Predictive Marketing

The Best Time of Day to Tweet

Twitter has become an increasingly popular and important tool for businesses to keep in touch with their customers. Twitter is a medium unlike any other. Each tweet has a limited life-span – if it is not read within a short time of its being posted, the chances of it ever being read drop exponentially. The constant stream of new tweets from the group of individuals each twitterer is following makes it unlikely that the tweet will be read if it is a few hours old. For few twitterers capture all of their tweets in RSS feeds, or take the time to examine all the latest tweets from more than a handful of individuals. For a business hoping to broadcast a message that is read my the most followers possible, timing is of the essence.

So then, what is the best time of day to tweet? There have been several approaches to answer this question:

As you can see, there are a lot of different opinions about the best time to tweet. In order to develop the best answer possible to this question, I collected data over the course of several weeks for a business whose followers consist primarily of event professionals.

The data set consisted of several thousand tweets, including the username, the time and day of the tweet, and the tweet itself. For the purpose of this analysis, I assumed that the best indicator of a given twitterer’s degree of engagement was whether or not they had tweeted within a given hour. So in order to determine the best time of day to tweet, what is most important is not the number of tweets being posted at a particular time, but the number of unique users posting tweets. Here’s the data, in Eastern Time:

For this group of followers, there are actually two optimal hours to tweet – 10:00 – 11:00 AM and 12:00 – 1:00 PM. Tweets during these two hours reach 23.7% of the total number of followers, an 18% advantage over the next best time, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, and a 31% advantage over 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM. These increases in total available audience are  highly significant to a business with thousands of followers.

Notice that, for this particular group, a tweet during the hour beginning at 9:00 AM, the beginning of Gary McAffrey’s time window, would only reach an available audience that is two-thirds the size of that available during 10:00 – 11:00 AM and 12:00 – 1:00 PM. Malcolm Cole’s suggestion of 4:01 PM reaches an available audience that is less than half the size – only 41% – of that of the best time to tweet.  Guy Kawasaki’s formula of four tweets varied over 8 – 12 hour intervals is a hit-or-miss proposition. In this particular case, the Social Media Guide is right on the money – the hour beginning at 9:00 AM Pacific/12:00 PM Eastern is best.

But does this pattern hold for every group of followers? Or does each group of followers have a unique pattern, a sort of “time fingerprint”? To answer this question, I examined a second group of followers of a CRM company. Here’s the data, once again expressed in Eastern Time:

This group is far different! The group following the CRM company is much more likely to be active during the morning hours, and is more evenly distributed over the entire day. As a result, a tweet to this group reaches a maximum of 10.8% of the total available audience, as compared to the group of event professionals, which peaked at 23.7%. The CRM group reaches its maximum at 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, rather than the hour before or after, as in the previous case. So while a close approximation, the Social Media Guide guideline of 12:00 PM Eastern Time would for this group reach an audience 17% smaller than the peak time period of 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

As these two data sets demonstrate, there is no one best time to tweet for every business. Each business has a unique set of followers with their own Twitter “time fingerprint”.  You have to track the habits of your own set of followers in order to determine the best single time of day for your business to tweet.

Develop this graph for your own set of followers. How much different is your group compared to these two?

One of the most important insights from these two examples is that at any given time, you can only reach 10% – 24% of your followers with a single tweet. In a future post, I’ll examine what percentage of a group of followers can be reached with multiple tweets.

 

You Can Measure Social Media ROI: The Incredible $20,000 Tweet

While some social media enthusiasts struggle with the question of how to measure the ROI from social media, the free market is alive and well and functioning. Consider this: an unnamed celebrity was recently paid $20,000 for a single tweet to endorse a product. A company called Sponsored Tweets matches advertisers with celebrities to create sponsored conversations on Twitter. According to Ted Murphy of Izea, the company that runs Sponsored Tweets, “It was actually an incredible value for the advertiser, since the net cost per click came out to less than $.50 per click.”

Sound familiar? This is nothing more than Old School mass media advertising. Considering that there are 350 million Facebook users, 75 million Twitter users, and over 50 million Linkedin users, it is not surprising that companies are figuring out ways to leverage the vast reach that these platforms can provide, sometimes in the most mercenary of ways.

But you don’t have to be a mass marketer to derive measurable ROI from social media. Take this example: a high tech conference, with a mere 350 Twitter followers, recently sent out a series of tweets promoting its conference. The links in each of the tweets were coded to enable tracking from a click on the link in the tweet through a completed registration. The result: $15,000 in registrations from new customers. The process can be analyzed as follows:

When you think about it, the progression from tweet to registration as illustrated above is similar to an email. Here are the parallels:

So in one instance, the case of the $20,000 tweet, Twitter is being used as mass media. In another instance, a series of tweets promoting a conference that generated $15,000 in registrations, Twitter is being used as a direct response vehicle.

A lot of the confusion over measuring the ROI of social media is a result of its chameleon-like qualities. For businesses, it can be leveraged as mass media, one-to-one marketing, customer service, a business intelligence tool, a source of new product ideas, competitive intelligence, market research, and in a host of other ways. Methods of measuring the ROI of every one of these disciplines have already been established in other contexts. These methods can be adapted to measure ROI on social media. But only one in six companies measures the ROI from their social media investment today.

Your company can measure the ROI of social media, and continuously improve it. Here’s how:

  1. Establish clear objectives for the use of social media. As we have seen, social media can be used to achieve multiple objectives. You need to be clear about how you intend to achieve and measure the results of every one of them.
  2. Categorize each type of customer interaction according to the objective it will help achieve. On Twitter, for example, each tweet will fall into a different category, based on its objective.
  3. Develop a tracking system that enables you to measure the results of each customer interaction in comparison with the desired result.
  4. Analyze the results in light of your objectives.
  5. Optimize your strategy – choose the tactics that are providing the most ROI. Eliminate the ones that aren’t.
  6. Go back to step 1. Set new objectives, and start the cycle again.

If you have clear objectives for your company’s use of social media, the ROI can be measured. Admittedly, some objectives may be harder to measure than others. But if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

When approached in this way, I believe that social media will generate a high ROI for most companies. Social media advocates don’t need to struggle with the ROI question any longer. The ROI is there if companies approach their social media efforts the right way.

Predictive Marketing