Social media: What to post and when

Gina Jones

Wednesday 3 December 2014

A social media strategy is as much about the timing of your posts as it is about the content. Getting this right on each platform can make all the difference to your engagement rate.

Social media is about generating conversations, but to do that you need to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time to engage with people. An effective social media strategy will disrupt your audience’s usual routine and deliver unique reasons to participate.

When calculating when is best to post, consider when your target audience is most likely to be online and look at what they’re doing at that time. If you’re able to contribute to discussions they’re already having, then you’re building the foundations of a good two-way relationship.

Making data-based judgements

Finding the best times to post your content has been the subject of much debate by experts and a lot of the research statistics available on this are conflicting. The surest way of optimising your posting plan for your audience is to use your own social media data in the first instance. Your analytics should give you lots of clues as to what your audience is doing.

On Facebook, take a look at the Insights tab on your company page and pay specific attention to the ‘posts’ section, which shows what days and times your fans are online. Then, check the reach statistics to see what days brought in the highest reach. Look also at your likes, comments and shares graph – are you seeing any patterns? By identifying the days on which people are engaging the most and which posts generated the activity, you’ll begin to get an idea of your weekly peaks and can then anchor your content towards those periods.

On Twitter, your analytics tab will show the days on which the highest number of impressions, engagements and link clicks were generated. Or, for more in-depth data, you could use a tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, which break it down even further. Impressions are important because they give you an idea of how many people have seen your posts, but if your main objective is conversions, then click-throughs are a very important metric to consider.

You can get similar data for Instagram (try and for Pinterest (via the on-site analytics tab, if you have a business profile). This should start to show which days and times are best for each platform. They won’t all be the same, so it’s worth breaking it down by platform to see where and when you’re generating the most traction and gearing your efforts towards the big wins.

Smart scheduling

As well as looking at your own data, it’s worth doing an audit of your competitors to see when they post most frequently and which posts generate the most engagement. Is there a time of the week when they’re all posting? Which slots are they ignoring? Instead of competing for the audience’s attention at the same times and with the same messaging, can you restructure your posting so that you’re there precisely when your competitors are not? For example, in some sectors, brands focus on posting during office hours, as this is when they have staff to do it, but a lot of users log on when they get home from work. Could you be posting in the evening to make the most of this?

Once you have the data from your own channels, and from your competitors, use this to create your posting plan. List out which posts you want to publish on which days and remember to include key events that your audience might be interested in – for example, if you’re a fashion retailer then Fashion Week would be relevant, or if you’re offering an accountant, tax return day would be a key fixture for your clients and prospects who might need your advice.

Use scheduling tools like Sprout Social, Hootsuite or Buffer to programme your content in advance, and test the same pieces of content in a few different time slots to see when they perform best. Keep a record of your progress and refer back to it when creating your next posting plan. This is an ongoing process and you’ll need to re-evaluate it regularly, but after a few months of activity you’ll start to notice which are the ‘sweet spots’ for content and can plan accordingly.

Finally, it helps to think of social media as a big party. You don’t want to be the only one there, so it helps to suss out when the other guests are arriving and time your entrance accordingly. And, conversation-wise, try to find some common ground with them – don’t just talk about yourself. If you stick to these basic rules, you’re more likely to be invited back.

Most effective times to post by industry

Retail: Engagement is above average on Wednesdays. Posts between 8pm and 7am receive 20% more user engagement.

Entertainment industry: People are most engaged Friday – Sunday.

Media industry: People are most engaged Saturdays and Sundays but brands are not aggressively posting. Avoid posting on Mondays as this is the noisiest day for brand mentions.

Automotive: Engagement rates spike significantly on a Sundays, but less than 8% of automotive brand posts are made on this day.

Business and finance: Engagement peaks mid-week. Engagement rates don’t spike until Wednesday and Thursday, dropping sharply again Friday until Tuesday.

Fashion: Engagement rates peak on Thursdays, but drop on Fridays and the weekend, despite most brands being most active on Friday.

Food and beverage industry: Engagement rates peak on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and again on Saturdays. Brands in this sector are generally more active in publishing on a weekend, compared with other industries.

Healthcare and beauty: Engagement rates peak on Thursdays.

Sports: Engagement rates peak on Sundays, however the post volume from sports brands on this day are among the lowest for the week, meaning any brands posting then get the best cut-through.

Travel and hospitality: The highest engagement rates occur on Thursdays and Fridays.

Source: Buddy Media’s Strategies for Effective Wall Posts: A Timeline Analysis

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