The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Time to Tweet

This new research from bit.ly diagrams when tweets with links get the most traffic/clicks (Times are EST). The darker the color, the more traffic on average links posted during that hour received:

INTERPRETATION: Posts between 1-3pm Monday-Thursday get the high click counts. So stick to afternoons earlier in the week to get the most traffic from your links.

However, Twitter is actually busier a little before these times, so posting earlier might get you more retweets, favs or visibility. This next chart works the same way, except that the darker the color of the square, the higher the total number of clicks on Bitly links coming from Twitter were overall:

INTERPRETATION: High activity starts about two hours earlier. Bit.ly also did similar calculations for Facebook and tumblr, which you can read about on their blog. (HT to @hmason for drawing our attention to bit.ly’s research.)

Here is an infographic of bit.ly’s information from Raka Creative:

Trying to figure out when your tweets will get the most “RCEF ” is the name of the game. Your RCEF is when your tweets get:

  1. (R)etweeted
  2. (C)licks on their links
  3. (E)ngagement, comments or replies
  4. (F)avorited

When do people have time to check Twitter?

Most people start by trying to tweet when they think people might be on a break from work, such as by tweeting at 9:00 am PST, because that it is:

  • The beginning of the work day in the West coast of North America (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, etc)
  • Lunchtime (12:00 pm EST) on the East coast  (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.)
  • The end of the work day in London (5:00 pm GMT)
  • Still before bedtime for many in India (10:30 PM IST)

What do the surveys say?

Others check out some of the surveys of online activity that have been published, such as those summarized by Anil Batra on the data others have collected on the best times to tweet. Pay particular attention when reading a “best time to tweet” post to look very carefully at what time zone they are talking about. Many don’t say what time zone their test was done for. If you’re interested in general data about U.S. Twitter users, see the infographic below.

Checking when YOUR followers are online and active

However, none of that has anything to do with YOUR followers specifically, does it?  There are two ways to tell when your followers are online and active on Twitter: When they tweet, and when they followed you.

Buffer (which I use and highly recommend) is one of simplest, most essential tools for giving you control. I mean, if it can raise @AskAaronLee’s klout by 11 points in less than a month (to 83!), what more can you ask for?

Queued.at is also part of a newer crop of tools that automatically schedule your tweets for the most likely best times.

Tweriod is one of several apps—TweetWhen, TimelyWhen to Tweet (review), 14 Blocks, SocialFlow—that suggest when you should tweet (or use Twitter Search and Google Reader to do your own research). It checks the times of the last 200 tweets of each your last 5000 followers to give you a graph of when they are online most. Here’s an example from our account:

Because @TweetSmarter gains 5000 new followers every 2-3 weeks, it isn’t that useful for us, but you can see in the above chart the time the most of our last 5000 followers (748/15%) are active is at 4 PM CST, and the time the fewest of our last 5000 followers ( 377/7.5%) are online is at 7 AM CST. (I can tell you, however, that 7 AM CST is actually one of our busiest times of day.) Other sources of useful data are:

  1. Login to Favstar regularly and see who’s faving and RTing your tweets.
  2. Experiment with TweetReach and other Twitter analytics tools.

Hidden Factors To Consider:

Are days of the week different from one another?

My own research over the last few years indicates that online activity has four distinct weekly periods, each with different peaks and valleys of RCEF:

  1. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday ►Sample peak time: Late afternoon
  2. Friday & Saturday ►Sample peak time: Late evening
  3. Saturday & Sunday ►Sample peak time: Early mid-day
  4. Mondays ►Sample peak time: Late Morning

Should you concentrate on only your most important followers?

The biggest “secret” of all goes back to the old 80/20 rule, in this case “20% of your followers produce 80% of your RCEF.” In fact, it’s not uncommon for it to be more like 5% of your followers producing 95% of your RCEF. So this secret is to make sure your best tweets get seen by your biggest supporters! To get top users to regularly engage with your tweets, check out “Use Twitter to get influential people to help you.”

What kind of activity is most important?

Another consideration is that each different type of RCEF activity (Retweets, Clicks, Engagement or Favorites) can be higher at different times, e.g. the best time to get comments may not also be the best time to get retweets or favorites. For example, some folks read and retweet or favorite a few things when they are at work, but only converse later in the evening when they are home. Surprisingly, there can even be different times that are better for native retweets (one click, no text added) vs. classic retweets (adds “RT @user” or similar)!

Should you repeat your tweets?

Some people repeat their tweets 2-4 times to catch people in more time zones, which is effective but annoying and anti-social. A good guide to read is “Should you repeat your Tweets?

Does tweeting really mean they’re active?

For example, many users try to schedule their tweets for when they think others are online, meaning that the time they tweet may only be the time they think it is best to tweet, and not when they are actually online themselves! However, even for people who use automated following and tweeting systems, they tend to follow and tweet more when they are really and truly “live” and active on Twitter. This is nonethless the cause of many a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you hear that Mondays, 11:30 AM CST are the best time to tweet, and you decide to tweet your best tweet at that time each week, you’ll eventually find your RCEF is higher at that time. If your current RCEF is highest at 1 PM and 9 PM, but your most interesting tweets go out only at 9 PM, your RCEF will tend to be high at that time of day, etc.

When did people follow you?

This is the most overlooked factor. For some accounts (particularly larger ones), figuring out what causes people to discover and follow you at certain times and not at others can be very valuable. Realize that your RCEF will be higher…

1. At the times you habitually tweet the most, or tweet your most popular topics. If you’re tweeting something at the same time someone is searching for interesting tweets, bingo! Two people active at the same time have found one another.

Quick Tip: The time you are typically most active on Twitter may be the best time to tweet your most interesting topics, since it may be the time your followers are most active.

2. At the time a popular user recommended or retweeted you. The time of their recommendation or retweet is when a lot of people hear about you for the first time and follow you. We once had a an extraordinarily popular Twitter user recommend following us in a tweet that went out at 11 PM CST. For many months afterwards, 11 PM CST was when our RCEF was highest.

Quick Tip: If someone popular retweets you, note the time they sent that tweet and try to get them to retweet you again. How? If they retweeted you at say 1 PM, try tweeting things they might like around 12:45-1 PM for a few weeks. Even better is to read many days of their tweets from time to time and try to figure out when they most actively retweet things.

3. At the time YOU followed other people. Since many people will follow back after you follow them, if you habitually follow people at the same time of day, your RCEF will tend to be high at that time of day. When I was new to Twitter, whenever I had insomnia I made sure to make time to find interesting people to follow so I could reach people in other parts of the world.

Quick Tip: Pay attention to when you follow people! If you find people to follow by searching current tweets, don’t do all your following at times you don’t usually tweet. Do some following during the times you typically tweet the most.

4. At the most active time for speakers of your language in your region. Most of us Tweet in one language, and are easily identified with a particular region by the things we tweet about. Your RCEF will be highest when the people speaking your language in your region are most active, because most people want to follow others like themselves. When @TweetSmarter tweets about happenings in a region, inevitably we get a  spike in RCEF at whatever the peak time in that region is, regardless of when our tweets went out.

Quick Tip: If you are tweeting on a topic of interest to a particular region, consider ensuring some of those tweets go out between 9 AM and 11 PM local time in that region. I habitually search Google for “Time in [location]” whenever I see a regionally-focused article, so I have some idea of when people in that region might be most likely to see it.

5. At the time people interested in what you tweet about are most active. For example, many people like to tweet about TV shows while they watch them. So if you tweet about a TV show that is on at the same time each day, you’ll get increased RCEF at that time of day. This will happen even if you don’t tweet at that time (maybe you wait until the next morning to tweet, for example).

Quick Tip: This one’s easy. If you have something to say about an event, say it during or just before or after the event. If you tweet well before the event, consider splitting it into two tweets—one that you say right now when you thought of it, and another that you schedule for during or just before the event itself, when more people interested in the event will see it.

6. When lots of people are following others. Friday—because of the #FollowFriday phenomenon—is when a lot of people follow others. If you get most of your followers on Fridays, that’s a proven time they are active on Twitter, and your RCEF is likely to be highest on Fridays.

Quick Tip: Try to be active when your followers are active (generally, don’t take Fridays off.) If you have friends that recommend you, ask if they can do so at times that you are typically online and active on Twitter.

While there are tools that try to tell you when your followers are most active, and a variety of studies that try to figure it out for you, I’ve always found my own tests and thought process (based on the above tips) to be a better predictor of when we get the highest RCEF .

Summary

If you are looking for one factor to consider above all others, concentrate on getting engagement from popular influencers. Figuring out when they engage and what their favorite topics are can mean more for your tweets than any other factor. But for folks who tweet heavily about just one or two topics, be sure to check on when those topics are getting the most engagement, and try to chime in at those times. Beyond that:

1. Experiment a little! There was a time I thought Sunday nights had a very low RCEF for @TweetSmarter (we never got a lot of retweets then). Then one day I posted a question in the middle of a Sunday evening—and got an explosion of responses! I discovered we had a lot of active commenters Sunday nights who did NOT retweet a lot of things.

2. Study what happened. When you get a lot of comments or retweets try to figure out what happened, and make it happen again. If you get a bunch of followers around a particular time or day, make a note to try to tweeting more at that time or day.

3. Use tools such as Tweriod, Favstar, Twitter Analyzer, and others.

When reading a “best time to tweet” post also look very carefully at what time zone they are talking about! Many don’t say what time zone their test was done for. I saw one tester that believed that he got the most retweets at a time because that’s when his local followers took an afternoon break. When I looked at his tweets I determined that because of his topics and followers, it was actually because that’s when most of them went to lunch in another time zone—it had very little to do with his local followers.

Infographic of U.S Twitter user time data

Source: KissMetrics • Back to top • Click image to enlarge

 

13 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Time to Tweet

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