How to Know When to Post on Social Media
By Rease Kirchner (@IndecisiveRease)
Content marketing may begin with great content, but even the best content won’t get any traction if it isn’t promoted properly. Let’s say you write an incredible article, then you take the time to craft your words for a clever Facebook post, and also design the perfect image. You hit the post button, full of confidence, ready for the likes and comments to roll in, and get nothing but crickets. Chances are, you’re talking to an empty room, or, in Social Media terms, posting when your audience isn’t around to see it. So how can you figure out when to post on social media?
Social Media Marketing is different for every business
If there were set times that worked for everyone, Social Media platforms would explode with activity for only a few hours of every day. We all know that social media is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – so the key is to figure out when your audience is active. It may take some time and effort to hunt down the data you need, but knowing when to post can really make your engagement numbers soar. Let’s take a look at the data that different social media platforms collect for you, and then explore some external tools that can help you dig even deeper into your audience’s habits.
Facebook has a built in analytics tool that has some pretty valuable information. To access Insights, go to your Facebook page and click the “Insights” tab in the top menu, then click on “Posts” on the left sidebar.
The Posts section will show you when you audience is active on Facebook, both by days of the week and by hours throughout the day. In the following example, the audience remains pretty active every day of the week, but users don’t start logging on until around 10am, with the most popular times being around noon and 5pm. Posting at those times would likely increase engagement and reach on posts.
This report from a different business page shows a very different trend. This page’s audience starts getting active around noon, but the most popular time is actually 9pm. The audience still remains fairly consistent in activity throughout the week, but you can see that Mondays and Saturdays are the most active days, so the best times to post on this page would most likely be Mondays or Saturdays at 9pm. Of course, it’s clear that the audience is active any time between 12pm and 9pm, so it would be best to play around with different schedules within that time frame.
To access Twitter Analytics, go to your Twitter Page, click on your Avatar, and select “Analytics” from the drop down menu.
Twitter Analytics is not as robust as Facebook Insights, so you won’t be able to gather too many details about your audience, but it does offer a little information. When it comes to choosing when to post on social media, you want to know about your reach, so when looking at Twitter Analytics, you’ll want to check your “Tweet Highlights” and look for which tweets got the most impressions. Your top tweets will show how many impressions they received, which gives you a rough estimate of your reach at the time of the tweet. Keep in mind that impressions can be gained through retweets and also through specific searches, such as searches for a hashtag included in the tweet, so those numbers are not directly linked to the time you posted. It’s not an exact science, but if you notice a trend of higher impressions when you tweet at a certain time, that’s a good indicator that your audience is scrolling through their Twitter feed around that time.
Pinterest Analytics is only available for Business Accounts, so make sure you set up your account as a Business and not Personal. To access Pinterest Analytics, go to your profile page, click the gear icon, and choose “Analytics” from the dropdown menu. From there, click on “Your Audience”
Pinterest data falls somewhere in between Facebook and Twitter for usefulness; it doesn’t offer as many details as Facebook, but it does give you more than Twitter has to offer. The “Your Audience” page will give you a look at what days your account got the most impressions, which can help you decide what days are best to add new pins. This page also gives you a breakdown on where you audience lives, which is helpful for when you are thinking about posting times. For example, if most of your audience is on the East Coast of the United States, you’d want to keep that time zone in mind when choosing your posting times.
If you really want detailed data, you’re going to have to incorporate a few external tools.
If you’re on a tight budget and feeling lazy but still want to post on social media at optimal times, Hootsuite’s integrated scheduler is pretty useful, and it’s free for up to 3 social media accounts. This platform allows you to add Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, WordPress, and Instagram. If your accounts are established enough for Hootsuite to pull activity data, you can simply type up a post, hit the handy “Autoschedule” button, and let Hootsuite choose the optimal time for you. It should be noted that this does not yet work for Instagram, due to Instagram’s security parameters. It does, however, work quite well for other platforms. The catch? It only works the day of, meaning you can only get the optimal time for the next 12 hours or so, not for the whole week. If you want to schedule out for more than a day, you’ll have to choose the time yourself.
Buffer, like Hootsuite, is a great free tool that analyzes data for you, and chooses the best times to post based off that data. This tool also has a free version, with the capabilities getting more robust if you shell out the cash to “Upgrade to Awesome” as Buffer puts it.
Buffer integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ on the free version, and throws Pinterest into the mix in the paid version. Buffer lets you choose how many times you want to post throughout the day and then picks several optimal times for those posts to go out for each different platform. Once it has those times, you can set it up to always post at those times whenever you schedule something within the platform. This is a step up from Hootsuite, because it lets you schedule out posts for a much longer period of time, all with the optimal posting time set in place.
Instagram is beloved by users, but it can be really difficult when it comes to scheduling ahead of time and getting analytics. Iconosqaure is one of the best tools for getting data, but the free version is fairly limited. If you work the paid version into your budget, you will be rewarded with data on your most popular posts, followers, and a chart comparing your current posting habits to a schedule that shows when your posts are most likely to get interactions from your audience. You can request an updated version of this at any time, so it allows you to keep a pulse on new followers and also see if your current posting habits are properly lining up with your users’ most active times.
This data is great, but unless you want to be a slave to your phone, you’ll have to figure out a way to schedule Instagram posts, which involves another tool.
You’ll have to pay for a subscription to this tool, but it does allow you to manage several accounts at once, and schedule Instagram posts ahead of time. Schedugram allows you to upload a photo, do some light editing, and include both a description and first comment with your photo, which is helpful for anyone who likes to use that first comment to load up on hashtags without crowding your description. This tool does not have any autoschedule or optimal time suggestions though, so you’ll have to figure out your posting strategy using data gathered elsewhere.
Monitor the data and watch your results
Content marketing is complicated and Social Media marketing involves keeping a close eye on the data. Make sure you review your data at least once a month, if not more often, to ensure that your audience’s habits have not significantly changed and to ensure that the times you are posting give your content the best chance of getting seen. Social media is an invaluable tool for promoting your content, so make sure you are showing off your content to a “full room,” and not tossing away quality content by sharing it when no one is around to see it.