As the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of living during a global pandemic, one thing is for certain: consumer behavior has changed. Not only are people spending more time online, but where they’re spending their time and how they are accessing these digital destinations has shifted—in some cases dramatically.
Of course, social media consumption is core to consumer internet behavior. In addition to relying on social feeds to stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 developments, consumers are also craving new ways to connect and find community.
With the uptick and shift in social media behavior, social media managers and content producers face several new realities that make their jobs ever more challenging:
- Preferences are changing. In order to remain relevant and demonstrate their more human side, the best brands have looked to adjust their social strategy to account for shifting consumer preferences.
- Ad spending is down. As advertising budgets take a haircut, organic social is more important than ever, leading to both increased scrutiny and heightened opportunity.
- Everyone is online. Social feeds are more crowded and more difficult for brands to navigate as social media engagement patterns have changed seemingly overnight.
With these new dynamics in place, it’s never been more critical to take a data-driven approach to your social publishing strategy to ensure you’re reaching your audience in the right place at the right time. Luckily, Sprout Social provides both the tools and data to inform your next move.
Consider all your data inputs
First and foremost, it’s important to consider what types of data you should be leveraging when planning your content and distribution efforts. While it’s imperative that you understand your audience and their unique engagement patterns—insights that Sprout’s ViralPost® algorithm can deliver—it’s also helpful to consider macro trends as well.
A well-rounded approach to optimizing your scheduling should consider both industry-level trends and the engagement data behind your individual profiles and audiences. This is especially true when we see industry trends taking sharp turns like they have recently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to recent Sprout data, several social platforms have seen a large shift in the best times to post for optimized engagement. This shift in best times to post over the last few weeks is even more pronounced than the shift we saw from 2019 to early 2020. To help social marketers stay ahead of these quickly evolving engagement patterns, Sprout’s patented ViralPost® algorithm—the engine that powers both Sprout Queue and our Optimal Send Times technology—is purposely designed to adapt to these changing behaviors as they unfold.
Powerful tools to optimize audience engagement
Now that we’ve established the importance of being data-driven when managing your social content calendar, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use Sprout to intelligently plot out your posts.
Sprout Queue with ViralPost®
If you’re looking for a more lightweight, automated approach to filling your social calendar while still optimizing your post times, then the Sprout Queue with ViralPost® is your answer. Simply configure your Queue within Publishing Settings by selecting whether you want to distribute content by weekdays/weekends, or by specifying how frequently the Queue should publish on each individual day of the week. You can create a unique Queue configuration for each of your social profiles.
Within the Queue, ViralPost® takes the guesswork out of delivery times. This data-centric solution analyzes your audience’s usage and engagement patterns, content velocity and other factors to detect the most active times for authentic engagement. The Queue then enables you to automatically schedule content at the best times for your brand.
Optimal Send Times in Compose
If you want greater precision with each and every post, then look no further than Optimal Send Times in Compose. Unlike the Queue, this approach gives you the flexibility to select the exact date for each post. Then, you have the ability to choose from a list of up to seven Optimal Send Times which are calculated specifically for that profile on that day.
In the creation of version 2.0 of ViralPost® (the version of the algorithm that powers Optimal Send Times) Sprout’s Data Science team found that profiles can see up to a 60% lift in reach on average when using Optimal Send Times in Compose.
While this process is more manual than the automated Queue, it can be paired with the Schedule + Duplicate scheduling option for maximum efficiency. In this workflow, you can quickly optimize and tailor your post content per network/profile while also taking advantage of the unique optimal send times based on that profile’s audience engagement patterns.
Use the Schedule + Duplicate function when creating similar but custom content across each network and then pair each post with their own profile specific Optimal Send Times! 🙌🏻
— Jon Engle (@Engle127) February 5, 2020
Don’t just take our word for it
Sprout’s focus on building tools for data-driven decision making is nothing new. Sprout customers have been taking advantage of ViralPost® for years, and they’re not shy to share the #SproutLove. Take a look:
Hey @SproutSocial – really loving the new Optimal Send Time feature in scheduling posts! It's the best of both worlds – scheduling + ViralPost!
— Kristen (@kwagg) June 6, 2018
I love optimal send times!! It’s saved me a lot of time trying to figure out the best times. Now I need to check my results from the past month or so!!
— JL Summerfield (@JLSummerfield) July 13, 2018
— Val Vesa (@adspedia) September 7, 2018
Access Sprout’s free, industry-leading data
With more people online than ever before, knowing the best times to post is crucial for social marketers intent on reaching and engaging with consumers. The COVID-19 crisis has changed consumers’ social behaviors—we know that. But Sprout data illuminates specifically how the pandemic has influenced when people are online, which platforms they frequent and what dominates their conversations.
Armed with this data, social marketers can take the guesswork out of adjusting their social strategies and ensure every post they publish gets in front of their target audience. And tools like Sprout Queue with ViralPost® and Optimal Send Times in Compose can further empower social marketers to create an effective publishing strategy in spite of this pandemic.
Looking for more information on how consumers’ social behaviors have changed since COVID-19? Check out our COVID-19 update to our original best times to post article, or any of our free resources on how social marketers can navigate the current global crisis:
Resources for communicating during the coronavirus crisis
The components of a successful social media calendar templatePublished on January 26, 2023 Reading time 5 minutes
Sprout on Sprout: Behind the scenes with our 3-person social media teamPublished on May 18, 2022 Reading time 5 minutes
From awareness to acquisition: Creating a content funnel that convertsPublished on October 12, 2020 Reading time 6 minutes