If you’ve ever been on management training, you might recall the term “emotional intelligence”. This is essentially about understanding that the right message, communicated to someone at the wrong time (because of other issues going on in their lives that you have not successfully ascertained), can provoke a decidedly negative reaction.
When writing online, these timing sensitivities are hugely amplified, because you don’t actually know your audience in any personal sense. And a host of other timing factors, outside the “emotionally intelligent”, also come into play when determining the best way to get found, generate traffic, get your content shared and build your authority.
Here's a digest of the latest thinking…
The reader sets the clock
The most important point to make is that readers’ established behaviours should govern when you publish (and promote) your content. The excellent advice from Hubspot's Dan Zerella on ProBlogger, and material we explored in an earlier post, explain this. Together, they highlight a number of critical timing considerations (adjusted for UK time zones, where necessary):
- Blogs tend overwhelmingly to be read in the morning (according to around 80% of readers polled) – reading tails off significantly across afternoon, evening and night
- Tweets start to take off from about 9.00 a.m., peaking just before midday, and are then at their strongest again between midday and about 2.30 p.m.
- The biggest Facebook usage periods are weekdays at 11 a.m., 3.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m., with Wednesday at 3.00 p.m. seeing the most traffic
- Twitter click-through rates tend to remain strong throughout Saturday and Sunday – so Twitter is a good alternative to Facebook for publicising your online writing at the weekend
The point is if your content catches readers at one of these points, it is more likely to be pushing at an open door, and so inbound leads are more likely to result.
Learn to love the quiet time
And now let me immediately caveat that. Pushing at an open door is good practice, but if thousands of others are pushing at the same door at the same time, there is a danger that you’ll get lost in the competition.
Social media researcher Daniel Zeevi makes this point in his recent blog. So make sure you keep up a controlled flow of content across quieter periods, too. Readership and reader interaction may be on average lower, but your content writing is a bigger fish in a smaller pond, so it’s a decent trade-off.
Trust vs. fast
A comprehensive webinar, from Hubspot's social media scientist Dan Zarella, makes some interesting observations around frequency, as well as time of day or week. He uses the example of marketers sending out large amounts of tweets in a short time, promoting their own content, as opposed to those retweeting other people’s tweets with a similarly high frequency.
There is far lower trust amongst readers in the first scenario than the second – as demonstrated by the fact that content from the first scenario garners far fewer retweets. Sadly, your audience is more sceptical about helping you to promote yourself than they are about helping you promote someone else – even more so if you’re also bombarding them with lots of material in a very short time.
Finding your readers’ rhythm
Most blog writers and other content publishers would agree with the statement, paraphrased in this post, that if you're writing content without a call-to-action, you should think again about why you're doing it at all. No argument. But consider Zeevi’s additional points:
- If you want your blog to generate comments and engagement, publish and promote it ready for Saturday, as this is when readers are most willing to contribute
- Looking to maximise inbound leads? Mondays and Thursdays are the strongest performers, so make sure you’ve got new blog content “out there” in good time
- Want to go social? Thursday is the undisputed leader in social sharing of blog content, so focus your social content and promotion accordingly
Timing is not quality
Timing, then, can play a substantial role in encouraging your readers to interact with your content and in achieving the desired outcome. It can potentially make a critical difference along a content awareness axis stretching from unseen, to seen, to read, to clicked, to shared, to get-them-into-the-CRM-right-now.
But don’t mistake clever timing for effective content. What enables you to build a special relationship of trust and authority with your audiences is - first and foremost - remarkable content, delivered with unstinting generosity and punctual regularity.
Because, when all’s said and done, ladies and gentlemen, well-timed crap is, I’m afraid, still crap!
Image by Alan Cleaver