A Marketer's Guide to Nailing the Timing & Frequency of Social Media Updates

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Meghan Keaney Anderson
Meghan Keaney Anderson



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Here's the thing: Social media timing matters.

In 2011, HubSpot's Dan Zarrella conducted extensive research on the topic of social media timing . He examined a database of more than 100,000 accounts to determine what timing and frequency resulted in the greatest outcomes for social shares. While this research can serve as a general guideline, marketers should also conduct their own research to see what is most effective for their particular audience. Let's walk through a few of the guidelines from HubSpot's research and then some tips on how to test and customize each lesson for your company's specific social strategy.

Determining Your Optimal Frequency

It's every marketer's concern: Am I over-communicating? Are people sick of seeing my updates? Getting frequency right is an important achievement in marketing, whether you're talking email strategy or social updates.  

The General Guideline

Don't crowd your content. HubSpot's research found that companies that allow each shared link a buffer zone of at least an hour on either side see higher clickthrough rates overall. In fact, HubSpot's own default suggested times in our Social Media publishing tool try to space scheduled shares out by approximately two hours , just to be sure.  


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How to Find Your Personal Sweet Spot

The right frequency for you depends a lot on the concentration of content in your audience's stream. Think about it -- you could post an update to Facebook once every 40 minutes, and if there are 20 other posts between yours, it won't seem like your content is overwhelming. Start by taking an informal audit to see how many followers your typical follower has. If most of your active followers (the people re-posting or clicking on your content) don't follow many others, you'll want your sharing habits to be less frequent. You should also do some testing to determine your optimal publishing frequency. Here's a simple one to get you started: 

  • Week One: Schedule your shares two hours apart, as HubSpot recommends.
  • Week Two: Increase your publishing frequency gradually, but keep the caliber of the content fairly similar.
  • Then compare the activity levels of each week. Separate retweets/reposts, replies/comments, and clicks. You may notice that one method may result in more comments but fewer clicks, and vice versa. Determine which method meets the lion's share of your goals as a marketer.

Determining the Best Time for General Engagement

After you get the frequency down, you'll want to take a look at which days -- and time of day -- work best for generating activity and engagement with your posts. 

The General Guideline

  • Twitter: Late in the day and week are the most retweetable times.
  • Facebook : Shares are at their highest during the weekend.

Our analysis found that on weekdays, later in the day -- between around 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) -- was when the content we analyzed saw the greatest retweet activity. Facebook, on the other hand, saw more activity during the weekends. This could be due to the nature of Facebook or the fact that many workplaces still block Facebook during working hours. Regardless of the cause, with schedulers, there's reason enough to experiment with increasing the content you post to Facebook on Saturdays and Sundays. HubSpot's research only went into optimal timing for Facebook and Twitter. To find optimal timing for other networks, you'll need to do a bit of testing.  

How to Find Your Personal Sweet Spot

To understand which days of the week and what time of day works best for your specific company, start by looking at your past shares. Sort them by number of clicks in whatever social media publishing tool you use. Below, you can see how you'd do it in HubSpot's Social Media publishing tool :



Next, look for trends in the posts that generated the most clicks. In the example below, you can see that, with the exception of one, posts scheduled between 4:30 and 5 p.m. do pretty well for us. That's a timing hot spot for HubSpot on Twitter. And you can conduct the same experiment for other social channels.



Determining the Most Targeted Time for Lead Engagement

Now, even though 4:30 p.m. is an active time for our overall Twitter audience, it doesn't necessarily mean that this time is optimal for our leads and customers. All sorts of people follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. While we love all our readers (I'm talking about you, good-looking), as a business, it's important for us to be able to pinpoint the members of our audience who are also on the road to becoming customers.

For that, you'll need a social media tool that is directly connected to and integrated with your marketing database or CRM. HubSpot customers can do this using the Social Contacts tool (pictured below) to see which of their leads and customers are actively clicking on their social shares. Tools like this enable you to get much more focused in your analysis of timing and content, because you're peeling away the layers of your audience down just to what is working for the people who are most likely to buy from you. 



How to Find Your Personal Sweet Spot (Without Software)

While you may not be able to know exactly which share times work well for your leads without using a social contacts tool like HubSpot's, there are some worthwhile exercises you can to do get to a closer approximation. It all starts with understanding the personas you sell to . A persona is a compiled understanding of the characteristics, challenges, and behaviors of the people who typically buy from you. Each company has its own persona -- or set of personas -- with their own characteristics. Variables such as professions, family obligations, commutes, geographic location, and the like can all tilt your audience's social media reading time significantly. Maybe you sell to educators, and early morning is the only time your audience gets for browsing Twitter. Understanding the personas you sell to is a key step to understanding what timing works for your audience: 

  • Start by reading this blog post about everything marketers need to research and create detailed buyer personas, accompanied by a helpful template to help you create detailed buyer personas .
  • In addition to answering the key questions in that article, include your best estimates about the social channels your leads and customers use and the time frames during which they're most likely to use them.
  • Where possible, supplement your estimates with actual feedback from your leads and customers.  
  • Use that timeline to structure your social shares.

Creating a Well-Balanced Schedule

Once you've settled on a schedule with the best odds for your company, lock it into your publishing tool. Our free social media scheduling template can really come in handy here, and if you're a HubSpot customer, you can learn how to set your custom publishing schedule in HubSpot here . Don't forget to go back and re-evaluate it occasionally to make sure the effectiveness of your timing doesn't change over time. When you've got timing down, you'll also want to think about content variance. 

The General Guideline

In a nutshell, mix it up! The biggest lesson we've learned in social content is to make sure you're not sharing the same content, types of content, and method of positioning of your content again and again. On Twitter, mix in @replies and retweets of other people's content. On LinkedIn, share both the title of, say, a blog post, and also try including some details or sound bites from within it. Facebook, for example, gives you a great opportunity to feature images, pictures, and other media -- take them up on it. We've found that visual content helps to drive engagement on Facebook. For a little inspiration, check out this blog post to learn about 10 different types of updates you can use to power your social media presence.

How to Find Your Personal Sweet Spot

We're big fans of repurposing and reinventing good content . Test which types of content work well by taking one piece of material and positioning it in a number of ways. Try to track down trends by looking at your individual click and share rates. Did a particular piece of content do really well this week? Deconstruct what it was that made it so successful. If you've got a Facebook page or LinkedIn group, you can also poll your members to find out what kind of content they like best. You might also want to check out our blog post/video about how to analyze your Facebook Insights to improve your content strategy on Facebook.

Whittling social media into a powerful marketing channel for your company takes a little time and research, but the time you put into tailoring your approach is well worth it.

We're curious to hear any other methods you've used to optimize your social media marketing. How do you test your approach to social media publishing ?

Image Credit: garlandcannon

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