Can Careful Timing Get You More Retweets?

Chart of tweets, highlighting the times of day and days of week with maximum clicks on links.As a social marketer, I’m always curious about techniques to increase Twitter engagement rates, so I’ve read a number of articles and blog posts about the “optimal” time of day for tweeting.

Often based on data provided by a URL-shortening service (such as the bit.ly chart above), these stories focus on what time of day and day of week a post will generate the most retweets and clicks on Twitter. For instance, the seven rows in this chart represent Monday through Sunday (top to bottom), and the 24 columns represent the hours from midnight to midnight (left to right). Thus, to maximize the number of times the links in a tweet get clicked, apparently it’s best to post in the afternoon (1:00 to 3:00 p.m. EST) Monday through Thursday. There are similar charts for LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks.

Sounds reasonable enough, but I have some questions:

  • If you follow these guidelines too rigidly, don’t you miss connecting with a large part of your potential audience? Sure, there are more people viewing and engaging with your content during business hours, but you can increase the total number of people interacting with your content by publishing some of it at “non-peak” times. That’s because there are people who won’t see your tweets unless they’re near the top of their feeds – at 2 a.m. in your local time zone.
  • If that’s the case, should marketers experiment by writing different “hooks” pointing to the same content? I’m not sure where the balance is here between attracting more page views, versus bothering some people by using two tweets to direct them to the same content.
  • How do you factor in the kind of content you’re sharing? The company I work for sells data storage arrays, and I’ve found that sharing curated content, like geeky technical content with zero commercial message (such as a YouTube video on the history of magnetic storage), works best on weekends, rather than weekdays.
  • Should marketers use tools that identify the times when their particular followers are active? A quick search pulled up at least five such services (free and/or paid), with names like TweetStats, Tweriod, TweetReports, TweetWhen, and WhenToTweet.

Finally, note that these surveys show the times people are most likely to retweet a post, or click on embedded links; these may be different than the times people are most receptive to your brand’s particular message.