Research Highlights Shifting Social Media Dynamics for Brands

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Imagine you’ve spent hours putting together the perfect social media post for an upcoming Facebook campaign. When should your post go live for maximum engagement?

The answer, according to new data from Sprout Social, depends on a number of factors, including the platform, the day of the week, and the industry or vertical in which you operate. If you work for a consumer goods brand and you’re posting on Facebook, for example, then the best times for content to go live are Thursdays at 2 p.m. and Fridays at 11 a.m. On the other hand, marketers working in healthcare should put up their Facebook posts on Fridays at noon if they want to make a splash.

“While the highest engagement times still lean toward weekdays, more and more industries are seeing prime times to post on the weekends,” says Rachael Samuels, social media manager at Sprout Social. “This data is a reminder that social is a 24/7 platform.”

Industry isn’t the only factor that determines user engagement in Sprout’s analysis. The best time to post content is also dependent on the platform. The best times to post on Facebook, regardless of industry, are Wednesday at noon and 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 1 and 2 p.m. Over on Twitter, the best times for marketers to post are on Fridays from 9 to 10 a.m. Content on LinkedIn should go up on Wednesdays between 3 and 5 p.m.

To come up with these results, Sprout Social’s data science and SEO teams worked off a heat map of user engagement data, based on more than 20,000 customer interactions with 935 million messages across 420,000 social profiles. The resulting report paints the picture of a complex system in which audiences change by network and industry.

Although there has already been ample data published on the best times to post on social media, Samuels says other reports have only gotten as granular as sharing a single best time of the day to post, while Sprout’s research takes a more targeted approach. In addition to providing specific days and times for the most engagement on social for each platform, Sprout’s research also offers that same data for specific industries.

The report supports the notion that brands are likely to experience the most success when they use data to pinpoint the best times to post. Or, as the company describes it, “It pays to fish where the fish are biting.”

“Engagement is not only a key metric for brands, but also an important component of a successful marketing strategy,” says Samuels. “This data helps underscore the need for brands to take the time to understand the unique engagement habits of their audience, across networks, in order to create more valuable publishing strategies.”

Samuels says the wide variance in engagement times, both by network and industry, stuck out to her as she looked through the results of the analysis. 

“Knowing these types of differences is a great starting point for brands looking to make adjustments to their publishing efforts,” she says.

Samuels hopes that brand marketers who look at the research come away with a greater understanding that social cannot be approached with a one-size-fits-all mentality, and what works for one industry, or even one brand, may not work for another.

“Having that understanding at the start will help brands better cut through the social clutter,” she says. “Not to mention, resources can be limited for many social teams, making it vital to ensure content and publishing efforts are seeing the most return on investment.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.