The other day during a consultancy session with a food industry client one of the directors asked a fairly common question that I get asked a lot. When is the best time to post things on social media? The glib answer is, “when your contacts are using the networks”.
However, there are reasonably well-established patterns of usage. There are peaks of social media usage early in the morning, at lunchtime, late afternoon and then early in the evening. Not only do you find lots of people using social media at that time, but because of that many companies also line up their social media activity so that it is posted at those peak times.
That is a good idea because it means that there are more people around at those times who could see the social media posts. Publishing items during the peak times means higher visibility. But it is also a bad idea. And that’s because so many companies know about the timings they are all at it. That means that anyone who also posts at the peak moments of the day is up against higher competition. When you post at the peak times, you can lose visibility.
However, new research published this week is turning on its head the notion of the best times of day to post. It turns out that the most beneficial time to post on social networks is late at night. The information comes from a study conducted in Finland. This research was looking at other aspects of social media, but the researchers noticed something. They saw that people in their study with the highest number of connections were those who posted late at night.
Upon further investigation, they also found that the people who posted later in the day tended to be at the centre of their network. In other words, they were the person that everyone else looked to for information. These individuals also managed to publish more posts. So, it seems that the people who post late at night are more popular online than those who post early in the day.
But that should come as no surprise. Night owls and early birds are different psychologically because of the “ascending reticular activating system” (ARAS) in their brains. Think of this as a power unit that fires up the rest of the mind. In some people, the ARAS is well powered and just needs to provide only a gentle prod to get the brain going when they wake up. But for other people, their ARAS is sluggish and needs lots of stimulation to give it enough oomph to power the rest of the brain. It’s a bit like starting a car on a cold morning. Some start straight away; others need several turns of the key to get it going.
The people who need lots of attempts to get their ARAS working are the night owls. Their brain takes ages to get going, and it needs lots of stimulation to make the ARAS work. And how do those people get their stimulation? Well they put themselves out and about, they contact lots of people, they go to places, they are active. In other words, they are extroverts. There is a definite difference between extroverts and introverts. The extroverts tend to be night owls, and the introverts tend to be early birds. That’s because the ARAS of the early bird is already fired up and ready to go when they wake up.
It is therefore predictable that if you are an introvert, you will be using social media in the morning, rather than at night. It also means you will probably post less, react fewer times and not be as well connected. After all, you don’t need the stimulation. But if you are an extrovert it will take you all day to get your brain fired up enough to think about posting on social media. So that means you’ll tend to post late at night.
However, here’s an important factor. Because extroverts need stimulation, they will post more and react more. That will give them more visibility on social networks anyway and will lead to them gaining more connections and followers.
So what can you do if you are not an extrovert? That’s easy. Use scheduling software like Buffer or Hootsuite or SproutSocial to pretend you are one. Schedule most of your social media posts to be later in the day. This will have two benefits, according to the findings of this latest research. Firstly, it will get you more followers. Secondly, though, it will get you higher visibility. That’s because most businesses these days are posting during the morning when the introverts are around on social media, who will react less to what they post.
If you want higher visibility on social networks and more activity from what you post, then schedule the majority of your posts to appear in the evening. It’s worth a try.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+