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You’ve begun to develop a social media plan. You’ve written some interesting tweets and highly “like”-able Facebook posts. There’s just one problem — you post your first message (a winner, you’re sure) and…crickets. Why isn’t anyone commenting? Where are those RTs? Is this thing on?

To figure out where things went wrong, take a look at some data. Analyse who your followers are, how they interact with you, and when they’re most likely to be online, and you’ll be able to better position your next campaign and reach the right people at the right time.

It would be wonderful if we could simply say, “Tweet between 3 and 5 on Friday afternoons for maximum engagement,” but it’s not quite that simple. Any number of factors play into the engagement equation. Are you targeting customers or other businesses? Are your followers looking for your input on what to do with their Saturday evening, or are you on their mind during a Tuesday afternoon meeting? Are you sharing a link to a lengthy article, an interesting video, or simply a bon mot? Research has been done that can provide some general guidelines, but the best way to determine how to reach your audience is to study your own data and then experiment a bit.

Tip:

You use different language talking to your neighbor than you do when talking to your boss. So wouldn’t you adjust to suit your followers when you’re posting on social media too? Knowing your audience is much more useful than just knowing what time zone they’re in — it can help you ensure you’re speaking their language, too.

Your toolbox

Different types of analytics tools provide different information, and choosing yours is mostly a matter of personal preference. There are free tools, as well as paid services ranging from a few dollars a month to several hundred, with varying levels of options. A few tools to explore are:

  • Google Analytics, which can track how social media traffic is driving to your website.
  • Integrated analytics and reporting in social media services, such as HootSuite and SproutSocial.
  • Stand-alone analytics services, which may analyse your activity, your followers, or trending content on Twitter as a whole. We like SocialBro, which has a detailed dashboard of information, including good tips on who to follow and a lot of segmentation. Its “best time to Tweet” feature is useful, as well. Other popular services include Buffer and Topsy.

Timing is everything

It doesn’t matter how good your tweet is if no one sees it. Knowing your followers can help you choose the best time to post. Are they awake? Online? Available to click that link or RT to their followers? Are they more likely to be on social media during a lunch break or after the kids are in bed? The more you know about who you’re talking to, the better you’ll understand how to talk to them. Weekdays between 9am and 3pm is generally a good starting time frame, but it’s not safe to generalise across all audiences. Use your analytics to find times when your followers are most active, come up with some content they’ll find interesting, and then start testing. Which leads us to…

Testing, 1, 2, 3

Data provides an excellent starting point, but you need to apply what you’ve learned. Planning a test campaign is good way of putting your findings to work — and it will give you even better, more targeted data for your next campaign.

  • Find a baseline. With so many factors in play, you want to narrow down the times when you think your followers might be online and able to interact with you. 4am on a Tuesday is probably not a great time. Noon on a Thursday may be. Choose a few different times that seem promising and start there.
  • Try it out. Tweet or post some similar (though not identical) content at a few different times and see what sort of response you get. Then try different types of content at different times. When are you seeing the most engagement? Do industry articles get more RTs on a Thursday afternoon than a Saturday evening, but links to videos result in more comments on the weekend? What sort of content do your followers prefer to engage with?
  • Dive deeper. Use analytics tools to gather more data on engagement so that you can pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.

Tip:

Mix it up. Just because you get the most RTs on videos posted at 3:00 Saturday afternoon doesn’t mean you should only post videos at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Tweeting at different times means reaching different — and more — people, and it’s a good way to grow your follower count.

More reading:

Here are some additional resources to help you make analytics work for you:

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