The purposes for which lawyers engage on social media include: boosting visibility, increasing engagement, marketing your services, providing valuable content to your audience, building connections with other lawyers and potential clients, gathering and sharing information about the law and practice. To be a successful social media user, you’ll need to provide content that is valuable, use the right headlines and ‘shareable’ words, include images, vary your post style, and undertake other activities to boost your engagement. But timing your posts properly is another important element of your overall social media strategy.
Ideally, you’ll want to schedule content to post at specific times when your audience is likely to be online. It stands to reason that the better your social media posts are aligned with the time your audience is using the platform, the more likely it is that you’ll reach your goals. After all, if no one sees or shares your posts, how much of an impact can your social media activity have on your audience?
So when is the best time to post on social media?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question, regardless of what you may have heard. Many social media experts have opined on the best times to post on social media, and infographics on the topic can be found all over the web (consider this one from Fannit and this one from Entrepreneur).
But these guidelines apply to the universe of users on each topic as a whole, and your audience is a discrete subset of that universe of users. Their habits on social media may or may not be aligned with users as a whole. In addition, even the experts acknowledge that many of the studies that purport to provide advice on the “best times to post” on different platforms conflict with one another. For example, see this article from a representative from Buffer demonstrating that much of the research on optimal posting times is contradictory (the article also contains a great overview of different studies and statistics).
Another fly in the ointment when attempting to follow these guidelines, particularly for multi-jurisdictional practices or firms with offices in several cities, is that the “ideal posting time” will be different for followers in different time zones. And this begins to get to the heart of the real answer to the question – it all depends on your audience and how they use social media.
Determining Optimal Post Time for Your Audience
As I mentioned in my previous column on Editorial Calendars, your starting point for social media needs to be your audience. You may have several audiences on social media, including potential clients, current clients, referral sources and colleagues. Each audience may have different needs and interests, and their social media use may vary.
Spend some time analyzing your audiences. Who are they? When are they likely to be on social media? What kinds of information do they expect to receive from social media? What does their day look like? Do they use it for different purposes at different times of the day? This information will help you to plan your posts better.
But don’t rely on just what you think about your audience – get objective information. There are many ways you can do this.
Some tools can provide you with information about when your audience is most likely to be online. Tweriod, is one such example; it will analyze your Twitter stream and your followers’ tweets for information about when they use Twitter. But take the information you receive from these kinds of tools with a grain of salt and do your own experimenting. Keep in mind that every time your audience is online my not be the optimal time for you to post; they may be using social media at specific times for social purposes and at other times for professional purposes. They may consume information at some times and engage at others. Sometimes the highest volume times are the worst times to post because there’s so much activity that your post gets lost in a sea of other posts.
Review your own metrics. Cyfe.com is a dashboard that allows you to monitor all of your stats, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube stats, as well as Google Analytics, WordPress, RSS feeds and even open rates on Constant Contact emails, among others. You can create your own charts and graphs using this information. Cyfe is a paid service, but it might provide more accurate information about engagement than tools that simply analyze when your audience is online.
If you’re using social media to link to content on your own website or blog, Google Analytics provides detailed charts and reports about web visits, click-throughs and other engagement. You’ll be able to see which posts are generating clicks to your site, how long visitors stay on your site and more.
Link shortening apps such as Bit.ly track the links you share and provide analytics to show how your links are performing. If you use a separate bit.ly link for each post, you’ll be able to determine which posts are most effective. Bit.ly will also be able to show you how many other bit.ly links were created that link to the same content, and how many clicks were received on those links.
Hootsuite and some other scheduling tools provide analytics (basic reports for free accounts, with more options for paid accounts) that help you track clicks and engagement.
Each of the individual platforms you use may have their own analytics and metrics as well. Facebook Insights for business pages provides comprehensive (although not hour by hour) information about your fans and their engagement. Within Insights, click on posts, then “when your fans are online” to see a graph showing
Be aware that Facebook users’ past engagement with your Page will determine the placement of your Page’s status updates within their News Feed. If a user doesn’t interact often or hasn’t interacted recently with your Page, you’re less likely to show up in their News Feed, regardless of when you post.
LinkedIn offers Page Insights and Analytics for LinkedIn Company Pages. The analytics page will show you the post, date, audience (on LinkedIn you can send targeted updates to defined audiences), impressions, clicks, interactions (likes, comments and shares), followers acquired and the percentage of the audience that engaged with the post. You’ll also see whether the post is one you’ve sponsored. Additional information about follower demographics is also available
Page Insights will show you page views, unique visitors and page clicks over the last 7 days at a glance. Graphs will show you which pages visitors interacted with over the past several months, and how many unique visitors you had.
Although there are no analytics currently available for updates posted on individual LinkedIn Profiles, you can get some information from your LinkedIn Home page by looking for the “Who’s Viewed Your Updates” module in the right sidebar.
While these tools may not always provide you with hour by hour information, you can get a sense of which posts received the most clicks and then extrapolate the other data from there by seeing when those posts went out to your audience. If you post only once or twice per day on each platform during the testing period, and you vary the times of day when you post, you can get some information about the best time to post by looking at the level of engagement received on days with morning posts, as opposed to days in which you post at mid-day or in the evening, etc. Or you can check your stats hourly on each platform to see whether your numbers have changed in the past hour, and you can certainly see whether you have more interaction on specific days of the week.
For more social media analytics tools, check out 4 Tools That Improve Your Social Media Analytics, from Social Media Examiner.
Scheduling Posts For Increased Visibility
You may find that your audience isn’t engaging on social media when you are. That means you’ll have to consider using scheduling tools. You’ll create your posts when you’re available and push them out to your audience when your audience is most likely to see them.
Most blogging software will allow you to schedule posts in advance, so you can create posts and put them in the queue to be posted in the future. Many social media sites (such as Facebook business pages) also allow you to schedule posts in advance. But this requires you to go to each site separately, create the post and then schedule it. Scheduling tools like Buffer, HootSuite and TweetDeck can help you to schedule social media posts in advance so that they’ll automatically post at the optimal time for your audience – and you’ll be able to create the post once and post it to multiple platforms, if appropriate.
Timing your posts to gain the most reach is part of a smart social media management strategy. But analyzing your audience and the effectiveness and timing of your posts on social media should not be an isolated exercise; platforms change, your audience and how they use social media may change, and new tools may become available. Don’t forget to re-analyze and tweak your strategy over time.