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The Science of Social Timing

Creating spectacular content is job one of any modern marketing plan.

It’s how we connect and engage with customers and leads. It’s what people want from you…not ads, not salesy promotional pieces, not aggressive sales tactics. They want useful, relevant, super high quality content: videos, infographics, podcasts, blog posts, interactive quizzes, white papers, case studies, and more.

Content is popular. 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers currently use it, according to CMI’s annual report of content marketing benchmarks, budgets, and trends.

Content is powerful. 77% of B2B marketers describe it as at least “moderately” successful, if not “very” or “extremely”, while 78% of B2C marketers say the same thing.

And in our ad-blocking world, content is one of the best methods to get your message in front of as many eyes as possible.

So if you’re not already in the content game, get started today. And if you are, do more. It’s that good. There’s an audience of millions – billions – hungry for more and more content. Give it to them.

But How?

There’s no shortage of channels to distribute your stellar stuff once it’s been created.

You might have your own blog or maybe you guest post on someone else’s site.

Perhaps you’ve gone the email route, sending your content gems out as a weekly or monthly newsletter or series.

Increasingly, social media is the place to find, share, and post. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, and platforms that you aren’t even aware of yet. In fact, social media posts are the top choice of both B2B (94%) and B2C (96%) marketers alike.

You’re spoiled for choice. But I’m going to let you in on an open secret: there’s no need to choose. You should be doing all three. Blogs, email, and social media.

According to B2C marketers, their top three most used distribution channels are:

  1. Social media platforms (89%)
  2. Email (86%)
  3. Blogs (70%)

And the top three most effective channels are email (72%), social media (61%), and blogs (47%).

B2B marketers list their top three most used channels as:

  1. Email (93%)
  2. Social media platforms (92%)
  3. Blogs (79%)

And the most effective? Email (74%), blogs (45%), and social media (40%). Seeing a trend?

The most successful marketers use email, social, and blogs to get their content out and seen. And it works. Wonderfully. Magnificently.

So you’ve got great content to share, and the top channels for distribution according to industry insiders and professionals. You’re good to go, right?

Not so fast.

The Extra Boost

Here’s a marketing secret that’s not quite as open: when you share is as important as what and where.

Think about it: the internet is a global playground, with people online and browsing for content to consume 24/7. What you post or send at any given moment will be seen by a very small percentage, with an even smaller percentage actually taking notice of it.

You’ve got to hit publish or send at the opportune moment. When is it most likely to have the farthest reach and biggest impact? Don’t guess. Know.

For example, the Central and Eastern time zones account for over 80% of the population in the United States. Publishing to Facebook at 9pm in Los Angeles means it’s midnight on the east coast. You’re excluding a huge chunk of potential targets. When they wake up the next moment, your post or tweet is long gone.

Be selective about when you share. You worked hard on it. And they want to see it. Share at the best time on social, email, and your blog.

Part 1: Timing and Social Networks

Every network has its own highs and lows. You can use that to your advantage by posting on the right day at the right time to increase your likes, shares, and clicks.

science of social timing social networks

Facebook and Twitter remain two of your best bets in the social media arena.

Twitter Timing

Your specific goal will determine the “best” time to tweet.

If you’re aiming for retweets – which gets your content seen by an exponentially larger audience – the data suggests that late afternoon is the time to share. The largest percentage of retweets occurs around 5pm. This makes sense when you remember that many people love to jump on their favorite social media platform at the end of their work day.

If a healthy click-through rate is your endgame, consider tweeting at noon and/or 6pm. Twitter users tend to be most engaged during their lunch break, and at home after work. The data also recommends sharing your best content at either midweek or on the weekend.

The average lifespan of a tweet is about 15 minutes. Make it count.

Facebook Timing

The undisputed champ in terms of numbers and potential reach – we’re talking billions – Facebook may not have the market cornered as it once did, but you still need an active presence there. Consumers just expect it.

A typical Facebook post hits about 75% of its impressions with the first 2.5 hours, and 75% of its engagement within 5 hours. After that it’s still kicking, but it’s on life support. You’ve got a five hour window to get it seen and shared.

The best day to share? Saturday. It gets nearly twice as many shares as any other day. Makes sense. We all love to waste a few minutes (or hours as the case may be) on the weekend catching up on our friends, family, and world.

The best time to share? Noon. By far. 7pm is a close second, and sometime around 2am is, oddly enough, almost as good. Blame it on insomniacs and those who unexpectedly wake up in the middle of the night.

Instagram Timing

Instagram hasn’t been around very long compared to Facebook (2004) or Twitter (2006), but it has quickly claimed a spot near the top of the social media mountain since its founding in 2010. It now boasts 800 million users – more than double that of Twitter – and a very active user base. Both individuals and brands love the platform. 71% of American businesses use it, and 7 out of 10 hashtags are branded.

The life expectancy of an Instagram post is longer than Facebook and Twitter combined. Expect to get 50% of your comments within the first 6 hours, and 75% within two days.

Users tend to be most engaged on weekdays, with Monday showing the best engagement. The best times include 8am – always time for a quick peek before work or school – and 2am – again, the nightowls among us have to do something, too.

You can find multiple studies claiming to know the best time for virtually every platform. Whatever you’re working with, do some research to guide your scheduling decisions.

Part 2: Timing and Email

Email marketing is the best return-on-investment you can make for your business, with an average return of $44 for every $1 spent. You read that right: the ROI for email marketing is 4400%.

And if that’s not enough, email has a higher conversion rate than search and social combined.

Moral of the story? Use email to share your content and engage with your customers and leads.

science of social timing Email Marketing

But…stop and consider the volume of email we all receive on a typical day. Collectively, we send nearly 270 billion email messages each day, and the average office worker gets 121 daily emails clogging their inbox.

If you want to avoid being deleted, overlooked, or ignored, you’ve got to time those precious messages to arrive at the right time.

So what’s “right”?

  • Saturday has a 44% open rate, better than any other day of the week. Sunday is the next best.
  • Open rates are highest – 53% – early in the morning around 6am. We all grab our phones as soon as we get up.
  • Not coincidentally, click rates are also highest on Saturday (~10%) and around 6am (~10%).
  • Email sent between 10pm-6am – often called the “dead zone” – are largely ineffective. While we seem to enjoy social media in the wee small hours, the same does not apply to our inbox. Likewise between 10am-12pm, when we’re most focused and concentrating on work.
  • Experiment with sending at various times based on the content itself. People are interested in different things at different times. Evidence suggests that email about financial services are best between 2pm-3pm, whereas promotional content is best between 6am-10am (our day is winding up) or 7pm-10pm (our day is winding down).

As for the frequency with which you send your messages, your CTR is highest and unsubscriptions are lowest with between 1-4 emails per months.

All of that said, the best data on the best time to send your emails is best determined by tracking your emails over time.

Part 3: Timing and Blogs

Blogging should be a no-brainer. Consumers prefer to read posts and articles than they do ads and banners.

You’ve seen the statistics:

So create, write, and publish. Frequently. Sites that publish 16+ each month drove 3.5x more traffic than those that only published between 0-4 monthly posts.

But, as with social and email, when you hit that publish button is important.

Publish during peak times during the day, and you’ll likely see more traffic and more engagement (comments and sharing). That’s good. But you’ll be competing against more posts and it’s far easier to get buried in the content avalanche. In essence, it’s much harder to stand out and get noticed.

Publish during down times at night, and the reverse is true. You’ll have much less competition for the attention of your audience, but fewer of them will be awake and consuming blog posts, pulling your engagement down with them. You stand out, but too a smaller crowd.

science of social timing part 3 blogging

Ultimately, your analytics report is going to give you concrete numbers about when your readers are most engaged. Until you have the numbers to make that data meaningful, consider following the advice below.

The “best” time to publish depends a lot on your goal for a particular post.

Traffic

The best day to generate traffic with a post is Monday. The best time to generate traffic with a post is 11am. The weekend is over, and after a few hours at work, people are looking for something else to do (shh…don’t tell the boss).

Comments

If you’re aiming for comments, then the data suggests publishing on Saturday. The best time? 9am. People are more likely to take the extra effort to comment while reading their favorite blog while drinking coffee on Saturday morning.

Links

Looking for the most inbound links for every published piece? The study reveals 7am as the optimal time, and both Monday and Thursday as the best days of the week.

And while users read blogs from dawn to dusk and beyond, about 70% of them say they read in the morning, more than those who listed afternoon, evening, or night.

Creating great content – be it for social media, email, or your blog – is step 1. Finding the right platform to reach your audience is step 2. But everyone is already doing that if they’re doing content marketing.

Give them what they want (great social media posts, blog posts, and email content), where they want it (the specific platforms popular with your unique target audience), and when they’re most likely to see and engage with it.

The secret sauce is when. It can give you an advantage over your competition if you’re targeting by what, where, and when your most likely to hit the bullseye and connect. And any advantage you can give yourself is well worth the effort in the digital marketing landscape.

Have you experimented with your content schedule? What tools, tips, or tricks do you use?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

  1. Saturday Facebook sharing was a surprise!

    • Rajeev: I thought so as well! My personal rationale for that stat was that folks generally have more free time on the weekends.

      • I thought the same thing! I have seen more personal success on Mondays and oddly Thursdays. It would be interesting to compare mobile and desktop activity per site. I would expect Saturday to be driven by mobile traffic.

    • Gaurav Gurbaxani Jun 22, 2015 at 7:33 am

      We keep split testing the time we post. It really varies across our clients niches!

  2. Hi Jason,

    Very interesting infographic,I would love to see a European comparison but I am sure a lot will be similar.

    Agree with Rajeev, was surprised about the weekend!

    Keep them coming.

  3. David Gadarian Jun 17, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Great stuff. I did an FB ad campaign a while back and saw a similar result with regard to Saturday.

    I’ll have to try the 5 PM tweets.

  4. I like the stats you provided. I’m a numbers guy and these charts spoke volumes to me. Thx for putting this together.

  5. Great infographic!… it confirms what we tell our customers at Post Planner:

    >> that posting outside of normal business hours is key

    >> that if you don’t have time to get on your fan page during those hours, a scheduling app like Post Planner can help!

    Thanks again! (ps. you might consider putting an RSS link on your blog here)

    • Great points! Scheduling apps are wonderful tools to help automate your social networking.

      If you get a second, check out our scheduling app for Twitter:

      sharefeed.com/

  6. Jason, would love to have this information for Canada! I just started a social media position there, although living in the U.S.

    • Laurie: Canadian stats would be really useful. I imagine the data would be fairly similar to the U.S. – might be fodder for some additional infographics. :)

  7. Do you have some Australian stats?

    • Ian: Hmmm … I’m guessing that Aussie data would be fairly similar to the U.S.

      According to Nielsen.com, Australia has the highest per-capita social media usage:

      rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2010/01/some_thoughts_o.html

  8. This info is clearly for fan pages which are primarily for the US. Our fans are spread out all over the globe, with approx 25 percent in Asia. What timing advice can you offer?

    • Sally: Good question. I feel that the social networking cycles for other countries would be fairly similar to the U.S. (augmented by time, of course).

      One thing you could try is posting (or tweeting, or whatever) the same article multiple times (with other posts in between, of course). This is what we try to do with our KISSmetrics Twitter account:

      http://twitter.com/KISSmetrics

      So, for example let’s say that your demographic is 75% North American and 25% Asian. And let’s say you have an article that you’d like to push to Twitter. To evenly circulate that article across your entire demographic, I’d tweet the article once at 5PM Beijing time (5AM EST), and again 12 hours later at 5PM EST. In between the two tweets you could add other relevant posts.

  9. Interesting: I tried to sign up for the updates and Aweber keeps insisting there’s nothing in the fields, even though they are both filled. Get someone to that point only to have a tech glitch has to be frustrating.

  10. Martha Giffen Jun 19, 2011 at 6:19 am

    I had no CLUE about Saturdays on Facebook. Thanks so much for that info!

  11. @kissmetrics @danzarrella seems that timing is different for different locations. Twitter spikes 10am + 11pm here. Facebook on weekdays.

  12. Are your timezs above in EST??

  13. Amish Gazebos Jun 21, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Thx to for your sharing, that is very useful :) …. you’ve share a great post which gives more knowledge for the readers.

  14. Interesting statistics here. Very nice post, and the infographic is slick!

  15. Great Stat very useful thanks nice presentation

  16. social network can be connected to another person it is a very grateful tract that can be link and may be connected to another person .
    so that when you share content you’ll get maximum exposure. Use the following data to learn when your audience is most likely to tune in. Be sure

  17. I thought that Saturday posting on FB would not be a good idea… until I tried it a year ago and realized that in fact it was the perfect day to post.

    Just goes to show you need to test, test and then test some more… some results will surprise you and make a big difference to your ROI.

    • Kathy: Excellent point. This infographic was intended to be a general reference – try experimenting with different dates and times and see what works best for you.

  18. Everyone shares on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean they’re reading stuff though.

  19. This is cool and insightful. The use of social media feedback tools is far more helpful when compared to trditional forms of marking… Good job guys

  20. I’ Canadian also and wonder what the stats would be. Logical though noon and dinner or just after. We’re all supposed to be working at the other times!

  21. hey, interesting research. Actually i would be curios to see the same research with the comparison between the different countries! Europe i’m sure is much different from us.. as within Europe things are really different!

  22. Any breakdown available on what it is exactly people are sharing? What are the topics and these conversations about? What percentage of content shared on a Saturday is from a corporate source? Is it higher than during the rest of the week? Without this breakdown can you justify your Saturday recommendation?

  23. # justify for a corporate that is.

  24. Wow! This is very valuable data for all of us Internet marketers. Jason thanks so much for making this available to us for free…people would pay for this kind of data!

    It is also good to note that approx. 38% of referral sharing comes from Facebook and 11% from Twitter (according to a study by ShareThis)….So it would appear to be crucial to get maximum exposure via Facebook using this timing data.

    Thanks again Jason!

  25. Very good information. Thank you Dan Zarrella and HubSpot for taking the time to prepare this infographic. – @Callistecomm #consulting

  26. 1. It looks very much like you’ve plotted the day with 12 points in the re-tweet plot, one every two hours. What do the underlying data look like?

    2. The entire late-afternoon into evening is very similar in re-tweet rate, and picking out the peak at 5 pm (though see point #1) really obscures that.

    3. Best day for tweeting: Monday is worst, but others are all about the same.

    Similar things could be said about the FaceBook data.

    I’d need a lot more detail before I put too much trust in this.

  27. Fantastic infographic! We will definitely share this on Twitter. 6PM, of course! ;)

  28. Catherine Heggarty Apr 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    With social networking crossing time zone barriers and reaching across the globe, I’m wondering what time zone this graphic is derived from. Obviously that will make a significant difference.

  29. Innosanto Nagara Apr 14, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Our target audience is more West Coast heavy, and middle age to older. I wonder if an infographic could be done that broke out those things. For instance, if you don’t care as much about hitting the East Coast peak (where 48% of the US population is, but just not our target audience), is Noon east coast time on a saturday still true for facebook posting? Or if the target audience is older, is the 4 tweets/hr still true for an audience that is on twitter less?

  30. Not sure about your conclusion. The graphs tell when people share the most but that doesn’t necessarily mean it also the best time to get a tweet red by many.

  31. Hi,

    This is excellent post. It is sure that if you share some thing when every one on social networks then you can get more exposure and coverage.

    Thank you

  32. Does this include demographics such as SAHMs? Their social media usage patterns are very specific and they are devoted users of SM.

  33. It’s just pretty simple actually! Google loves authority websites that’s why you are seeing social media sites like Facebook page, Linkedin, Pinterest and etc on Google SERP’s.

  34. 1-4 times per hour is insane. that could be as many as 20 tweets over a 5 hour period.

    I don’t know about you guys, but if i get that many tweets from a single brand or person show up in my timeline, they get unfollowed.

    Statistics might show that it works, but practically, I don’t think it’s a good approach.

  35. Really awesome graphic! In a time where its difficult to keep up with the constantly evolving social media world, this chart helps nail down (for the moment!) the best strategies to share your content. Big thanks!!

  36. This is an awesome resource. What I have found (mostly backed up by these findings) is that simply living your personal life while tracking this stuff helps plan for your business posts. For example, I too noticed that Saturday around noon and 1 or 5 were amazing times to post simply because I noticed a spike in likes and shares when I posted things at that time.

  37. good stuff, is there any tool to get the best time to tweet?

  38. This is a really nice fact backed with a really understandable data. Is there any updates on the current condition (2015)?

  39. Rakshita Sharma Apr 13, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Excellent efforts behind posting this blog !!!! It is sure that if you share some thing when every one on social networks then you can get more exposure and coverage.

  40. It was really a helpful for people like me who are struggling to get into social media thing.
    Thnx

  41. Is the popularity of your post still influenced as much by the time you publish it? People who like your page, for example, will be shown your post when they log in. It will only be the few people who have their activity feed set to chronological order who will “miss” your post. If the post is popular it will appear at the top of people’s feeds irrespective of when it was posted in that day.

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