I recently joined our agency’s VP Jean Hill in delivering a workshop on the data-driven science behind social media before more than 50 marketing executives for a Fortune 100 client. Our #1 goal: we wanted to convince these executives that the best social media marketers think not like marketers at all – but like behavioral scientists.
Bring any three social media marketers together over an all-you-can-eat dinner of Buffalo Wild Wings, and stand back for a furious debate over:
- What’s the best time and day of the week to post content via Facebook and other social media channels? (Hint: it depends if you want Facebook likes or shares)
- What’s the optimal length for a tweet? (Spoiler alert: It’s not 140 characters)
- How will engagement be increased if you put a link closer to the beginning of a tweet rather than at the end? (Best practice? Insert that link a quarter of the way into your tweet)
- How often should you post new content on LinkedIn or other online channels? (Answer? Way more often than you currently are).
I admit, when our agency first began guiding clients toward more effective use of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other online marketing channels – I thought all posts and links were created equal. I figured that 1,000 likes was better than 10, and that 20,000 followers were far better than 200. If 55,000 people watched your video on YouTube, I was happy. Our clients were happy. All I cared about was – did someone, anyone, absorb our client’s content.
But our clients and agency quickly learned that generating followers, likes, video views and downloads was only half the battle.
(Source: University of Georgia)
Because a great musician thinks beyond the notes he or she plays and the number of tickets sold in the auditorium, to consider how is the audience coming to their music and how does the musician want the audience to react when that music is delivered?
Similarly, an exceptional social media marketer thinks beyond the mechanics of posting YouTube clips, LinkedIn updates and tweets to consider two vital questions:
- How did the audience come to see your content - via Google or Facebook? Through a click-thru on a tweet or YouTube link? From a PPC ad online?
- What specific actions do you want them to take once they connect with your company online?
That last question is critical. As a marketer, your choice of the length, timing and format of your online interaction depends upon the ultimate goal you want your blog, tweeted content or YouTube video to achieve. Possible goals for social media-delivered content are to:
- Generate the most possible click-thrus to your own website or other web property
- Encourage more social shares to amplify your content among new audiences
- Generate the most possible page views and readership
- Generate more links back to your website
- Spark conversation with comments
- Encourage more prospects to download content such as a white paper, e-book or infographic
- Improve the findability of your content on search engines like Google
Not surprisingly, our clients tell us they’re hungry for precision in a social media world that can feel chaotic and uncontrollable. We’re often asked: what’s the magical hour at which a Facebook post will compel thousands to “like” your brand, how often should you post a LinkedIn update, or what’s the best length of a video that will reinforce a clip “going viral” on YouTube? Fair questions; so we first talk about the science of social media, to wit:
1. The best length of a tweet if you desire engagement?
The secret formula of a successful Twitter post is 100 characters or less. Tweets of 100 characters or less receive a 17 percent higher engagement rate than longer tweets.
2. Where should you insert a link in your tweet?
Although the majority of marketers (including, until recently, me) put the link at the end of their tweet, data scientist Dan Zarella analyzed 200,000 tweets and determined that you could do much better. The optimal location for your link to generate click-thrus is 25 percent of the way into your tweet – a location that also ensures if someone retweets you, your link won’t be cut off at the end.
(Source: Dan Zarrella)
3. Best day to generate comments about your blog post?
Blog comments soar on Saturday, and are second highest on Sunday. But if you want social shares of your post? Thursday is best, with the second best day being Wednesday. The worst day to blog, if you want social shares, is Sunday. (Absorb that statistic: people comment more on weekends, but don’t share as much then.)
4. Best time to post on your blog if you readership and people to link to your post?
Blog posts published around 7 am (EST) generate the most inbound links; and author Dan Zarella confirmed that 80 percent of blog consumers read their blog in the morning – so post before breakfast!
5. How often should you post on Facebook?
Less frequent but higher quality Facebook posts are the way to go. Researchers found that posting one or two times daily on Facebook generated 32 percent higher “like” rates and 73 percent more comments, compared to marketers who posted more frequently.
6. Want to persuade people to share your Facebook post?
Get them to your finish line. Upworthy.com found that a person who reads some, but not all, of your content is least likely to share with friends and colleagues. Readers who make it all the way to the very end of your Facebook post are most likely to share with colleagues. Your goal: design your post for maximum suspense, with a climax or teaser so your audience will be compelled to complete it.
7. Want to acquire more links to your blog content?
Just add video. Moz.com found you can attract nearly three times more ILDs (internet linking domains) if you add a video to your blog post, compared to if your post was limited to text. And if you add video, lists and images to your next blog post, you can generate up to six times more internet linking domain links.
8. What’s the perfect length for a blog post?
Approximately 1,600 words – which comes to about seven minutes read out loud.
But wait! Mastering how to optimize online content for sharing, click-thrus and SEO findability is only half a marketer’s battle – what about the quality of your content? We know that hastily-written, lamely-illustrated content that’s all about your brand rather than all about your brand’s audience will not be shared or downloaded no matter how expertly it’s optimized. Similarly, brilliantly crafted, wildly entertaining and emotionally resonant content such as e-books, videos, white papers, blog posts and infographics won’t be noticed (and generate sales revenue for you) if they’re poorly optimized and weakly distributed on social.
So like those classic Reese’s TV spots of the 1980s, in which a man munching on chocolate crashes into a woman devouring a jar of peanut butter -- their collision creating the eternal miracle of Reese’s Peanut Butter candies – it’s the sweet mash-up of the science of social media optimization with the art of creating quality content that fulfills the promise of marketing for your company. So – how many rules of social media science did this blog post violate? And did this post achieve the level of quality you need to share it with your co-workers, friends and managers? We’ll sit here munching on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups until you decide. . .
Note: MaccaPR blog acknowledges the research and statistics provided above by Buddy Media, Track Social, moz.com, Social Fresh, Dan Zarella, Shareaholic, Medium and Upworthy. For more on this science of social media, read Dan Zarella’s astonishing "The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What To Post, How to Blog and Other Proven Strategies."
Paul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.