What time of day are social media most effective?

time-94990_960_720A MARKETING ASSOCIATE picked up an interesting tidbit of information in the course of a recent social media campaign. He found that the campaign pulled plenty of views, clicks, and sales on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and almost none on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on holidays and weekends.

At first blush, two conclusions might appear reasonable. First, that the best time to run social media ads is during so-called “banker’s hours.” (Apologies for the stereotype to hardworking bankers.) Second, that your employees may be spending considerable amounts of time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram et al—when you’re supposedly paying them to work.

The surfing-not-working problem used to be limited to jobs that plunk employees all day in front of a computer. But thanks to portable devices, it’s now easier than ever to waste time no matter when and where you work. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

There are some data that appear to back up both conclusions. ComScore reported that online shopping during the year-end holidays “… peaked during the middle of the day … More than half of all online dollars were spent between the hours of 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, with the heaviest spending (26.9 percent) occurring during the 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM time segment.” Advertising Age reported a U.K. study that found, “Younger audiences … showed more interest in commercial messages as the day progressed, while older age groups had distinct peaks in attention between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.”

If you clicked the above links, you may have noticed that, respectively, the ComScore and Advertising Age data are from 2007 and 2009. In a fast-evolving digital world, that makes them ancient. More recent data in this area are painfully difficult to track down, but at least one 2012 study from Statista shows that 54 percent of online sales happen outside of normal work hours. While that’s encouraging, it leaves a hefty 46 percent shopping from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Don’t change your social media schedule—or fire anyone—just yet. There are caveats.

First, it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone is at work on weekdays from 9 to 5. Second, even 2012 data are old. Third, U.K. and U.S. work and shopping habits may differ. Fourth, my associate’s data relate to just one product. Other products targeting other markets may not produce the same results.

If you’re deciding upon day parts to advertise in social media, all of the above leave you with little to go on. What to do? Simple. Never assume. Find out what works for your market by testing and tracking days and day parts. 

Equally important, make an ongoing practice of testing. Per my earlier comment about a fast-evolving digital world, a day part that serves you well one week may betray you the next.

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