Alarm clock on desk with business pad open

Businesses love statistics. Measurability. Insights to gauge the effectiveness of campaigns. With that come swathes of industry experts writing blogs on scheduling social media posts that advocate posting at specific times of day and days of the week to maximise reach.

On the surface that seems sensible, even if it is (as in the link above) to sell you additional products or services. After all, why would you not want the maximum number of people to see your post before it disappears off their feed?

Business owners lap up the numbers: “54% increase in engagement if we post on Facebook between 9 and 10 am on a Thursday? Let’s do that!” But percentages don’t paint the full picture.

Lies, damned lies and statistics, as the saying goes

Graph and chart on table with person pointing to them with pen

Beware claims that posting at certain times of day increase engagement by a percentage factor. The reason? Engagement with social media is so low anyway – usually below 1-2% – that even a hundred percent increase would only take you to 2-4% engagement.

Is the time taken to schedule your posts, and pay for the software to do it more easily on your behalf, worth that in terms of sales revenue or brand connectedness? Unlikely.

So if the stats are at fault, let’s explore why.

The global internet: what does time mean?

A collage of clocks showing different times

The first problem is that most how-to posts on scheduling content are either country-centred or market-centred. They tell you the time to post when most people in America are awake or when most people in the UK are glued to their Twitter feed.

So you post between 9 and 10am UK time. Is your market solely there? If you’re selling to Europe too, they might be an hour or two ahead so you’ve missed the window. If you sell to America, you’re between five and eight hours adrift hitting that sweet spot. And what about places that don’t recognise Daylight Savings?

You can post many times and risk putting off people who have already seen it. The better approach is to go through the expense (time, mainly) of geo-targeting the same post to each group at different times of day. This feature, however, is more useful for locally-targeted events where time is a crucial factor, not marketing posts that can be consumed at any time.

GDPR and the impact of opt-out

Checklist, checked and crossed

Compounding the global reach time issue is that closing the loop on advertising requires marketers to know how far their message has spread and, crucially, if it made a difference to their sales. This is tricky at best using insights and analytics, but even harder now that consumers can refuse tracking information.

People who choose generic ad delivery, or those that opt out of tracking and marketing statistics when they click through your website, will not count towards active conversions. You can infer, but can’t demonstrate, that the person who saw the ad was the same one who bought from you.

So if harvesting data to support this endeavour is unreliable, what can you do?

Write content that people want to consume

Woman on phone and laptop at home

Both the above “solutions” are a symptom, not the cause, of poor engagement. They’re arguably hacks or crutches upon which industries rely to trick consumers into engaging with content or to justify expenditure on campaigns.

Think about it: with the possible exception of (say) a take-away food retailer who may benefit from posting just before lunch, if your customers actively looked forward to your content and loved to consume it, you wouldn’t need to worry about when you posted it, nor measure how much of a direct impact it had. Followers would wait for your content. Look forward to it. Learn from it, regardless of the time it was posted.

Crucially, they would pass it on without you telling them to do so, because it has value to them and those in their network with whom they choose to share it. That’s ROI that can’t be measured month on month, is difficult to buy with a slogan, and the type of thing that makes accountants nervous.

No wonder many business people buy into the ‘measure above all else’ mindset. But with courage and commitment, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Become the company customers trust

Women in coffee shop chatting over a laptop

Everyone loves a heartfelt recommendation. It carries more weight than can be measured by an algorithm.

The long-term benefit of cultivating high-quality content and offering it to consumers pays dividends in loyalty. It elevates your brand above those around you in the sector. It positions you as the expert and creates a trust bond, not only with your existing customers but through the recommendations they provide to others.

So work towards becoming the business that is recommended by customers. Choose content marketing, and invest your time and energy in building a valuable relationship between your consumers and brand, instead of using time hacks.