How can you accurately decide when to post to social media when there are many reports, infographics, and varying online advice on what time of day and how often to post to social networks? So many contradictory reports make it difficult to know what advice is the best advice.
There are plenty of infographics that show the alleged best times to post on social media and the number of times to post on social networks daily; yet I find them all to be subjective and too general. That last one even says "your mileage may vary" right at the top.
I propose a different approach: why not just figure out for yourself the number of times per day you should be posting and your own unique best times of day to post. Use general guidelines as your starting points, but measure and test your own results.
General Starting Points
Plenty of businesses will post the same photo, caption, and status update to all their social networks without any regard for the differences of how people use those networks. Your goal should be to create something similar for each network to help tell the story a little at a time across each of them. Posting the same information to all of your social networks will just lower the amount of overall social engagement you have, and your followers will eventually ignore or unfollow you because of your cross-network repeated posts.
Just to be clear, you can post about the same topic across all your networks; just don't use the same photo or words. Attracting online attention through social media does require a lot of time, and eventually you should post to each network a few times every day. Although I'm not explaining how to do it in this Nugget, you'll have to work out a process for you to create that continual stream of content so you can achieve the following frequency of posting...
Frequencies of Posts
Eventually, you'll have to figure out how often you should be posting every day. The following is my personal advice for what you should strive for:
Facebook Profile - 1 business related post per day, then as many lifestyle posts as you feel are needed.
Facebook Page - 1 education business related post per day, 1 other post per day if there's a need. Then only 1 sales message in every 10 posts.
Twitter - At least 1 tweet every 8 hours of every day, more frequently if you have something important to share, but do not tweet several times in a row unless it's during a special occasion or you are live reporting an event. Spread out your posts throughout the day or use a service like Buffer.
Google+ Page - My choice is 1 time per day, but others report that you can post up to 3 times on a business page every day without annoying your followers.
Google+ Profile - My choice is to post something business related only 1 time per day, but then I post personal stuff and reshare information I find valuable whenever I find the need. Do not share multiple things as the same time; spread out your posts throughout the day or use a service like Buffer.
LinkedIn - At most, share 1 time per day to your personal account. I don't use a business account on LinkedIn.
Pinterest - Repin from other accounts into your own pin boards as often as you like. There's no restriction for how much you do in a single sitting. Do not rapid-share new pins from your website into the same pin board. You can pin 1 new image to each of your boards all at once, but don't over share into the same board too quickly in a single sitting.
Instagram - The jewelry experts at the WJA Instagram seminar I attended in March 2016 recommended posting to Instagram 3 times per day, but not all at once. It's okay to post more than 3 times per day, and even up to 3 times per hour when you are covering a special event. Keep in mind that Instagram is not meant to be a photo album sharing platform, that's what Google+, Flickr, and Facebook are for.
I chose to ignore what everyone says about the best times to post and figured out my own best times. Although I had the general times figured out within a few months, it took more than a year to perfect the timing of my own posts for the best immediate engagement.
Instagram is the only social network that (currently) doesn't allow a live link from your post to your website. All the rest allow you to include a link, which you must do in order to track the effectiveness of your social posts.
The ultimate goal of your business social account is to sell something, but to do that you need to have a way for a potential buyer to get more information, or look around your website; which is why you should include a link to your website in every social post while trying to figure out your timing.
Using the UTM variable tracking technique I previously explained here, you could tag every one of your shared links with a date and time that they were shared.
Here's an example format of the UTM variables that I would add to one of my socially shared links:
The individual UTM variables are:
When reading the UTM reports in Google Analytics you'll see which links are clicked most, and at what time of the day. The tagging in the above example tells me that the link was shared to my personal Twitter account at 5AM. You'll have to share posts at the same time of day for several weeks in a row to see what type of immediate reaction you get. Cross reference that with the engagement data provided by Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics, and Pinterest analytics to help you determine the best times for you specifically.
Stick With It
You have to stick with the same posting routine over several weeks in order to measure any real results in Google Analytics. The results will be much smaller than what's reported by the social network because they are also measuring if people like, comment, or pause to read one of your posts.
Although the Google Analytics measurements are important for showing when people are willing to click your shared link, you also need to consider the comments or questions that people leave on your posts. Remember that a social post at 5AM will get comments throughout the day. You'll have to track the time those comments came in and include them in your reporting.
Between the measured clicks to your website and the time of the engagements on the social network, you'll eventually figure out the best times of day to post online.
Just one final hint: The life expectancy of a post to each social network is different. Take that into account when you are trying to target people during a specific time range. You'll find that sometimes you have to post at the exact target time; sometimes a little early, and sometimes you can post whenever you like within the target window.