Nielsen recently released State of the Media Advertising & Audiences. It got me thinking about timing and digital media. While time has been a critical planning factor in traditional media, digital marketers don’t think in terms of prime time, roadblocks or time triggered communications as much as their offline counterparts.
That strikes me, as a missed opportunity since timing is everything in life and in marketing. Perhaps the reason is a lack of data on behavior or the absence of consensus on digital, social and mobile media use. And yet digital, mobile and social media have distinct usage patterns.
The average American spends 60 hours a month online visiting 89 domains and 2646 unique pages by logging in an average of 57 times. Half use the Internet everyday and most of them are on Facebook. According to BuzzFeed from a low point at 5a, Internet traffic grows steadily until lunchtime. After a meal time dip, volume grows modestly for another hour or two to a 4p daily peak which declines slowly but steadily from mid to late evening.
Huge numbers of people wake up and check e-mail. Loads of people buy stuff online at lunchtime or post Facebook status updates during their workday. By mid-afternoon, after school, there’s another activity spike, which then is echoed after dinner, 8p through midnight, as multi-tasking consumers watch prime time TV with their smart phones, laptops or tablets in hand commenting or tweeting on plots, checking sports scores, posting to blogs or communities or looking up or buying stuff they saw on TV. And many of us also make a last e-mail or social media check before bed.
When you think of it this way, there are patterns worth testing and probably a substantial case for marketing at specific times to address specific offers and the persistent fear of missing out, now dubbed FOMO by the pundits. In some cases, consumers use different digital platforms at different times for different purposes, like tablets for TV or video viewing or smartphones for online banking and location-based check-ins.
Consider these data points:
- Facebook’s most consistent spike is Wednesday at 3pm
- Facebook predictably spikes at 11a, 3p and 8p daily
- Facebook posts appearing before 9a get more comments and shares than others
- Facebook posts at the top of the hour get more virility
- Facebook posts on Saturday draw the most Likes
- Most Facebook shares happen at Noon
- Facebook CTR’s top out on Tuesday and Wednesdays
- Sunday is Facebook slowest day
- Twitter has daily traffic peaks at Noon, 4p and 11p
- Lowest Twitter volume is at 7a
- Peak tweet volume is Friday
- Peek re-tweet days are Wednesday-Friday
- Peak re-tweet time is 5p
- Highest CTR on Twitter is at Noon and 6p
- Saturday morning is prime time for sharing on Pinterest
- E-mail has the strongest CTR on Saturday and Sunday
- Blogs draw the most comments on Saturday
- Blog posts at 8a prompt the most clicks, views and comments
- Cisco says 9p-1a are peak global Internet use times – 25%of all traffic
- US Internet use peaks at 11p ET
- Peak mobile usage is at 5p daily with a secondary spike at 9p
- Online gaming grows 60% after 2p and spikes between 8-11p
- Game console use spikes Thursday evenings
- Online video viewing peaks at Midnight
- IMing is constant throughout the day, but reaches 80% of peak at 10a
- Sharing across networks peaks at 9:30a
- Social media (all networks) peaks at 11p ET
- Wednesday is the top sharing day
- 75% of clicks occur within 1 day of posting
- Most clicks occur 2 minutes after content is posted
- 12% of all clicks come from mobile devices
According to Hilary Mason, Chief Scientist at bit.ly, social media content follows a “burst and decay” pattern with attention spiking within the first few hours of a post and then steadily decaying into a trough. Immediacy and “newness” are factors in influencing the relative reach and virility of posts. Posts degrade from birth, much like an atomic isotope. Bit.ly has tracked these patterns by network and pegs the shelf life of a post like this …
Twitter 2.8 hours
Facebook 3.1 hours
YouTube 7 hours
StumbleUpon > 7 hours
Tumblr >7 hours
These data points suggest a few testable media and messaging strategies either for optimizing digital engagement or integrating on and offline media and messaging.
Road Block. Align and synchronize digital and TV platforms to dominate either a high or low use period with a single message. Gaming, apps and social media all have substantial traffic that overlaps TV prime time. Brands should leverage this confluence of platforms to maximize visibility and reach or to make a dramatic statement. Imagine a campaign that parses the messages across synchronized platforms in specific time frames so that consumers follow the message or collect the clues to solve a puzzle.
Sequence. Run media to optimize efficient reach across platforms and to be sure a sustaining weight of media and messaging carries through a daypart or influences existing behavior at specific times of day. Imagine a sequence of messages that follow each other and tell a compelling brand story driving toward an offer across platforms through time.
Contra-Competitive Timing. Coined by Dan Zarella, this strategy says zig when they zag. Don’t try to break into high volume traffic time periods. Insted buy fringe periods or slower periods to maximize reach and frequency against smaller but more carefully targeted or niche audiences. With all due respect to Zarella, this has been a TV buying strategy used with effect by insurgent brands for 50 years.
Inflection Points. Intercept customers and prospects when and where they are doing something they like. Position your brand and buy your media to intersect and complement the experience. Better yet, enhance the TV or online experience and win loyalty and customer advocacy. This, too, is an old TV buyer’s trick – run soup ads when it rains, run the dinner special from 5-7p or promote beer during the game.
We’ve just begun to scratch the surface in applying sophisticated media thinking and cross-platform integration to digital, social and mobile platforms. Timing and usage are variables that should help us break down the silos and leverage old and emerging wisdom about media and consumers to dramatically improve digital brand communications.