There are many information tools available on the internet, based on solid research and analysis, around the best times to post on social media. The change in behaviours in recent months, with many individuals and organisations working from home, sheltering in place, and trying to help prevent the spread of COVID 19, have resulted in an adjustment to the previous “norms”. As daily routines changed overnight, more of people’s’ daily and work lives shifted to online, and social media became an even more important tool for connection
With these changes, Sprout Social reviewed data from our 20,000+ customers to see how usage of social media has changed during this time. You can use this information to update your strategy and get a sense of how audiences’ priorities and interests have changed during this global pandemic.
How COVID-19 changed the best times to post on social media
Sprout Social updated the data pulled from their yearly review of best times to post to show the latest data through mid-April 2020. Overall, we found that the best times to post have shifted somewhat as more aspects of work and life move online-first. In some cases, we found that these times have shifted more in just the last few weeks of changed behaviour than they did from 2019 to early 2020–read on for a breakdown by network.
Updates to Facebook times to post
While we previously found that Wednesday from 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m. were the best times to post on Facebook, and Wednesday was a peak day overall, our updated review showed that activity was more consistently high throughout every weekday. Currently, the best times to post on Facebook are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10–11 a.m. In fact, every day at 11 a.m. was a slight peak compared to the rest of the day.
Weekends and weekdays after 5 p.m. still showed a significant drop off, as remote workers juggling a variety of home and family needs face, in many cases, even more demands on their attention after the typical work day ends.
Updates to Instagram times to post
Similar to Facebook, the number of peak times during the week expanded since our previous review for Instagram. Previously, Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m.–11 a.m. were identified as the best times to post. Now, we are seeing that out of an overall very busy span of weekday and working hours time, Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 2 p.m. are the best times to post on Instagram.
Additionally, while our previous analysis showed that Instagram activity carried on with some consistency through early morning and late evening, activity is now much more concentrated in the workday, with a distinct drop-off seen after 6 p.m. On the other hand, weekends, including the previous worst day to post Sunday, are now also highly active from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As a more mobile-centric network, Instagram could be taking a bigger share of time as a source of entertainment and distraction.
Updates to LinkedIn times to post
Since LinkedIn is a professionally oriented network, it’s not surprising that behaviour has remained largely similar. The best time to post did shift a little: moving from top times at Wednesday from 8–10 a.m. and noon, Thursday at 9 a.m. and 1–2 p.m., and Friday at 9 a.m. to current best times for LinkedIn of Wednesday at 3 p.m, Thursday at 9–10 a.m. and Friday from 11 a.m.-noon.
We also noticed that the hours of regular weekday engagement now start and end a little later, with activity starting up at 8 a.m. rather than 7 a.m. and wrapping up around 4 p.m. rather than 3 p.m., as noted previously. This could relate to changing remote work patterns, including a drop in browsing for updates during or around a commute.
Changes in social media message volume
We also compared metrics on message and engagement volume, both sent and received, from Q1 2020 to the first two weeks of April to see how things changed (or didn’t) as people adjusted to a ‘new normal.’ For this data, we reviewed the volume of different interaction across both networks and industry segments, to see how audience attention has shifted.
How brand behaviour has changed
Across all industries and networks, the number of posts sent per day remained about the same on average (only dropping by 0.2 post/day) comparing Q1 and April 2020.
A few industries increased their sent message volume during this time, especially health care and media and entertainment, both of which have become top of mind as people seek out reliable updates for news on the pandemic, and in the case of entertainment, look for everything from distraction to inspiration during social distancing.
On the other hand, some industries had a sharper decline in published posts during this time, particularly sports and travel, both of which have been highly impacted due to suspensions of activity and restrictions on business as normal. Retail, consumer goods, and education sent messages also dropped, though less dramatically.
When looking at all messages broken out by network, outgoing posts published by brands declined slightly on average across industries:
- Facebook: Outgoing posts decreased by an average of 1.8 posts/day
- Instagram: Outgoing posts decreased by 1.9 posts/day
These changes in outgoing posts make sense as brands have to continually re-evaluate content strategies to best serve their communities as the situation changes. Similarly, we found that audiences are changing their patterns of interaction with social media throughout March and April 2020.
How audiences engage with brands during COVID-19
Much as the best times to post have varied across networks based on changing user patterns, we found a variety of changes in how audiences are interacting with brands during April 2020 compared to Q1 2020.
Incoming engagements increased on average by 44 engagements per day across all networks and industries. On a per-post level, they also increased by about 7.3 engagements per post per day.
Trends in engagement in many cases followed what we found for changes in the posting volume of different industries. Major increases in engagements per day occurred for consumer goods, health care and media and entertainment, all of which have been top-of-mind categories for many as basic aspects of daily life change dramatically. For other industries, as published post volume dropped off out of necessity due to changing circumstances, engagements also declined–we found this was the case with decreases in sports, retail, legal and non-profit fields.
While engagement went up, incoming messages to brands actually decreased by 19 messages per day averaged across all networks. No industries saw an increase in incoming messages comparing the first two weeks of April to Q1 2020. Industries that saw a higher than average decline were non-profit, retail and sports.
Broken out by network, we saw this trend reflected further on both Facebook and Twitter:
- Facebook comments decreased by 5.6 per day
- Facebook PMs decreased by 2.1 per day
For Facebook, comments decreased across all industries except healthcare and media and entertainment. For Facebook PMs, only messages to media and entertainment industry accounts increased.
Instagram showed the only increase in incoming messages, with an average increase of 6.4 comments per day. Out of changes to Instagram comment volume, consumer goods, media and entertainment and software were the industry segments showing much higher than average increases.
This data shows how quickly behaviour on social media can change in line with audiences’ changing daily routines. Shifting patterns of focus between remote work and school, changes in primary device usage and restrictions on activity have significantly changed how audiences interact with social over the course of just a few weeks.