Social Timing: When to Be Active on Social Media

Being active on social networks can be time consuming. Even if you use tools like HootSuite to automate your social media presence and reduce admin, you are still spending valuable time on it. Therefore, you need to know that you’re getting the best return for your efforts.

We’ve collected a ton of research to tell you when social networks are at their busiest so you can time your best efforts strategically. We focused mainly on Twitter and Facebook, although with a little intuition these results could be applied to most networks.

Some important points to note

Before I start, let me clear a couple of things up. Firstly, when I discuss times and days of the week, I’m talking relative to the users you are engaging. If you are in a different time zone, you’ll have to do the math!

Secondly, the results we’re reporting here are not segmented in any way. They represent all users on the relevant networks. However, when I draw conclusions about behavioural trends, I’m taking a small liberty in that I’m talking specifically about the segment which contains all the ‘best’ customers for the majority of brands… middle class working people with all the income and social pressures that come with having a job.

So, without further ado…

Demand time when people have it

Some networks convey more personal information and allow for a deeper level of interaction between users. These tend to be networks that offer more options for the types of media used in updates, thereby allowing for the communication of more in-depth information. A perfect example of this would of course be Facebook.

With a little consideration for the end-user, it makes sense to post any updates that demand time and attention when people are likely to have some free time. In the 9–5 world of business, that basically translates to lunch time and early afternoon. Furthermore, engagement also increases toward the middle of the week; when work-loads are starting to reduce and there are still a few days left before end-of-week deadlines hit.

The following chart shows the best times for engagement on Facebook:

As you can see, more people are on Facebook at the times when people are least likely to be busy at work: Lunch times into early afternoons and closer to Wednesday. As a rule of thumb, that goes for any social  network that is used to ‘catch up’ with friends or family and where updates generally hold more ‘weight’ and require more attention.

Offer distractions when people are looking for them

There are other social platforms that lend themselves to short and sweet updates. Social interactions tend to be very current on these networks and so they ‘expire’ in terms of relevance fairly quickly. The obvious example here is of course Twitter.

In 140 characters or less, Tweets could be considered more ‘throw away’ than the long image descriptions, comment chains and photo albums found on Facebook. Due to this relatively small demand for the user’s time and attention, people are likely to check their Twitter feeds more often than their Facebook accounts but stay there for shorter periods of time.

Of course that goes back to the idea of people being more active on networks when they don’t have deadlines at work, but the results are less pronounced than on Facebook; countered by the ease of Tweet digestion. Specifically, the main difference is that mornings (9–11am) are just about as important as afternoons (1–3pm). While people apparently feel bad about being on Facebook at 9am when they start work, they clearly don’t mind a quick Twitter feed scan (or two)!

It’s also interesting that the period over lunch (11am-1pm) is pretty dead on Twitter. Presumably, people either want to kill some serious time on a meatier network like Facebook or simply don’t have networking on the mind (presumably in favour of whatever is on the menu for lunch that day).

You may also notice that Tuesday, Wednesday and the first half of Friday are the most active times on Twitter. This is again when work pressures will be at their lowest and people will be looking for something to distract them. Mondays and Thursdays are typically the days when the stressful realisation sinks in that our ‘to-do’ lists are unrealistic. These are the days that people log-out of Twitter and knuckle down. (note however that they still check Facebook on their lunch breaks).

The twilight zones

Before 9am on Twitter is pretty dead unless you’re targeting top tier professionals, say on LinkedIn for example. They’re active from around 6am. Facebook in the morning tends to be the domain of stay-at-home parents and home-workers; although they are still active throughout the day, so there’s an argument for streamlining if the competition for attention isn’t too threatening.

Evenings can be good for entertainment-based brands but little else. People just want to follow the latest EastEnders hashtag or post on Facebook about that cool thing off the Gadget Show. Interestingly, you can expect 17% more engagement from night-time Facebook posts compared to Tweets… but that’s likely because Facebook updates will stay at the top of people’s new feeds longer than Tweets stay in their Twitter feeds. The bulk of the actual interactions probably happen the following morning.

Finally, there is the weekend to consider; also hugely market specific. Some brands claim up to 20% more engagement at the weekend. But then others say the networks are dead.

There are also emotional factors to consider. Trying to convince people to take Life Coaching or change jobs? If so, I’d say early mornings and late nights will be the time when the busiest people are most unhappy, dwelling on their stresses. Selling lunch-time vouchers or getting Likes for your local cafe? I’d bet 11am (when bellies start to  rumble) would be a good time to capture interest. Again, a little consideration for the customer goes a long way.

The moral of the story is this: You need to draw your own conclusions as to which strategy is best for you. Do you compete for attention at the times when most people are interacting; Or do you carve out your own niche at 6am? Are your target market likely to be following the ‘trends’ seen above or do their lifestyles demand different daily schedules?

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

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