Finding your flow on social media: where, when and how often you should post
Are you active on too many social networks? Or too few?
Are posting too early, or too late?
Are you posting too much? Too little?
Or is your schedule just right?
Creating an effective social media schedule can have you feeling a bit like Goldilocks, especially if you like to work while enjoying a hot (but not too hot) bowl of porridge. Finding the right social platforms, the right times to post and the right amount to publish can do wonders for your social presence.
The right place
The first step in evaluating your social media performance is to take a look at what platforms you’re on. After all, the greatest content in the world won’t do you any good if you’re publishing it on the wrong channels.
You need to be where your audience already is. If you know your audience, this should be easy enough to do. Here are the top 15 social sites as ranked by monthly traffic. No surprises here, really – Facebook is the king of them all, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+. Do you need to be active on all of these channels to hit your audience? Probably not.
Take a gander at the demographic breakdown of the big sites (note this includes Instagram instead of G+). See how the demographic of each site lines up with your audience, then act accordingly. If you’re trying to connect with a younger audience, Instagram is your friend. Looking for fans from a high income bracket? Try LinkedIn. And remember, you don’t need to be everywhere to be noticed!
Spreading yourself out across too many channels is a guaranteed way to waste effort and experience burnout. It’s much more effective to focus on a few key platforms and do them well. Personally, I don’t like to see social media managers dividing their attention between more than three or four sites. No matter how many pages you manage, it helps to use a scheduling tool to keep everything organized in one place.
The right time
Choosing your channels is the first step in putting together a successful social strategy, and altogether a pretty easy one. Figuring out the right times to post can be a bit more challenging, but the results are well worth it.
Ready to do some math? Finding the ideal posting times is a matter of utilizing the right analytics. Each site has a different method of finding these numbers (sometimes requiring a third-party application), but the basic premise is the same: find out when your followers are online, figure out when you’re getting the most interactions, and aim for the times those two things intersect. Let’s walk through Facebook as an example.
Start by clicking Insights, and going to Posts.
This will bring you to a double chart titled When Your Fans Are Online. Hey, that’s the first ingredient we’re looking for! The top half of the chart shows the approximate number of your fans who were on Facebook each day. The bottom half shows, on average, the time of day your fans were on. Mouse over a day in the top half to see a specific breakdown of that day below.
This is a great tool to reference – just from this one page, we know that Sunday (27.7k), Wednesday (27.6k), and Saturday (27.5k) are the days when most of our fans are online. We can also see that, on average, most of our fans are online around 5pm to 6pm Eastern.
But look at what I find when I mouse over Sunday – the highest number of users are on at around 9pm, not 6:
So from just this data, I know that my three best times to post (based on when my audience is online) are Saturdays around 5-6, Wednesdays around 5-6, and Sundays around 9. That’s valuable knowledge! But we want to take things a step further.
Remember, the second thing we need is to know when our posts are getting the most interaction. Scroll a little further down on that Insights page, and you’ll see All Posts Published. This is a list of your posts from the last 90 days, which makes it easy to see how they performed.
Click Engagement and select Post Clicks. You’ve now sorted all of those posts so that the ones with the most clicks show up at the top.
Take a look at the dates and times your most-clicked posts were published. Checking these dates against a calendar, none of them were published on a Sunday (which, remember, is the day we have the biggest potential audience online). Three of them were published on a Saturday and one on a Wednesday – which are our other two days with the biggest audience. So the hypothesis here is that we’ll generally get better traffic on those days, even though there aren’t as many folks online to view it.
Delve deeper into the relationship between when your posts get the most engagement and when your audience is online, and you’ll have tons of data to use in setting up tests for finding your optimal posting times. Want to learn more? Here’s a closer look at interpreting your Facebook stats.
Remember, while the methods for each of the major social platforms is different, your basic approach should be the same. Here’s a great tutorial for doing it on Twitter.
The right amount
The third ingredient for a good social schedule is finding the right frequency for your posts. I know a lot of people who are concerned with posting too much, thus boring or annoying their audience. I think this fear stems from what people see in personal social feeds (like your one friend who has photo-blogged every meal she’s had since 2011). When you’re posting as a brand, it’s way less of a concern.
The reason brands can get away with posting more often, and with repeating content, simply comes down to this: at any given moment, the majority of your audience probably isn’t paying attention.
As this article points out, the average reach of a Facebook post can be as low as 4% of your audience. Over on Twitter, things aren’t much better. No matter what your platform, your posts are only going to be seen by a sliver of your audience.
The key to finding the right platform, time, and pace for your posts is to experiment. Every brand has a different relationship with its followers, and each platform is a snowflake, unique unto itself. By finding the right platform and figuring out some key times to post, you can start playing with the amount of posts you do each week and see what happens. Keep experimenting, and you’ll find the right flow for you!
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