Social media posting guide
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2018 Social Media Posting Starter Guide

  • K. M. Wade 
  • 15 min read

It’s that, seemingly, age-old question – when should I be posting on my social media pages? Which days of the week? Which times? And most importantly, how often? Well, I’ve looked at research done or analysed by 11 experts in the field (links at the end of this post) to come up with some comprehensive advice.

The caveat

Before I dive into the research findings, I first want to make one point very, very clear. You should use the below information as a springboard for your own investigations. This is why I called this a starter guide. If you’re sitting there wishing I could just give you a definitive guide, let me explain why that wouldn’t work.

Every person or business’s followers on each social media platform are different. Not only are one person’s/business’s followers on a given platform, different to other people’s/business’s followers, even in the same field, but there is also a difference between any one person’s/business’s followers on X and Y platforms. Your Facebook followers will be different to your twitter followers for example, and they will use each platform for different reasons and thus expect different things from you.

So, while general trends will be true for the average person or business, they won’t necessarily be true for you. No doubt you’ve tried very hard to differentiate yourself from your competition. If you’ve succeeded, or even if you haven’t, you might find that what makes you different as a business, also changes the rules for you on social media.

As such, I say again, the below analysis shows the average situation but you should use it as a starting point for your own investigations. You might find that the best posting days or times or frequencies are different for you. If so, that’s completely ok and you should do what you’ve found works best.

The analysis

With the boring, but vitally important, caveat out of the way, let’s look at the actual analysis.

Growth vs. engagement

Many of the organisations’ analyses gave similar results but in some cases, there were two distinct camps. The difference mostly seems to be to do with whether the organisation believes that engagement or growth are the most important things that people are trying to optimise. As such, where there is such a difference, I have noted this so that you can make a judgement call as to what is the best advice for your situation. Keep both pieces of information in mind though because you may find yourself seeking to grow your following at one point but then wanting to improve engagement at a later date. Indeed, most businesses will go through growth cycles so will likely go through this process a number of times.

Facebook

You may have heard it said that 2 posts a day on Facebook is ideal. Interestingly, the research suggests this is true but only if you have more than 10 000 followers. If this is you then aim for 2 posts a day but no more. If you post more frequently then not only will your engagement drop but some, possibly many, followers will start to perceive you as spammy and will unfollow your page.

If your Facebook fan base is less than 10 000, the general consensus is that somewhere between 3 and 10 posts a week is ideal.

A key piece of information to remember about this platform is that there is a Facebook algorithm (which is being tweaked regularly) that dictates who sees each post based on how valuable or interesting content is for users. If people engage with your posts, the algorithm assumes users are finding them interesting or informative and so will show those posts to more users. This means you really need to ensure each post is high quality. As a result, you might want to start with a lower frequency posting schedule if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to creating content. Alternatively, you can purchase quality content if your budget allows.

The best days and times to post are interesting. One source claimed Thursdays and Fridays get the most engagement but the most recent research I found showed that Sunday is now the best day to post on Facebook if you want more interactions. The general consensus is that posts between 1 and 3 pm get the best engagement, with posts at 1 pm garnering the most shares and those delivered at 3 pm getting the most clicks. One source did note though that engagement levels are fairly constant throughout the work day and during the evening commute.

The most recent research shows that posts delivered between 10 and 11 pm EST achieve the absolute highest number of interactions but given how specific this statistic is, I suspect it is highly dependent on where the majority of a page’s audience is based. The other factor that affects this is that posting when there is less content floating around means people are more likely to see and read your content. It may also mean that there are fewer users there to see it but the lifespan of an average Facebook post is fairly long so this is likely to be less of an issue. The exception to this for video posts. Unpublished anecdotal evidence suggests that the success of video content is highly dependent on early shares and comments so this kind of content really probably does need to be hitting users’ feeds when they’re online.

Tip: Recent research revealed that posts that ask a question get the most interactions and posts that link to content that is greater than 2000 words in length also receive more interactions. The same source also indicated that video posts get the most shares but that image posts get the most interactions. For the purposes of this research, interactions were defined as the sum of all the comments, likes and shares a post received so it is worthwhile noting the differences between video and image posts. This is another example of the growth vs. engagement dilemma. This research seems to indicate that video is going to be a useful tool for anyone wishing to grow their following. If you use Facebook, you may also find this article about the effect of using third-party apps on organic reach on Facebook useful.

Twitter

Twitter is one of the best examples of how your goal, in terms of growth vs. engagement, should dictate your behaviour on social media. If you want to grow your following on Twitter, research shows there’s no maximum number of posts per day. If you’re trying to optimise engagement however, the consensus seems to be that 3 tweets per day is ideal but 1-5 tweets is acceptable. Engagement will likely drop slightly after 3 tweets but it really is only a slight drop. For those of you with not much in the way of resources, a number of sources agreed that 5 tweets a week should be your minimum.

In terms of when to post on twitter, it depends on who your target audience is. If your market is consumers, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday are, apparently, the best days to tweet. For those targeting businesses, you’ll likely get better results by focussing tweets on weekdays, presumably because businesses don’t check their business profiles on weekends. I suspect this may not hold true for many small businesses and organisations, like restaurants, that operate on weekends however. It’s also a bit of a moot point. If you’re aiming to tweet at least once a day, you could post your best tweets on the days you think you’ll get the most engagement but I doubt you’d see enough of a difference to warrant the extra effort.

It appears the jury is still out on the optimal times to post. One source said the most retweets occur at 1 pm while another said 5 pm. One source said that the highest click rates can be achieved by posting at 12 and 6 pm but this seems too specific to me. I suspect the data may show blips then but that they’re either not statistically significant or those times are transient peaks. If you’re posting multiple posts per day, I would recommend spreading them evenly throughout the day. If you’re only posting one tweet a day, I would choose seven evenly separated times and post at one of those times on each day of the week.

Tip: Research has shown that the average lifespan of a tweet is less than 20 minutes. This means that a significant part of your Twitter strategy is likely to be tweeting the same content multiple times. This will help you easily post a minimum of 5 tweets a week but to avoid annoying followers who do happen to see multiple tweets on the same topic, say something different about the content each time. I suspect this short tweet lifespan means that optimal tweeting times are likely to be highly dependent on a profile’s follower base.

Tip: Another useful tactic for growing your following and boosting engagement is to @mention any profiles that you mention favourably in your content as those users are likely to retweet your tweets. @mentioning influencers is another tactic for boosting engagement and reach; if influencers like your content they’re likely to retweet it as well.

Pinterest

Pinterest is an interesting case when it comes to social media platforms. In fact, some might argue that it’s not really social media as it isn’t based on ‘conversations’ as is the case with other platforms. Regardless of how it is categorised however, the fact remains that it needs to be treated differently to other platforms.

Firstly, it’s important to note that Pinterest users don’t necessarily religiously follow a particular profile or board. They’ll often search for whatever topic they’re interested in at the time and then view all the pictures on a board or profile at the same time, perhaps pinning those they like to their own boards. Users can and do choose to follow profiles but they can also elect to only follow the specific boards they are interested in so you have to pay careful attention to how you organise your pins.

Another important thing to note is that the majority of Pinterest users are female and of child-bearing age. This affects who can effectively market on Pinterest, not only because the marketer’s target market needs to be predominantly female, but also because it skews the times when users are most active.

Given the Pinterest demographic, it is no surprise that the worst times to post are after school, during dinner and around bedtime (children’s); presumably mums are too busy with family commitments at those times. So when then are the best times to post? The data suggests between 8 pm and 1 am, with a peak at 9 pm, and between 2-4pm. The latter may seem to be a contradiction but I would guess that many mums on Pinterest would check-in in the lull before it’s time to pick the kids up from school, and while waiting for their kids to emerge from school or get off the school bus. Presumably, it’s not ideal to be posting after 4 pm. One source also noted that Saturdays are a good day to post.

Of course, if your target market is on Pinterest but doesn’t consist primarily of mums you might find your optimal posting times are different.

Now, when it comes to posting frequency, the general consensus seems to be a minimum of 5 pins a day with a maximum between 10 and 30 pins a day. That’s a lot of content to churn out so if you’re struggling to keep up and you know your engagement and growth are suffering as a result, you may want to consider an alternative platform.

Tip: Pinterest is unique in part because of how searchable pins are and the fact that this aspect of the platform is so heavily taken advantage of by users. As such, spend some time optimising the keywords you associate with your pins. While 70% of clicks happen within a day of a pin being posted, the remaining occur up to 30 days or more later so posts can have a high longevity if they’re done right.

Instagram

This is the other primarily visual platform that I’ll look at in this post. Posting doesn’t need to happen nearly as often on Instagram as on Pinterest so this might be a good alternative if the user demographic is right for you and you don’t have enough quality content for Pinterest.

In fact, one benefit of Instagram is that there’s not really a firm minimum frequency. The key on Instagram seems to be consistency. So if Instagram is your thing, think carefully about how frequently you can post content and set up a routine that will ensure you stick to that frequency. If you need some guidance on where to start, the consensus is that 1 a day is an ideal minimum.

The best times to post on Instagram appear to be between 2 and 5 pm, with a peak between 3 and 4 pm. One source also noted that 2 am is a good time. The problem with the latter is that Instagram doesn’t really allow you to schedule posts, even with third-party apps. While you can get a reminder when it’s time to post so you’re more likely to post ‘on time’, how many of you want to be awake at 2 am to post? This issue also poses a unique problem for people and businesses with international followings, it’s unlikely to be possible to post from 2-5pm in all the relevant time zones. Luckily, the lifespan of an Instagram post seems to be fairly long (at least when compared with Twitter’s <20mins) so this isn’t as big of an issue as it could be. It is still something to bear in mind however, when you’re optimising your own posting times.

Tip: One of the best ways to boost engagement and improve your organic reach on Instagram is to tag influencers in relevant posts. This ensures they see your posts and if they like them, they’ll be more likely to share them, which increases your audience for those posts.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another social media platform with more unique properties; namely that it is specifically for professionals and marketers would be wise to use the platform only when they’re targeting business clients.

Because it is a network for professionals, the best days to post on LinkedIn are understandably weekdays. The best times are 7-9 am and 5-6 pm. In other words, users are mostly using the platform before work and at the end of their workday or just after they finish.

The experts recommended posting anywhere from once a week to seven times a week with no real consensus between the sources I viewed. The best data I saw though said that posting 20 posts per month (1 per weekday) enables you to reach roughly 60% of your audience organically. That’s the target I’d be aiming for as a starting point.

Tip: LinkedIn has a feature that enables you to post articles in addition to the more traditional post. Google is unclear about whether posting the same articles on LinkedIn and your own blog is good, bad or somewhere in between when it comes to search engine optimisation. If you have a blog and use LinkedIn, it’s probably beneficial to post to both if different people follow you in each place (provided the articles are useful to both audiences).

Google+

The research for this platform had by far the biggest variation when it comes to optimal posting requests. A number of sources recommended a minimum of 3 and maximum of 10 posts a week. The other sources suggested a minimum of 1 post a day but that 3 a day was the optimum frequency. A careful look at these sources indicates that the higher frequency recommendations are relevant if you’re in a growth phase but that the lower frequencies are better if you’re looking optimise engagement. It is however, important to note that some research showed a drop in engagement of up to 50% when posting frequency is reduced so, as with Instagram, if you’re using Google+, pick a realistic frequency and stick to it.

What little data there was on optimal timing suggested that posting between 9 and 11 am is best. I would use this as a very rough starting guide only given how little data there seems to be on this.

Cheatsheet

We all love a nice summary so here’s a simple picture with the salient points from this post.

References

This analysis and my opinions are based on the research and analyses conveyed on the following pages:

nv-author-image

Dr Kelly Wade

Dr Kelly Wade is a marketing specialist (strategist, copywriter, content writer, researcher) and author at K. M. Wade. She performs research and crafts content, copy and strategy for the entire sales funnel to help businesses win more sales and generate sustainable growth. She’s also a scientist, gardening enthusiast and mother of two young children.

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