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How to Develop a Timing Strategy for Social Media Content Distribution

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Posted Feb 22 2011 03:48 PM

Timing can be important when providing content via social media. The following excerpt from Designing Interfaces, Second Edition will help you develop a timing strategy so you can make the best use social media.
What

Pace your social media posts according to the expectations of the channels you use; some channels require more frequent posts, some less. Cross-post the best pieces, and consider when in the day or week you make your posts.

When

Anyone who uses social media should develop and follow a Timing Strategy.

Why

Overusing a social media channel can overwhelm your followers with too much chatter. Followers may drop you, or form a negative impression of your organization. Don’t irritate people.

On the other hand, underusing a channel is an opportunity cost: you won’t have your name in front of followers as often as you could.

Users of Twitter and Facebook in particular have expectations about how often they hear from nonfriend entities (such as company pages) in their personal news stream. The mechanisms of the channels themselves dictate some of this; tweets are shorter and more rapidly consumed than Facebook updates, for instance. These expectations may change as the technologies mature and shift.

How

The most important thing is to understand users’ expectations about these channels. If you post too frequently, your updates clutter followers’ personal news streams to the point of being annoying, and they may unsubscribe from you.

However, the advice here is only a starting point. You should watch the numbers of followers change as you use social media, listen to followers’ feedback, and be willing to adjust your timing strategy on the fly if followers leave.

Possible social media timing for an organization

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As of this writing, here are some of the posting frequencies that I have observed.

Facebook pages tend to be updated only once per day, or less. Most of the successful and active pages I studied had a post rate of roughly once every two days, though some had two per day (such as Wired) and others had much fewer. Exceptions are sometimes made for time-sensitive events, concentrated outreach efforts, and crises such as major earthquakes—followers will tolerate short bursts of frequent posting if the cause is worthy. Your mileage may vary.

Twitter posts can be much more frequent than Facebook updates. The organizations I studied posted between three and 15 tweets per day, on average. Also, these posts were usually made between noon and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, with a lower rate on weekends. This is important because tweets should go out when the most people are online and listening—Twitter users (unlike Facebook users) tend not to scroll back through time to find interesting material. Note that many tweets from some organizations are direct replies to individuals; those can run up the count quickly.

For organizations that use multiple social media channels, blog posts range between 0.5 and 2.5 posts per day. This is where long-form writing takes place: essays, stories, interviews, and other content longer than one or two sentences. Sometimes these blogs “feed” the Facebook and Twitter efforts—selected blog entries (usually not all of them) are reposted as links in these other media, along with a one-sentence description. Lively conversations about the blog posts are more likely to take place on Facebook or Twitter than on the blog itself.

Email should be infrequent. If you send email more than once every few days, you may get labeled as spam by some of your followers.

I found no evidence of timing strategies for media repositories such as Flickr and YouTube. This is probably because they don’t normally “push” content out into followers’ personal news streams, as others do.

Examples

The chart below shows the timing strategies for several companies and organizations that have strong social media presences. The data was collected over two months at the very beginning of 2010, in January and February. The numbers represent the average number of posts per day on each of three social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, and the organization’s main blog. (Not all of these sites had a main blog.) Clearly, the Twitter numbers are higher than the others, reflecting its more ephemeral nature.

Actual post rates for nine sites

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The last two companies, the American Red Cross and Partners in Health, are charities. Over the time period that I collected data, these two organizations were conducting intensive news and fundraising efforts related to the Haiti earthquake. Their usage of Facebook skyrocketed in January, and then faded back to something more normal in February; this shows up in the averages as slightly elevated Facebook numbers.

Designing Interfaces

Learn more about this topic from Designing Interfaces, 2nd Edition.

Despite all of the UI toolkits available today, it's still not easy to design good application interfaces. This bestselling book is one of the few reliable sources to help you navigate through the maze of design options. By capturing UI best practices and reusable ideas as design patterns, Designing Interfaces provides solutions to common design problems that you can tailor to the situation at hand. This updated edition includes patterns for mobile apps and social media, as well as web applications and desktop software.

See what you'll learn


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