Buffer is an amazing tool for scheduling social messaging with ease. You pick the times that are best for your posts, create the message and they take care of the rest. Recently, Buffer published a study on the best times to tweet, using data from 4.8 million Twitter messages. The study is filled with interesting information about when we should be scheduling our messaging. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
Knowing the best times for the best return is great to help drive social success. In addition to knowing what times work best for specific results, I wanted to know which of my current Buffer queue spots performed best. Was the 11am slot, when the largest number of my followers are active, the best time to tweet? I decided to find out.
To start I should mention that I do have a Buffer for Business plan which allows users to export their post performance as a CSV. This allowed me to take my post data and play with it. You’ll need a Buffer for Business plan to be able to do this too. I also need to mention that I’m not the worlds best Excel master. While the way I outline here works, I’m sure there is a far quicker and cleaner way to get the same end result. Sorry for making you take the extra steps.
- First export the past 90 day as .CSV under the Analysis section of the Analytics tab by selecting 90 Days from the drop-down and clicking the Export as .CSV button.
- Although the export includes a Date column with both date and time of the post, we want just the time. Create a new Time column to the right of Date and input the following formula, then apply the formula to all cells in that column by clicking the cell containing the formula and then dragging the square in the lower right corner down through all cells: =TIME(HOUR(A2),MINUTE(A2), SECOND(A2))
- Although not required, I’ve added an extra column for engagements. It’s simply the sum of all retweets, favorites, and mentions a message received. This gives a quick idea of which messages or time slots had the best total engagements. To do so, create a new column between Post and Retweets and enter the formula =E2+F2+G2 Again click and drag down to apply to all cells.
- Select the top line by clicking the number 1 to highlight it. Then select the Data tab and click Filter. This will add filter drop-down menus to each data set and allow you to filter the posts by things like greatest engagements, most or least clicks and more.
- Sort the Potential column from smallest to largest and then delete all lines showing 0, as they’re messages you’ve retweeted.
- Next, sort the Time column from smallest to largest. This will group all messages with the others that went out during the same time slot. Then go through and delete any lines that aren’t part of your normal Buffer post times. These are messages you chose to ‘Publish Now’ and aren’t needed.
- Once you’ve cleaned everything up, insert a line between each group of post times. Now highlight all the Engagements, Retweets, Favorites, Mentions, Clicks, and Potential and then click the AutoSum button on the Home tab. This will place a the sum of each column in the blank line created below each time group.
- Now that we have the totals for each time slot, we want to assemble them in a table displaying each. This is best done by creating a new tab in your spreadsheet and then pasting each slot total on its own line. When copying and pasting the AutoSum line, make sure to right click and select Values under Paste Options (the clipboard with 123 on it). This will paste the actual numbers, rather than the formula. You’ll also want to label each line with the corresponding time slot. Add a Filter to the top line when complete.
This list now shows the totals for each time slot. You can play with the filters and sort them as you like. It will give you a good idea of which slot is performing best but to make it even easier to see, we can average each slot. Assuming you have a full Buffer queue, you can divide each group by 90, as you should have had 90 posts published in each time slot.
- Start by clicking in the first cell of the Average Engagements column and enter the formula =B2/90 then press enter. This will take the number of total engagements (in cell B2) and divide it by 90 (the number of posts made) which will give you the average. Apply the formula to all the time slot cells below. Then do the same to the other engagement type columns, using their respective total number and dividing by 90 each time.
- Now you have the averages but they’re a bit hard to read. To remove all the additional decimals, highlight all of the averaged cells and then click the Decrease Decimal button. If you end up with cells containing 0, you may want to click on that cell and increase the decimal until you have some number slightly greater than zero, such as 0.2. This will give you some idea of the average performance rather than just never performing. You may also want to click the cells containing a single digit and increase the decimal to get an even better idea of their true performance, such as 1.8 instead of 2.0.
- You now have the average performance of each time slot. Apply the filter to the top row again to begin sorting and finding which performed best queue spot!
Sorting now allows you to see which Buffer timeslot has performed best for clicks, engagements, and more. In my case, the 10:05PM timeslot has seen the highest average clicks and engagements by far. We also see little separation in average between the other timeslots. This is inline with what Buffer’s recent study found, showing that later tweet times see the highest engagement.
Keep in mind that a single tweet that really takes off can skew these numbers a bit so they aren’t always going to be 100% correct in determining the best performer. But if you do this a couple times, or even break it down and do it week over week, you should be able to find which slots perform best on an on-going basis.
Now You Know, And Knowing Is Half The Battle —G.I. Joe
Now that you’ve identified which slot performs the best, you can look to stick your most important messages in those spots. You may also want to experiment with adding additional time slots around these top performing times. While this could possibly take away attention from your best performing spot, it certainly never hurts to test and see.
It takes a bit of work to find your best performing Buffer time slot, but knowing when it is can help pick the best times to post. It would be great to see this functionality built into Buffer, so I’ve started a suggestion to do so on the Buffer UserVoice. If you agree, consider voting for it and helping them see you’d love it too. While you’re there, consider voting for other great suggestions and even submit some of your own. Help make this awesome tool even better.