Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?
Will the United States bail on every international treaty to which it has previously signed?
Will Nicolas Cage have a late-career resurgence?
How often should I post to social media?
These (among others) are the central questions of our time.
You could fill Tom Brady’s trophy case with the amount of research that has been conducted on social media posting frequency. Our friends at CoSchedule, in fact, collated much of it to create this nifty consensus guide on when to post.
It’s good stuff.
But, it’s not true. None of it is true. Because all of those studies look at the success of each post in a vacuum. How many clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc. did a piece of social content get, and what happens to those baseline results when the frequency of publication goes up, or down?
Every single one of these reports ignores an unassailable certainty about success in social media marketing:
Put another way, increased frequency doesn’t imperil your success in social media marketing. Instead, your success is mitigated every time you post something mediocre, or worse.
Social Posting and the Brand Pulse
My friend Scott Stratten talks about the principle of Brand Pulse. He says that every interaction between a brand and a consumer either increases that person’s affinity for the brand, or reduces it. There is no “neutral” gear in our feelings about companies, only “forward” and “reverse.”
If you post something irrelevant, pointless, or worse in social media, the pulse slows. If you post something interesting and useful (a Youtility, if you’ll excuse the reference), the pulse quickens.
From the perspectives of emotions, loyalty, and advocacy, the Brand Pulse idea has always been true. But now, it’s even more important because the social media overlords have designed algorithms to mimic the Brand Pulse.
Good Content Wins, Bad Content Fails
The algorithms employed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (and to a lesser degree, Google’s SERPs and SEM ad placement) are essentially governed by the principle of the Brand Pulse.
To whit, a piece of content shared in social media that gets disproportionate numbers of clicks, comments, shares, and likes will not only succeed because of the additional reach of the shares, but because the platforms actually show the content to more people.
Brands like to complain about this uneven distribution of content, but in reality:
Imagine if this meritocracy was applied to other elements of our lives. The great restaurant in your town is open 24/7. The crappy diner that never changes the oil in the fryer is only open 3:30 to 5:45 Tuesdays and Sundays. That’s the restaurant equivalent of the social media Brand Pulse algorithm.
The Truth About Social Post Frequency
A few years ago, I published a slideshare presentation and blog post based on a presentation I gave at a SocialFresh conference called “Shotguns Trump Rifles.” My thesis at the time was that you should post more content in more places because it was the best way to defeat the algorithm changes that were just then starting to impact how social media posts were distributed and seen.
At the time, it made a lot of sense (at least to me), and our clients had a lot of success with that approach.
But today, the algorithms have grown even more finicky and pervasive. Now, posting mediocre content in social doesn’t actually impact your customers’ impressions of your brand all that much, because your customers never see the post. Things that are invisible are rarely disappointing.
Unless the algorithm loves your content, your actual, human customers will never know you exist. For evidence of this, look only at the many business Facebook pages that have zero engagement—not limited engagement, not little engagement, but zero. Yet, they continue to post the same kinds of content on a daily basis because some study said daily posting is the right cadence.
(I am guilty of this, too, on my Jay Baer business Facebook page. I need to get much better there.)
You should post to social media every time (and only when) you have something to post that your audience will love.
If you don’t have something worthwhile to say, do not say it. When you decide to push “Publish” anyway, you are digging yourself and deeper and deeper hole with the social media algorithms.
Paid Promotions Won’t Save You
As a practical matter, many businesses try to outfox the algorithms not by publishing exceedingly interesting content, but by using social media advertising to gain the reach they cannot achieve on the merit of their missives.
And, of course, this can help paper over your informational deficiencies.
But I have never seen a circumstance—either for Convince & Convert or for our many corporate clients— where a piece of content that failed organically succeeded wildly once paid promotion was applied.
Content that informs, entertains, or delights will work organically, and that is the content you should pay to promote. Putting significant paid amplification against mediocre content is the epitome of trying to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear. You can fool a few people at a distance, but upon close inspection, the whole charade comes tumbling down.
Gary Vaynerchuk put this more plainly recently when he said in a video (paraphrasing), “Paid advertising cannot make shitty content less shitty.”
If you want your social media program to succeed, stop worrying about what the research says about when and how often to post on each channel, and use just this one guideline: “Is this worth knowing?”
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Also published on Medium.
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