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When should one tweet for optimum effectiveness?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
14 October 2009

I should start this post with a caveat – whilst it’s quite common to use a provocative question in the title of a blog post, and then proceed to answer the question in the post, I should point out that I don’t know the answer to this question! I’ll explain why I’m asking it in a second, and a few hints I’ve seen, but I’d love to get some feedback on this – either through the comments, or via Twitter. Anyway, to the question…

kevin-smith-inactiveLast night I was lucky enough to attend an “Evening with Kevin Smith” gig at London’s Indigo2, and one of the many (many) things Smith talked about was his new-found love of Twitter. As a reasonably big noise in Hollywood, Smith has approximately 1.5 million followers on Twitter, which presents obvious challenges. ¬†When asked a (fairly common) question by a fan – namely, why he doesn’t reply to more people – Smith provided this very interesting nugget:

At peak times (i.e. when fans can see Smith is actively Twittering, and taking questions), Kevin’s Twitter account was getting replies at a rate of approximately 1 every second.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert mathematician, but I think it’s fairly plain to see that nobody could possibly hope to get a reply from somebody who is getting bombarded with this many questions. Other celebrities with a lot fewer followers can struggle to reply actively, so to expect a 1million+ tweeter to do the same is a little far-fetched.

But Smith didn’t stop there. He also revealed that due to the massive influx of Tweets, he takes a pretty random (but entirely fair) approach, and simply loads a page of comments, replies to the relevant ones, then hits refresh. He doesn’t use Tweetdeck in these ‘sessions’, preferring instead to use the normal Twitter @replies interface to randomly select these comments. This got me thinking: There must be an optimum time to tweet somebody like Smith, to increase your chances of a reply?

As a wider issue, I’ve been pondering for a long time about when the ideal time to tweet is, to get maximum exposure for your message. I’ve seen a few people have a stab at cracking this, but nothing that seems to have answered conclusively:

  • According to Malcolm Coles, based on his survey of Twitter friends, 4.01pm is the best time to tweet.
  • ‘Tech and Life’ controversially suggest that you should repeat posts up to 4 times a day to get noticed (though I wouldn’t personally back this!)
  • Gary McCaffrey saw that most of his Twitter-based traffic came “between 9am and 3pm” – not the narrowest timeframe to work in, but he makes a good point – checking your analytics for Twitter-originating traffic is a good clue!

The best stats so far seem to have come from the “State of the Twittersphere” report. Based on your local timezone (since targeting tweets globally opens up a whole other can of stats), the peak tweeting times seemed to be between 9 and 10am, 3 and 5pm and 11 and 12pm. The first two fit quite nicely with an office-based day – people like to check their Twitter when they first log on in the morning, and most will also spend some time at the end of the day when they’ve wrapped up all their big tasks. The “best day” stats also fit quite nicely with the office-week – Thursday and Friday are the two best days to tweet apparently, presumably because people have less to do at the end of the working week.

So what do you think – have you got any contrary theories about when the best time to get people’s attention is? Or any top tips to share on how to get people’s attention? If so, please share!

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