Thursday, May 13, 2010

Timing versus Time

We've spent a lot of time on this blog talking about timing and public relations.  Figuring out when to pitch a story can be the difference between getting a story picked up and having it relegated to the futures pile where it will languish and ultimately be forgotten.  As you've seen, timing in PR is tricky.  You have to figure out what kind of lead time you need, how far ahead should you pitch.  You have to think aobut the time of day you pitch.  You have to be aware of breaking news and be able to jump on a story if it relates to your organization.

But what about timing in social media?  Is there a particular time of day when your posts will reach more eyes?  A better time of the week?  Should you constantly be posting all day long?  The answer is...we don't really know. BUT, and this is important, we're learning more and more every day and we DO have some data that supports the theory that while the best time of day may not be nailed down yet, your level of activity does make a difference.

An example from the past might shed some light.  An old friend of mine is a huge blogger.  He started blogging years ago when it was about the most powerful social media tool available.  His current blog is posted on the right as PR by DeVol.  Anyway, he used to post several times a day to his blog.  Little thoughts, comments, links to other sites and news of the day.  He did very little self-promotion, but the fact that he posted so often raised the profile of his blog and as soon as he started getting linked to other blogs, his blog exploded with readers and followers.  Certainly his content was interesting and useful and funny.  But he kept adding new stuff, so regular readers always knew that when they checked his blog, and they had to check it at least once if not twice a day, there would be something new to read.  His activity superceded the when of his entries.

This seems like a no-brainer, right?  Obviously, the more you post to your Facebook or your Twitter, the better the chance that others will see you.  For instance, The Growing Communications Twitter has about 170 followers right now.  Two weeks in and we're still growing.  That number of followers generates about one-thousand Tweets per day.  I check my Twitter about four times a day.  Every time I check, there are at a minimum of 300 posts backlogged.  I do most of my Twitter checks on my desktop so when I look at it, I see only the most recent 50 Tweets.  That means there are about 250 Tweets that I don't usually see.

I can diminish the problem by using my Yooknow app which notifies me of every new Tweet and FB post in a little bubble at the bottom of my computer screen.  I now also get new FB posts and messages on my iPhone which helps alleviate the problem of missing any interesting posts there.

The point is, I miss about two-thirds of my Tweets every day.  And I don't think I'm much different than most others on Twitter.  Here are some facts from the website LocalMatters, based in Denver that you might find interesting:

Moreover, social networks are powerful places to find and connect with consumers, as demonstrated by these stats:
■ 30% of all Facebook users check the network when they wake up in the middle of the night.  Source: Retrevo study, March 2010, as reported in Mediapost
■ The average teenager texts more than 2,000 times per month.  Source: Nielsen Study, June 2009
■ 27% visit search engines at least a couple times a week.
■ 26% of consumers visit social networking sites every day.
■ 25% visit IYP sites less than once a week.

■ 48% of the U.S. population have a social media profile.  Source: Edison Research and Arbitron study, 2010
■ There are over 100 million blogs indexed by Technorati.  Source: Technorati State of the Blogosphere
■ More people visit Facebook every day than Google.  Source: Hitwise
So, there is some good news here.  First, if you're using your social media platforms regularly, you're in a small group of small businesses and non-profits that are using the tool effectively.  As part of that 16-percent, you already have a leg up on the rest of your competition.  If you fall into the other group, well, that's why this blog exists, to help grow that 16-percent number.

The Numbers Don't Lie:

A few things become very obvious when you look at these stats.  First, there are a boatload of people out there using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogging and playing FourSquare and such.  Some, maybe even many of these folks are looking for your business, even if they don't know it yet.  Your job is to let them know you're out there and get them to check out your pages.

Second, teenagers clearly have too much time on their hands.  Third, time of day is less relevant that the number of posts you put up.

I can say with certainty that I have woken up in the middle of the night, wandered to my computer to check my emails and while I'm on, I check my Facebook and Twitter pages as well.  Don't get the wrong idea.  I'm not saying you should set your alarm clock to wake up at 1am to post something onto your FB page.  To reiterate, it's not the time of day that matters as much as it is the number of times you post.

For instance, another article in the Los Angeles Times previewing a new service that figures out the value of your Facebook page also makes this interesting observation:  (click on the link to read the entire article)
Regardless, the tool could be valuable to brands that might be looking to extend their social marketing efforts. It derives its page evaluations based on Vitrue's own research on a slew of items, including its discovery that two posts-per-day is ideal for a Facebook page. It has even found the sweet spot for short URLs and the kind of posts added to a page.
Starbucks, for example, has one of the most highly valued fan pages. According to Vitrue's tool, the Starbucks fan page is currently valued at more than $20 million in annual worth to the company. But because the company doesn't post enough and it typically posts text content, rather than video or audio, it loses significant value. In fact, Vitrue's tool contends that Starbucks' page could be worth more than $76 million if the company optimized its page.
 We've already noted in this blog the value of using video to grab attention from viewers and readers and to attract new friends and fans.  But what is really interesting is the following quote:  "...including its discover that two posts-per-day is ideal for a Facebook page."

Two posts seems pretty easy to commit to, right?  But looking at the fact that I have approximately 350 friends and fans on my personal page, and given that I probably get about 100 new FB posts a day, that says a lot.  If even one third, or about 115 of my friends and fans posted regularly, that would be, obviously, 115 posts a day.  Now, imagine if even ten-percent of those posting regularly, that would greatly increase the number of posts I get every day.

Take a look at your Facebook and Twitter pages.  If you spend any kind of time on them, you know that there are friends you see posting every day, sometimes multiple times a day.  I would say that there are about 50 of my 350 friends posting regulary on FB.  These are the ones that I am aware of because they post not once, but sometimes two or three times a day, almost every day.

I may miss a few postings from these folks every now and then, but see them online and I see at least one of their posts nearly every day.  Hence, if I had a friend who posted once a day, but they post during a time that I'm not on, I rarely see their posts, and my awareness of them is very low.

What this means to you:

Let's put this all together now.  When I work with clients, I often tell them that their level of activity will determine the success of their social media efforts.  This means multiple posts every day on their various social media platforms.  As a small business owner or non-profit director, you have a busy schedule, sometimes it's just not possible to take five minutes here or ten minutes there to figure out what you want to post, and then post it. 

What this means is having a strategy for posting.  Here is the typical strategy I help put together for most clients.  Obviously, the strategy will change slightly from client to client based on their audience and goals and needs.  But this is a great place to start:

1.  Spend time either first thing in the morning or the night before crafting posts, either links to interesting and relevant articles and videos, insights or tips or positive comments about your organization.  Ideally you craft three separate entries.

2.  Identify three times during the day when you feel you can spare five minutes to upload your post to Facebook.  

3.  Make sure you stick as close to the schedule as possible.

4.  Repeat for Twitter.

5.  Try to stay up on current events.  If something in the news or pop culture catches your eye and is relevant to your organization, respond to it during one of your scheduled posting times.  Save your pre-selected post for the next day.

You can also take part in conversations or comment on other people's posts as a way to stay visible.  There are a couple of reasons for this strategy.  First, it gives you a chance to post multiple bits of information about your organization, fun tips or video that others will find useful.  It also separates the postings so you stay visible to as large an audience as possible.

Too often clients think that if they post once, all of their friends will see it at some point.  This isn't true.  If they only check their FB or Twitter once a day, then your posting might get lost in the shuffle and they'll never see you.  By posting three different times throughout the day, you improve the chances that nearly all of your friends will see at least one of your posts.

Repost, repost, repost!

There is another trick that I've used on several occassions, particularly on Twitter, and that's reposting.  I often get clients that balk at this idea, thinking that they're imposing or annoying their friends and fans.  Don't worry about that.  Reposts simply give your posts an opportunity to be seen by more than those immediately on when you post.

You can make a post early in the morning, and then repost later in the afternoon and no one will get upset at you.  For those that missed it the first time, your post will be brand new.  For those that saw it the first time, they'll simply note it and move on to another posting.  Reposting works very well with videos or pics since it allows you to change the copy that precedes it.  So you can post a video with one wording of your copy, then repost it later with a different wording, pointing out something new or interesting about the video or pics.  This might even grab the attention of those that saw the posting the first time but just weren't moved enough to view it.

I do this often on Twitter, moreso than on Facebook.  And I've yet to get a complaint.  So don't worry about the time of day you post.  If you happen to be awake at 2am, and you're checking your social media pages, why not take a moment and post something fun, clearly you'll reach a different audience than you normally do.  But when it comes to raising your profile, worry less about the time of day you post and focus more on the number of times a day you post.  The benefits will be greater and you'll sleep better at night, promise.


  1. Another helpful tip is to make sure to spread the love... What does this mean? It means stay active in your community! On facebook it means cliicking like or posting a comment because chances are that they are likely to check your updates when you do. You might even think about a rotation of who you check and when like A-L one day and M-Z the next. On Twitter think about replying and retweeting because a lot of times the favor will be returned. In both cases it means more eyes on you and potentially more followers in the future!

  2. That is a great idea, Jim. I find myself checking those that I haven't heard from in a while, just to make sure I'm aware of what they're up to. I do a lot of retweeting, since I hope they retweet my posts, I figure I should do the same. Thank you for the comment!