Everyone who works with social media wants to know the best times to post their messages so they generate the biggest engagement with their target audiences. Thanks to recent research, we have some useful answers – at least for the networks most familiar to US public relations and marketing practitioners.
In the US and Western Europe, most conspicuously, there are hundreds of research organizations collecting and analyzing social networking data (think giant research operations like Nielsen or Amazon’s Alexa). There are also scores of social media companies like CoSchedule.com and econsultancy.com who collect and parse these kinds of data as part of their services and marketing content.
Recently, CoSchedule published a summary of 16 separate studies that profile the best times and days to engage with audiences in social-media biggies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. The findings are interesting not only for what they tell us about when and where to get the biggest bang for our buck, but for what they also suggest about the use of social media, especially outside the US.
Where and When?
Here, alphabetized by network name, is what CoSchedule compiled about best times to post on America’s marquee networks, using the Eastern and Central time zones as the reference point since 80 percent of the US population lives in these zones.
—Facebook (FB) is broadly used on mobile and desktop, at work and at home. Its best days for posting are Thursdays and Fridays (18% higher engagement than other days), and Saturdays and Sundays (32% higher engagement than other days). Posting at 3 pm will generally get you the most clicks, while 1 pm will get you the most shares. Use Facebook analytics and Fanpage Karma to track your data and when your audiences are online.
—Google+ (GOOG), like LinkedIn, targets working professionals, the average user interacting mostly in the early morning. The best time to post is 9-11 am, especially on Wednesdays, also 12-1 PM. Of the people on Google+, 90% are just “lurkers” and won’t interact with your content. Avoid posting during very early mornings or late evenings. Use Timing+ to track when your audience.
—Instagram is meant for mobile, so users tend to use the network all the time. The best time to post is 8-9 am, 5-6 PM, and 2-3 AM. Avoid posting at 3-4 pm. Posting a video on Instagram at 9 PM gets 34% more interactions than at other times. Best days are Mondays and Thursdays. Engagement on Sundays is very low.
—LinkedIn (LNKD) is for professionals and they tend to use it mostly before and after work. The best times to post are 7-8 AM, Noon-1 PM, and 5-6 PM (midweek is even better for the late time slot). Business people are most likely to read LinkedIn in the morning like a newspaper. Lowest engagement is on Mondays and Fridays. Best days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
—Pinterest users make network activity an evening sport, much like sitting down to TV in the evening. The best time to post is 8-11PM, especially on Saturdays. Other best times are 2 PM, 9 PM and midnight. Worst time is during work hours. CoSchedule recommends calls to action in your Pinterest posts at peak times (otherwise, 80% of people who see them won’t interact). And target the top subjects of the day: Sunday, food; Monday, fitness; Tuesday, gadgets; Wednesday, quotes; Thursday, outfits; Friday, gifs; and Saturday, travel.
—Twitter (TWTR) is effective every day of the week, but like Facebook it’s audience-dependent. It’s often treated like an RSS feed, and something to read during down time like commutes and work breaks. Wednesdays noon-1 PM and 5-6 PM are peak moments, so good times to post. Twitter users are 180+ percent more likely to be on Twitter during their commutes. B2B performs 16% better on Twitter during business hours. B2C performs 17% better on weekends. Twitter Analytics and Followerwonk track your followers and best tweet times.
Used judiciously, the CoSchedule summary provides a framework of “best possibilities” that we can use to do a better job of posting when the largest numbers of people are tuned into the most influential social networks.
The findings also underscore the importance in public relations, marketing, digital and other communication specialties of collecting and analyzing data on what works and what doesn’t work with new technologies — with social media most of all.
Advertising has known this for decades. Direct mailers and product marketers, too. Their mantra is “research, test and evaluate,” again and again, to make sure their communications will hit their targets with the best messages, at the best times, in the best media. Data collection and analysis are crucial to success not only with social media, but also with new technologies such as mobile, virtual reality and whatever else is around the corner that will soon be in our communication tool boxes.
Other Social Media We Can Use
Mathematically, the more networks we post in, the more engagement we’ll likely generate. For all of us, this means reaching beyond the obvious and posting (or beginning to seriously think about posting) in other social media that are often just as interested in what we say as the social media we’re familiar with.
Here are a few facts to broaden our imaginations about what’s possible and that can extend our social media distribution with relatively little effort relative to what we’re already expending to build communities and relationships in the US and closely related places. The statistics come from the World Map of Social Media Networks (WMSMN), which digests data about social media in other countries as well as in our own country.
Who’s Who and Where?
Obviously, Facebook is the 800 gorilla in the social media jungle. It’s the leading social network in 129 out of 137 countries, and has nearly 1.6 billion monthly users worldwide. The breakdown is 540 million in Asia Pacific (+44 million since last December), 323 million in Europe (+12 million), 219 million in the US and Canada (+6 million), and 509 million else were in the world (+38 million in six months).
Facebook is not without competition, however, competition that PR and marketing communicators need to exploit in the best sense of the term as part of their work, especially US-based companies and consultancies. In the Russian territories, for example, there are V Kontakte (100 million users) and Odnoklassniki (70 million).
According to 2Checkout, the PayPal-ish payment system, the average Russian citizen spends twice as much time on SM sites as the average American. In Russia, V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki surpass Facebook and Twitter for total local users. The users also tend to be older, in the 35-44 range. Like other social media networks, photos, videos and quizzes tend to attract the most activity on brand pages.
In China, QZone still dominates the Asian landscape with 653 million users (-6 million users in the past few months). Meanwhile, instant messaging apps are flourishing. QQ International has 860 million monthly active users and WeChat has 650 million monthly active users (+50 million). Another network, Renren, which means “everyone,” has some 250 million users, a huge proportion of which are university students.
Who’s on Second?
It’s interesting to note how social media networks rank in specific countries. Knowing rank can help us post more strategically in major overseas markets. Here’s a profile of second-place social networks as analyzed by SimilarWeb and Alexa and included in WMSMN’s latest data.
- Instagram is second in 41 countries. Since last August, it has conquered Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Philippines, Qatar, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UAE.
- Odnoklassniki is second in Israel, Germany, and Ukraine.
- VKontakte is second in the Czech Republic.
- Linkedin is second in India.
- Reddit is second in Norway.
Research studies by companies like CoSchedule and rankings such as the WMSM continue to inform our knowledge and use of social media, but they also remind professional communicators everywhere that we need to know as much as possible about what they mean for our employers and clients. For one thing, we all need to answer obvious questions: Which social media are essential for our respective purposes? Which are not? How do we know? Have we evaluated our findings with truly credible data? Have we measured their impact on what we’re trying to accomplish?
Using social media more wisely and strategically, domestically as well as globally, and sooner than later, becomes ever more imperative as a core condition for designing, delivering and managing our communications on behalf of employers and clients. The longer we wait to get more deeply engaged – especially outside the US-centric perspective — the longer we will have to play catch-up and that’s never good in the fast-paced fields of public relations and marketing.
(See the original article on CommPRO)
About the Author: Don Bates is an award-winning public relations and marketing practitioner, educator, and consultant. He has been a leader in promoting PR and marketing as management functions in business, government and nonprofit organizations. He teaches PR management courses at New York University. He is also senior counselor at Gould+Partners, national PR agency M&A experts. For GP, he assists digital PR and marketing agencies with management and M&A services. He’s currently seeking digital agencies whose owners and principals want to sell to larger agencies for cash, equity, high-level executive involvement, and other benefits. Contact Don at [email protected] or 212-896-1943.