The “best” time to post on social media (may not exist): a meta-analysis
“No, THIS is the best time to post.”
-Everyone, from the beginning of social media
We at AltoSocial have been researching some fundamental questions about social media since the moment of our inception. No question has been more consistently difficult to us than that of the best time to post on social media. Read on to find out what we found when we looked at the research, and how we’ve decided to tackle this question in our product.
One might wonder “what are these factors that make some times better for engagement than others? We can list the most important ones out, identified by prior research:
- The social media platform you’re using
- The industry you’re in
- The type of content you post
- The size of your audience
- What time zone you live in
- Other events happening in the world
It’s easy to see that this is an equation mediated by some big factors, and probably a hundred smaller ones.
Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped some big players in the marketing space from conducting research to see if they could tease out any patterns from the data. Each of them has done thorough work into finding the best times to post on their (or their clients’) platforms for every social media network they support. We’ve looked at the research of several of these players and compared them against each other.
What we’ve found is that despite their rigorous analyses, the trends for optimal engagement may be too complicated or too dynamic to be nailed down and distilled into takeaway advice for the average social media marketer. Going by social network, we’ll start with what each of these researchers say about the best time to post on Instagram.
Most researchers agree: Instagram’s high engagement numbers mean users are active at all times of day.
Quick Sprout believes that you can squeeze out small improvements by posting more on Monday and turning it down on Sunday, but overall any day is fine.
Huffington Post, in conjunction with Latergramme, believes that the best time to post is Wednesday at 7 PM. They believe that posting on any day is fine, but any time from 2 AM to 5 PM is best.
But Track Maven believes that the best time is more like 7 PM on a Friday.
So who’s right? Looking at these sources together in one place, it seems this mythical “best time to post” may be so elusive as to be unattainable. Let’s give this concept of the benefit of the doubt: it’s entirely possible that the best time on Instagram is just harder to pin down, with more variability than other social media platforms. Maybe we’ll be able to see some stronger patterns on Facebook.
On any given day, according to Quick Sprout, the best time is between 1 and 3 PM.
Elle & Co agrees that the best time is probably around 1 PM, but any time between 1 and 3 PM works almost as well.
SurePayroll opens that window up a little bit, saying 1 to 4 PM is optimal, with 3 PM being best.
CoSchedule demurs, bypassing that 1-3 PM window completely, saying that 9-10 AM, 11-noon, and 4 PM is optimal.
Okay, 3/4 sources in agreement ain’t bad. This is good news! However, research begins to vary wildly as to what days to post. Going back to those same sources…
Quick Sprout believes it’s Thursday and Friday.
Elle & Co says it’s more like Saturday and Sunday.
SurePayroll says Wednesday.
CoSchedule doesn’t offer a preference.
With zero agreement here, the idea is once again put into question. It seems the only real insight one can glean here is that sometime in the early afternoon works better than not, but with such variation, it’s not clear whether or not taking the time to schedule posts in this window is worth the possibly marginal improvements. That said, perhaps Twitter offers more steadiness in the data.
Kissmetrics believes the best time to post is 5 PM and the best day is Wednesday, although they broaden the range of acceptability to midweek and weekends.
Elle & Co agrees the best day to post is Wednesday, but their suggested times are off of Kissmetric’s, at 12-1 PM and 6-7 PM.
SurePayroll takes a different track, recommending Monday-Thursday between 1 and 3 PM.
Buffer dives a little deeper, dividing its analysis into B2B and B2C engagement. For B2B, the best day is Wednesday, and for B2C it’s the weekends, while the best time to post is between 6 and 7 AM.
Once again, conclusions seem quite scattered, with maybe Wednesday’s designation as a good day to post emerging as the lone trend among the data.
Is it time to let go of the idea that there is a best time, even best day to post? We at Alto Social don’t think the research agrees with itself well enough to produce much that is actionable, but that’s not to say that you can’t draw some loose trends from it. We think that it offers a good starting point and eliminates some of the hesitation many new marketers when they wonder if they should hold off on pressing the “Publish” button.
There is, however, a solution that you can apply that gets around much of this ambiguity.
Personalized Optimal Post Times
Using machine learning, Alto Social can determine the best time for you to post. And all of the confusion about what time zone you’re in, the industry you’re in, etc. can be waved away because the platform looks at specifically your performances over time.
Here’s how you can start:
- Create a schedule with post times throughout the day
- Fill up your content queue
- Give it about 1-2 weeks
- Check your Schedule settings and you’ll find our algorithm’s recommendations for when to post for optimal engagement for each account
- Revise your schedule to include more content in those times
That’s right; we’ll tell you how each account can best perform so there’s no guesswork about how which platform you’re using affects the optimal window. And over time, just as the optimal window may move in response to changes in factors you can’t see or control, our recommendations will change as well.