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How to Plan Your Tweets For Engagement vs. Site Traffic

“The top time to Tweet is XYZ.”

We’ve all heard this. Whether you’re Tweeting in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening, you’re doing it wrong…because everyone has an opinion about the top time to Tweet.

But that always begs the question…the top time for what? For engagement? For traffic? For both? Most digital marketers understand that different audiences require different tactics, but so many of us struggle with understanding engagement and traffic.

Earlier this year, Time published an article exploring all the myths we blindly believe about the Internet. One of those myths was that the content we share is the content we read.

The people who share content are a small fraction of the people who actually visit that content. Among articles we tracked with social activity, there were only one tweet and eight Facebook likes for every 100 visitors. The temptation to infer behavior from those few people sharing can often lead media sites to jump to conclusions that the data does not support.   —   Time Magazine

We’ve been brainwashed…or at least I have.

Engagement = People reading the content, right? Your top time for Tweet traffic is probably the same as your top time for engagement. Well, not quite. Recently, I published a test I’d run on the Simply Measured account; Are You Tweeting at the Wrong Time for Site Traffic? I decided to do the same for engagement to compare to my previous test and see if what Time wrote is true.

I expected to see spikes in similar places, but what I found was both surprising and exciting.

The Findings: Engagement vs. Traffic

When I examined my top time for traffic, I found that the early morning hours were hotbeds for traffic. Under the assumption that traffic is caused by engagement, I would expect to see similar peaks. However, when I took a good hard look at my analysis from May, I found that my hypothesis was not entirely supported by the data.

We can see that 6am is a great time for engagement, but it’s not alone. 1pm drives the most engagement, but it’s also affected by the most Tweeting. Where I see the greatest potential is actually in the evenings. 8pm – 10pm average nearly as much engagement as 6am, with many fewer Tweets.

Now, let’s take a look at how this compares to visits during May.

Focusing on visits gives us a very different story. Visits peak early in the morning and decrease as the day goes on, then pick up around 8PM. This behavior is slightly influenced by the number of Tweets, but since this is the same in each chart, we can be sure that there is much more at play here. Visits peak at 6am, as does engagement, but nothing else adds up.

My top time for engagement is very different than my top time for traffic. With this information, I can tailor my Tweets to account for which posts I want to drive traffic vs. which posts I want to drive engagement. I’ll include more links in the timeframes conducive for site traffic, and branded, consumable Tweets during the times conducive to engagement.

The way people consume content on Twitter is different from audience to audience, so I highly recommend running this test for yourself.

The Process

Getting to that analysis wasn’t as difficult as it may seem. My process for identifying my top time for engagement was very similar to the one I outlined in Are You Tweeting at the Wrong Time for Site Traffic?

Below is a quick guide for finding this data on your own Twitter account.

1. Pull the data with our Twitter Account Report

Make sure your sample size is big enough for it to be representative. I pulled this Twitter Account Report for the month of May.

2. Identify how many Tweets you send each hour using some Excel magic

Let’s drill down into Excel. After downloading your Twitter Account Report, go into the “Sent” tab, create a new “Hour” column. Using the Hour function (as pictured below), select the time stamp in cell H2. After you expand this formula, you can filter your sent Tweets by hour.

3. Identify How Much Traffic is Driven Each Hour

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 2.18.16 PMNow we’re going to dive into Google Analytics. GA allows you to see how much traffic you’re driving from Twitter, by the hour. Set your GA to the correct time period, select the correct source / medium (your custom UTMs), and change the “Secondary Dimension” tab to “Hour.” Now, you can see when Twitter drives the most traffic to your blog.

4. Create a pivot table

This is an Excel trick that everyone should know how to do. Granted, it took me a little bit of time – but it’s worth it. Select all of the cells under your Sent tab (including the new Hour column) and create a Pivot Table as pictured below.

From here, you’ll be taken to a window where you are asked to organize said Pivot Table. Organize your rows by Hour, then Sum of Total Engagement and the Tweet ID count to values. This will create the pretty chart pictured below.

Now you can create a chart that will reveal your top time for engagement, with the number of Tweets sent in each hour for reference.

Want to get started? Get your own free trial of Simply Measured and start tracking your own Twitter account today.

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Jade Furubayashi

My name is Jade and I'm the Social Media Manager for Simply Measured. We can find common ground in Beyoncé and Chipotle burrito bowls.

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