comes to sending emails:
Often I’ll write emails on the weekend and then send them first thing Monday morning. I want to be on top of the stack, not at the bottom of the pile. Most people process email first thing in the morning (although productivity experts say not to!).
BTW, when I write blog posts on Sundays, I always tweet again Monday morning for exactly this reason.
So let’s take a look at when to publish blog posts.
Dan Zarrella has some more great stats on this topic, but he makes a good point about the pros and cons of the timing you choose. One thing Dan suggests is that if we post during a higher-traffic period, we’re more likely to have higher bounce rates and get lost among the noise of other content being published.
On the other hand, posting at times when fewer people are online will garner less traffic and engagement, but this will also give our posts more prominence and less competition against other content.
Here are some useful stats from Dan’s research into blog timing:
Knowing your audience is obviously important for working out the best time to publish on your blog. If your audience is women, for instance, mornings are probably a better bet than nights.
While Mondays are the best days to publish for traffic, Social Fresh suggests posting on a Thursday for more social shares across the web. Here are more ideas to find the best time to publish blog posts.
This study also found that most content sharing happens in the morning, which backs up Dan’s stats that mornings are the most popular time to read blogs.
With Buffer’s new custom scheduling feature, you can now publish your post whenever it suits you, and you can schedule it to be promoted on social networks at a more optimal time. Plus, you can now send and schedule posts to Google+ from Buffer!
Timing is difficult to get exactly right, and a big part of this is because we all have different schedules and routines for checking email or using social media. An experiment by online retailer eBags showed this point perfectly. Looking at the latest social media statistics, the range of different schedules seems to only increase.
The company thought that when users were signing up to an email list, that was probably a good time of day for them to be online, so sending emails to them at that same time of day would work best. By analyzing the behavior of each user, eBags sent out emails to users at the same time of day they had signed up for the email list.
This actually worked incredibly well: Click-through rates rose by 20% and conversion rates rose by 65%.
Unfortunately, this is such a complicated and time-consuming process that it wasn’t sustainable. Hopefully these kind of features can be built into social media and email management tools in the future so we can all take advantage of these insights.
Since it’s still so difficult to find the optimal time for each type of online communication that will work for everyone, I’d love to hear about your personal experiences. What works best for you? You can comment below, send me an email or catch me on Twitter at @bellebethcooper.
Reprinted with permission from Buffer.
[Image: Flickr user <<1977>>]