How Twitter and Facebook users react to social posts by country and by day

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A new research study from Lithium Technologies and Klout reveals Twitter is the key platform for quick audience engagement, with reaction times differing greatly by continent.

Jeremy Waite, now head of digital strategy EMEA at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, famously said in his ‘80 Rules of Social Media’ that the average half life of a tweet was between six and seven minutes. Given this was put up more than two years ago, that number has probably gone even further down since then – but this new study, completed in June and written by four academics, has added a little more meat to the bone.

The problem statement read simply: “For a user on a social network, find the best time to post a message within a specified time period in order to maximise the probability of receiving audience reactions.” Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, Twitter exhibited a much higher speed of reactions compared to Facebook.

25% of reactions take place in the first three minutes – giving credence to Waite’s line – while 50% take place within the first half hour. This is swift compared to other networks; Facebook, for fan pages, and Google+ on average have 50% of reactions take place within two hours.

The researchers separated Facebook personal pages and Facebook fan pages because of “significantly different dynamics” – or, in other words, different content strategies between the two. “Interestingly, we see that the Facebook Pages network shows more similar reaction times to Google+ rather than Facebook, indicating that similar responses can be elicited from users belonging to completely disjoint user sets, if the underlying dynamics of interactions are similar,” the paper notes.

The paper also assessed reaction times dependent on the number of Twitter followers. The researchers put the former and latter’s more sluggish responses to not being active users on the one hand, and having too many messages to get through on the other:

  • For those with between 10 and 100 followers, half of all reactions to posts will arrive after 41 minutes on average
  • If you have between 100 and 1,000 followers, or between 10,000 and 100,000, that number turns into a more brisk 20 minutes
  • If you have more than a million followers – between 1m and 10m – it goes up to 108 minutes

The report’s other top finding relates to how geographical differences affect posting reactions. In San Francisco and New York, reactions peak at the beginning of working hours; for Paris, it’s during the second half of the working day; whereas for London, most reactions are limited to the very end of the working day. It’s worth noting here that this gives a fascinating indicator into how countries tend to spend their working hours – or not, as the case may be. Going back to Waite's rules of social media, rule #37 - the majority of people use social media to waste time - is of interest here. In terms of more general trends, Twitter has more peaks and valleys throughout the day and almost halves its weekly amplitude on weekends, while Facebook is more consistent.

Only first degree reactions, such as shares, retweets and comments from the original post, were included for the study. Using Klout’s platform, where user posts and follower graphs were collected through the oauth-token from registered Klout users, the data, of 144 million posts and more than 1.1 billion reactions, was fed into a Hadoop cluster and put into a pipeline.

The paper, which is on the academic side, delves deep into these trends, focusing on variables which may affect reaction time and output, such as manner of posting and presentations of posts, as well as putting together a series of personalised posting schedules for users. You can find it here.

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