What is the best time to post on Facebook and Twitter? OR, is there a best time?

I happened to read a few articles about the best time to post on Facebook and Twitter to improve page engagement this week and was dramatically confused as they draw very different conclusions.  So the question I have switches from “what is the best time to post on Facebook” to “is there a best time to post on Facebook”. How about breaking down these studies and see which is more convincing.

Let’s start with Facebook. In a study titled “How to get more likes, comments and shares”, HubSpot social media scientist Dan Zarrella tracked and analyzed more than 1.3 million posts published on the top 10,000 pages on Facebook. With a detailed infographic, he concludes that posts released between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. perform the best, with 8 p.m. being the peak traffic hour. Around 0.18% of Facebook posts posted at 8 p.m. are “liked”, while that number for posts during 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. is less than 0.14. The story for Facebook shares is slightly different. With 6 p.m. being the best “share” moment, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the most preferable period for Facebook shares. From 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., the engagement rate of Facebook share drops rapidly. In terms of days of a week, Dan points out that the weekend is the best time to update your Facebook page, as the engagement rate is shown to be much higher. Within weekdays, Thursday is believed to be “black”.

However, Bit.ly disagrees.  The URL shortening and bookmarking service tracks its shortened links on popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and announces that Monday to Thursday are the best time to tweet and update your Facebook page, with Monday 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. being the traffic peak for Twitter and Wednesday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for Facebook. Moreover, it also claims that after 3 p.m. on Friday, and 8 p.m. for other weekdays, twitter traction drops sharply, and therefore, marketers should avoid doing Twitter. Weekends should be avoided too. In terms of Facebook, traffic and click through rate declines after 4 p.m. and weekends are still not preferable.

Buddy Media shed some additional light on Twitter. It studies 320 Twitter handles from the world’s biggest brands from Dec 11, 2011 to Feb 23, 2012 by looking into the reply rate, retweet rate and engagement rate, and then compares link performance at different time periods with the average link engagement. Unlike Bit.ly, Buddy Media claims that the weekends are the best time to tweet, with around 17% more engagement compared to the average. This is especially true to fashion brands, which outperform the average by 30%. Most Twitter engagement happens at busy hours, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the contrary, brand engagement is below the average during weekdays, with Thursday at the bottom (Dan Zarrella agrees). However, during 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Twitter traffic drops down, while Facebook turns out to be the most active during this time period.

Though three studies share very different study methods, they are all based on Eastern Time. Therefore, the results are comparable. Though Dan Zarrella studies Facebook engagement while Buddy Media studies Twitter traffic, they share some common grounds. They both agree on “Black” Thursday; they both believe weekends are the best time to boost your social performance; and they both indicate Twitter as more active during working hours, say from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., while Facebook dominates off-work hours (which implies how you can use Facebook and Twitter wisely ;)). But Bit.ly disagrees with them by presenting opposite study results.

One possible reason might be that Dan, Bit.ly and Buddy Media share very different definitions of “social engagement”. Bit.ly limits its sources to shorten links it tracks, while Dan Zarrella and Buddy Media look into all posts, ranging from images to videos. Secondly, the metrics they use are different. When looking into Twitter links, Bit.ly only counts click through rate, while Buddy Media includes reply rate, retweet rate and engagement rate. Dan Zarrella even studies “liked” posts and “shared” posts respectively. It is possible that while click through rate is high during weekdays, other engagement rates soar during weekends. Last but not least, while Bit.ly includes all tractable data in its study, Dan Zarrella and Buddy Media handpick most of their subjects, which might indicate sample biases.

It is hard to tell which of the three is more convincing, as a general result doesn’t speak for all brands or pages. Therefore, it is hard to say what is the best time for brands to do Facebook or Twitter. In my opinion, there is no standard formula for social engagement. Let’s keep it old-schooled. Pick a time, if it doesn’t work, just switch!

P.S. OOOoooops, I just updated my blog at the least social-friendly time – Friday after 3 p.m.!!!!

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4 comments

  1. That sort of timing is something I practice from time to time when I decide to publish. With blog posts, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot when I do it since most people catch it via feed readers anyway, but with Twitter or Facebook updates (or even Reddit submissions for that matter), I tend to let fly around certain times to maximize the exposure. Twitter does better around noon while Facebook does get that afternoon boost. Reddit? Usually around nighttime given the content I shoot for.

    Certainly worth optimizing if you can figure out what the peak times given your target audience are.

  2. There’s a great app called SocialBro that brings a definitive answer to your question. The answer? It depends on the social network, the people engaging in that network and the focus of a campaign. One thing that Zarrella doesn’t take into account is group communication research. That body of knowledge tells us that people move in and out of groups and their loyalty varies depending on the type of information they seek in social networks, that’s why to definitively say that such in such is the perfect a time to tweet or to post to a fan page is wrong.

    To make communication in social networks more effective it’s important to study the audience behaviors for each campaign and adjust messaging according to data. That requires distinct measurement for each campaign.

    I’m sure larger trends are good to use as a baseline, however. That’s what Zarrella gives us. Great post!

    • Hao Long

      Thanks! I agree. It really require further data to better answer the question. According to my observation, people tend to use Facebook a lot at work. So it is possible that Facebook messages are better delivered in the working hours.

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