Scheduling tweets: Does common sense trump algorithms?

The author puzzles over whether algorithms can outperform common sense in determining optimum windows for reaching your Twitter audience.

Several services offer to schedule your social media updates at times people are most likely to see them. This intrigues many businesses who worry their followers are missing important content.

I’ve tried several of these services. Some social media experts praise them often. Scheduling content for the following day has its benefits when you won’t have time to post in real time. But can a website actually provide precise insight on the best times to tweet?

People study this like a science, and you can sign up for webinars to learn the secrets. However, many of the experts explaining the benefits of scheduling social media are in the social media industry. Don’t they benefit by convincing businesses that social media is not an exercise in randomness?

One service recommended that I tweet at times that most people, if they had to guess, would select anyway. The times were when most people get to work, eat lunch, and start preparing to head home. My wife and business partner, Loren, tried the same service, which provided her times similar to mine. Do our followers behave so similarly?

Another service indicated I should tweet during normal business hours on weekdays. Is that truly insightful? The same service indicated what time of day I receive the most replies to my tweets. But don’t I significantly determine when followers reply by when I tweet to them?

Another site scheduled all my tweets within a few hours of each other. For example, if I scheduled the tweets late in the evening, the site scheduled all my tweets within a few hours the next morning. Is this optimized tweeting?

Maybe I don’t appreciate and fully understand algorithms. Maybe I don’t fully understand how these sites work, although I typically try them out after someone writes how easy they are for people to use.

Then there’s common sense. I don’t check Facebook and Twitter the same time every day. I doubt anyone could find a social media trend on me. I think the times I’m logged on are random.

It makes sense many people may check Facebook and Twitter at lunch. But if everyone posts at lunch, what are the chances followers will cut through the crap and click on your links? Is lunch really an optimized time?

I don’t doubt smart people have devised algorithms, but I’m not convinced the algorithms are telling us much more than we can figure out on our own with a pencil and paper. To me, strategically scheduling social media presents too many shades of gray.

I’m not a curmudgeon. I’m open-minded and willing to try websites with super insight. It’s unfair for people to miss our amazing blogs. I would love to know when most of my followers are checking their smartphones while ignoring their friends and family.

Keith Yaskin is president of The Flip Side Communications. A version of this article first appeared on The Flip Side Communications’ blog.

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