How to Determine Your Best Times to Tweet
It doesn't matter if you're new to social media or have been tweeting for years, when and how often to share your posts and messages are at the core of what business owners and marketers want and need to know about their social media activity. The challenge of course, lies in the fact that there is no one definitive answer that works for everyone. Tweeting 9 times a day between 12 and 5 might work for me, but not you. More importantly, it might not work for the people following you on Twitter.
Now, when we're talking about tweets and a schedule of tweets, I am specifically referring to planned business messages, whether they're promotional, links to articles, or other information. These tweets should be designed to educate, entertain and engage your followers, and should supplement live tweets and reshares that you might create throughout the day.
Here's an example of the kind of promotional tweet I share once or twice a week (mixed in with the dozens of articles and links I share throughout each day to my own and other people's content):
For instance, we might create a blog post for your business and publish it on Monday which introduces a specific topic and educates your clients and readers, as well as presents your opinion on the subject. The post would be shared immediately to social networks. Then, in the coming days, we might have a series of tweets and messages planned which share quotes from that blog post, comments from industry experts, or links to other resources. These would be scheduled out according to the frequency and timing that's been determined for your business. In the meantime, if we happen to see tweets from other people or interesting articles on the same topic, we can retweet them, comment on posts, and participate in discussions real-time.
In terms of frequency, the best advice I've received and given is to start with a frequency that you can commit to, like once a day, and then increase gradually over time. This gives you time to gain familiarity with the platform and your audience, as well as time to amass a wealth of content to share. Most businesses do not start with hundreds of articles in their archive and dozens of news sources identified. It takes time to build up your own content and sources for curated content. Gradually increase the rate at which you're tweeting, but temper that with the rate at which you're retweeting and live tweeting.
I use Buffer to schedule tweets of evergreen content. I also use Triberr to share great articles that other talented bloggers have written on social media, blogging and other similar topics of interest to me and my readers. And I use RSS feeds plugged into my HootSuite Syndicator to scan new articles from my favorite sources and will regularly share those of value or interest. As a result, my Twitter feed is busy throughout the day with all kinds of tweets and information. Therefore, if all I do is look at my Buffer schedule and frequency, I'm not looking at the whole picture.
Why is Post Time Important?
One of the critical aspects businesses need to keep in mind about Twitter is that it moves exceedingly fast. Because users share so many tweets, if your followers are following more than just a few people, their Home stream will have new tweets every minute. That means that in order for someone to see someone you share to Twitter, they either need to be looking at your timeline (unlikely), or be logged in and looking at their stream within 30 - 45 minutes of your tweet. It's been said that the life of a tweet is just 4 hours, and I think that's being generous.
Therefore, if a business wants their social media marketing to have the greatest impact, those messages must be carefully timed.
Where to Start
If you're new to Twitter or haven't given much thought to when you should be tweeting, you need a "baseline." This is a basic idea of when Twitter, in general, is most active and therefore more likely that your tweets will be seen.
First, identify your target audience. Are they local to you (in the same timezone), only within your country, or global? If your audience is truly global, than you'll need to have a 24/7 Twitter schedule of activity and share versions of the same post multiple times to reach your entire audience. Otherwise, your followers will have distinct timeframes of increased activity and interest, so you'll want to target those.
Next, look at aggregate data and compare it to your target audience. According to the data in this article, most Twitter users are active mid-afternoon, and traffic dies off considerably in the late evening. Therefore, start by scheduling and planning your tweets to go out during and around those times of peak use.
Now, much like keyword research, there's something to be said for avoiding where everyone else is. If you're in a crowded industry and have a lot of competition, sending a tweet at 2pm might be so lost in the crowd that you might as well have not shared it at all. If that's you, consider tweeting just before or just after your target timeframe.
It's also important to keep in mind the goal of your post and how that relates to your audience, as Stephan Hovnanian outlines in his great article here. Understand that seeing a tweet and actually clicking through to read an article aren't the same activity and may require that you change your strategy and timing accordingly.
Once you establish an initial schedule, it's important that you stick to it. As I mentioned, I use Buffer to ensure that I have a consistent schedule and activity every single day, but you can use HootSuite or other social media management tools - even a regular calendar or spreadsheet and manual tweeting will work in a pinch.
It's critical though that you're consistently active so that, after a month or two, you'll have a sample of data to work with.
Analysis & Testing
Your first line of metrics and analysis should be your own website's data, presumably compliments of Google Analytics. Google Analytics can tell you on a day-to-day basis how much traffic your site is getting, which articles and pages are most popular, and where that traffic is coming from. You will be able to tell quite quickly if your Twitter campaign is netting any traffic.
Next, refer to analytics.twitter.com and see how all of your tweets have performed specifically. I like using Twitter's stats since I can see each and every tweet within the given timeframe, regardless of how the tweet was created. Look for engagement depending on the nature of the tweet and what action would have been ideal, whether it's a click, favorite, reply or retweet.
If you're using a tool like Buffer or HootSuite to send out tweets, use the analytics capabilities of the tool to review your activity as well. I particularly like how Buffer will show you the tweets sent via Buffer and flag the Top Tweet for each day based on the amount of engagement that tweet received.
What you're looking for are patterns. If you shared the same or similar tweets at different times and different days, how did the response vary? Do your mornings appear to be more active than the afternoons? How do tweets shared in the evening or weekends fare? Make small adjustments, tweak your schedule and frequency, share and analyze again.
FollowerWonk + Buffer
One of the more interesting tools that I've found to help with this analysis is FollowerWonk (http://www.followerwonk.com). With FollowerWonk, you can plug in yours (or anyone else's) Twitter handle and run a report that will analyze that account's followers and determine the times of day that those followers appear to most active. Go the Analyze Followers tab, type in your handle, and select "analyze their followers." Within a few minutes, you'll have a report that graphs out your day and displays their most active timeframes.
This report can also be extremely valuable for learning more about the composition of your followers. FollowerWonk will tell you where your followers are located geographically, how many people they're following and how many followers they have, how old the accounts are and a score for how influential those accounts are. Each time you run a report, it's saved and can be accessed later on. A paid account unlocks many additional reports and data.
Once you have a report, FollowerWonk will take a look at your history and your follower's patterns and recommend a daily number of tweets and peak hours for your specific followers. What's more, you can adjust the number of tweets per day and then export that schedule to Buffer with a click of a button.
I recommend trying this after you have a decent history of activity, and then following up with the analysis and adjustment we talked about above.
Save The Unicorns, Use Your Own Data
Thus, as Stephan suggested in his article, the best way to determine when and how often you should be tweeting is to review your data. Do not rely on the popular infographs that constantly circle the Internet. They're not accurate and they're not tailored to your business and Twitter following. And each time a new graphic is created and shared, a Unicorn dies, and no one wants that.
If you have specific questions about the tools and techniques discussed here, or general questions about your own Twitter activity, please leave a comment or contact me directly.
Image courtesy of wallyg, Flickr.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."