The Science of Social Timing

Creating spectacular content is job one of any modern marketing plan.

It’s how we connect and engage with customers and leads. It’s what people want from you…not ads, not salesy promotional pieces, not aggressive sales tactics. They want useful, relevant, super high quality content: videos, infographics, podcasts, blog posts, interactive quizzes, white papers, case studies, and more.

Content is popular. 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers currently use it, according to CMI’s annual report of content marketing benchmarks, budgets, and trends.

Content is powerful. 77% of B2B marketers describe it as at least “moderately” successful, if not “very” or “extremely”, while 78% of B2C marketers say the same thing.

And in our ad-blocking world, content is one of the best methods to get your message in front of as many eyes as possible.

So if you’re not already in the content game, get started today. And if you are, do more. It’s that good. There’s an audience of millions – billions – hungry for more and more content. Give it to them.

But How?

There’s no shortage of channels to distribute your stellar stuff once it’s been created.

You might have your own blog or maybe you guest post on someone else’s site.

Perhaps you’ve gone the email route, sending your content gems out as a weekly or monthly newsletter or series.

Increasingly, social media is the place to find, share, and post. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, and platforms that you aren’t even aware of yet. In fact, social media posts are the top choice of both B2B (94%) and B2C (96%) marketers alike.

You’re spoiled for choice. But I’m going to let you in on an open secret: there’s no need to choose. You should be doing all three. Blogs, email, and social media.

According to B2C marketers, their top three most used distribution channels are:

  1. Social media platforms (89%)
  2. Email (86%)
  3. Blogs (70%)

And the top three most effective channels are email (72%), social media (61%), and blogs (47%).

B2B marketers list their top three most used channels as:

  1. Email (93%)
  2. Social media platforms (92%)
  3. Blogs (79%)

And the most effective? Email (74%), blogs (45%), and social media (40%). Seeing a trend?

The most successful marketers use email, social, and blogs to get their content out and seen. And it works. Wonderfully. Magnificently.

So you’ve got great content to share, and the top channels for distribution according to industry insiders and professionals. You’re good to go, right?

Not so fast.

The Extra Boost

Here’s a marketing secret that’s not quite as open: when you share is as important as what and where.

Think about it: the internet is a global playground, with people online and browsing for content to consume 24/7. What you post or send at any given moment will be seen by a very small percentage, with an even smaller percentage actually taking notice of it.

You’ve got to hit publish or send at the opportune moment. When is it most likely to have the farthest reach and biggest impact? Don’t guess. Know.

For example, the Central and Eastern time zones account for over 80% of the population in the United States. Publishing to Facebook at 9pm in Los Angeles means it’s midnight on the east coast. You’re excluding a huge chunk of potential targets. When they wake up the next moment, your post or tweet is long gone.

Be selective about when you share. You worked hard on it. And they want to see it. Share at the best time on social, email, and your blog.

Part 1: Timing and Social Networks

Every network has its own highs and lows. You can use that to your advantage by posting on the right day at the right time to increase your likes, shares, and clicks.

science of social timing social networks

Facebook and Twitter remain two of your best bets in the social media arena.

Twitter Timing

Your specific goal will determine the “best” time to tweet. Here are some ideas:

If you’re aiming for retweets – which gets your content seen by an exponentially larger audience – the data suggests that late afternoon is the time to share. The largest percentage of retweets occurs around 5pm. This makes sense when you remember that many people love to jump on their favorite social media platform at the end of their work day.

If a healthy click-through rate is your endgame, consider tweeting at noon and/or 6pm. Twitter users tend to be most engaged during their lunch break, and at home after work. The data also recommends sharing your best content at either midweek or on the weekend.

The average lifespan of a tweet is about 15 minutes. Make it count.

Facebook Timing

The undisputed champ in terms of numbers and potential reach – we’re talking billions – Facebook may not have the market cornered as it once did, but you still need an active presence there. Consumers just expect it.

A typical Facebook post hits about 75% of its impressions with the first 2.5 hours, and 75% of its engagement within 5 hours. After that it’s still kicking, but it’s on life support. You’ve got a five hour window to get it seen and shared.

The best day to share? Saturday. It gets nearly twice as many shares as any other day. Makes sense. We all love to waste a few minutes (or hours as the case may be) on the weekend catching up on our friends, family, and world.

The best time to share? Noon. By far. 7pm is a close second, and sometime around 2am is, oddly enough, almost as good. Blame it on insomniacs and those who unexpectedly wake up in the middle of the night.

Instagram Timing

Instagram hasn’t been around very long compared to Facebook (2004) or Twitter (2006), but it has quickly claimed a spot near the top of the social media mountain since its founding in 2010. It now boasts 800 million users – more than double that of Twitter – and a very active user base. Both individuals and brands love the platform. 71% of American businesses use it, and 7 out of 10 hashtags are branded.

The life expectancy of an Instagram post is longer than Facebook and Twitter combined. Expect to get 50% of your comments within the first 6 hours, and 75% within two days.

Users tend to be most engaged on weekdays, with Monday showing the best engagement. The best times include 8am – always time for a quick peek before work or school – and 2am – again, the nightowls among us have to do something, too.

You can find multiple studies claiming to know the best time for virtually every platform. Whatever you’re working with, do some research to guide your scheduling decisions. Here are some more ideas:

Part 2: Timing and Email

Email marketing is the best return-on-investment you can make for your business, with an average return of $44 for every $1 spent. You read that right: the ROI for email marketing is 4400%.

And if that’s not enough, email has a higher conversion rate than search and social combined.

Moral of the story? Use email to share your content and engage with your customers and leads.

science of social timing Email Marketing

But…stop and consider the volume of email we all receive on a typical day. Collectively, we send nearly 270 billion email messages each day, and the average office worker gets 121 daily emails clogging their inbox.

If you want to avoid being deleted, overlooked, or ignored, you’ve got to time those precious messages to arrive at the right time.

So what’s “right”?

  • Saturday has a 44% open rate, better than any other day of the week. Sunday is the next best.
  • Open rates are highest – 53% – early in the morning around 6am. We all grab our phones as soon as we get up.
  • Not coincidentally, click rates are also highest on Saturday (~10%) and around 6am (~10%).
  • Email sent between 10pm-6am – often called the “dead zone” – are largely ineffective. While we seem to enjoy social media in the wee small hours, the same does not apply to our inbox. Likewise between 10am-12pm, when we’re most focused and concentrating on work.
  • Experiment with sending at various times based on the content itself. People are interested in different things at different times. Evidence suggests that email about financial services are best between 2pm-3pm, whereas promotional content is best between 6am-10am (our day is winding up) or 7pm-10pm (our day is winding down).

As for the frequency with which you send your messages, your CTR is highest and unsubscriptions are lowest with between 1-4 emails per months.

All of that said, the best data on the best time to send your emails is best determined by tracking your emails over time.

Part 3: Timing and Blogs

Blogging should be a no-brainer. Consumers prefer to read posts and articles than they do ads and banners.

You’ve seen the statistics:

So create, write, and publish. Frequently. Sites that publish 16+ each month drove 3.5x more traffic than those that only published between 0-4 monthly posts.

But, as with social and email, when you hit that publish button is important.

Publish during peak times during the day, and you’ll likely see more traffic and more engagement (comments and sharing). That’s good. But you’ll be competing against more posts and it’s far easier to get buried in the content avalanche. In essence, it’s much harder to stand out and get noticed.

Publish during down times at night, and the reverse is true. You’ll have much less competition for the attention of your audience, but fewer of them will be awake and consuming blog posts, pulling your engagement down with them. You stand out, but too a smaller crowd.

science of social timing part 3 blogging

Ultimately, your analytics report is going to give you concrete numbers about when your readers are most engaged. Until you have the numbers to make that data meaningful, consider following the advice below.

The “best” time to publish depends a lot on your goal for a particular post.

Traffic

The best day to generate traffic with a post is Monday. The best time to generate traffic with a post is 11am. The weekend is over, and after a few hours at work, people are looking for something else to do (shh…don’t tell the boss).

Comments

If you’re aiming for comments, then the data suggests publishing on Saturday. The best time? 9am. People are more likely to take the extra effort to comment while reading their favorite blog while drinking coffee on Saturday morning.

Links

Looking for the most inbound links for every published piece? The study reveals 7am as the optimal time, and both Monday and Thursday as the best days of the week.

And while users read blogs from dawn to dusk and beyond, about 70% of them say they read in the morning, more than those who listed afternoon, evening, or night.

Creating great content – be it for social media, email, or your blog – is step 1. Finding the right platform to reach your audience is step 2. But everyone is already doing that if they’re doing content marketing.

Give them what they want (great social media posts, blog posts, and email content), where they want it (the specific platforms popular with your unique target audience), and when they’re most likely to see and engage with it.

The secret sauce is when. It can give you an advantage over your competition if you’re targeting by what, where, and when your most likely to hit the bullseye and connect. And any advantage you can give yourself is well worth the effort in the digital marketing landscape.

Have you experimented with your content schedule? What tools, tips, or tricks do you use?

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