Wednesday, July 17, 2013

At what time should Guy Kawasaki tweet?

The band I played in back in college had a love-hate relationship with song requests.  We loved  requests for the few songs we knew, and hated all the rest.  I have a similar love-hate relationship with requests in this data-driven blog world that I inhabit.  I only love requests if I have the data.  So, imagine my dorky giddiness when my friend Mary Liu asked me whether the time-of-day had any effect on the popularity of a tweet, a question for which I actually had the data!  Mary’s hunch proved to be correct.  Tweets that were posted by Guy Kawasaki between 9 – 10 a.m. and 7- 8 p.m. PST had a higher probability of being retweeted.  On the other hand, the day of the week when a tweet was posted didn’t influence a tweet’s popularity at all.

To determine whether the time of day when Kawasaki posts a tweets affects its popularity we need to compare the average number of retweets for tweets posted during different hours of the day.  The chart below shows the average number of retweets1 for tweets that were posted across different hours of the day using a two weeks sample of Kawasaki's tweets.  The horizontal line describes the average number of retweets for the whole sample, 5.8 retweets.  Although some hours seem to have more or fewer retweets than the average, not all of them are significantly different.  The only hours that proved to be significantly different from the average were 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 7 p.m.2.

Tweets posted between 9 – 10 a.m. had the most number of retweets with 72% more retweets than the average.  This result is not totally surprising.  I assume that many of Kawasaki’s followers live in the US.  At 9 a.m. PDT people in the west coast are checking their feeds first thing in the morning, and people in the east coast are checking their feeds as they leave for lunch at noon.

On the other hand, Tweets posted between 10 – 11 a.m. had 36% less retweets than the average.  The reason why we would see a drop in the popularity of tweets quickly after the spike at 9 a.m. is puzzling.  Maybe the hour between 9 – 10 a.m. is truly a critical time for people to popularize tweets, and people then quickly stop viewing their feeds and retweeting content.

The third set of tweets that showed a significant difference in retweets were those posted between 7 - 8 p.m.  These tweets had 46% more retweets than the average.  The reason behind the increased popularity during this time could be similar to the reason why we thought there was a spike of retweets at 9 a.m.  People in the west coast might be checking their twitter feeds as the end of the week-day while people in the rest of the country might be checking their feeds as the day comes to an end.

We can use the same methodology described above to determine whether the popularity of tweets changes across week-days.  The chart below shows the average number of retweets1 for tweets that were posted during different days of the week.  Even though it looks like Sunday and Monday are the best days for Tweets and Friday is the worst, none of these differences are statistically significant.  So, apparently the day when you post a tweet doesn’t have any effect on its popularity.

This analysis is based on a strong assumption that Kawasaki doesn’t tweet better content at different times of the day on purpose.  If this assumption was not true, the effects that we found might be due to Kawasaki’s posting choices not the time-of-day or day-of-the-week.  Kawasaki has been pretty open about his Tweeting strategy and hasn’t mentioned anything around tweeting at different times of the day so I think it’s fair to assume that Kawasaki doesn’t tweet different quality of content at different times.

Even though we did find evidence for a time-of-day effect on a tweet's popularity, it is worth noting that more than 85% of the day had no effect.  So even though a few hours of the day might boost a tweet's popularity, there are very few bad times to post a tweet.

1 The chart shows the average number of retweets 35 minutes after a tweet was posted.  As discussed in a previous post, about two thirds of Kawasaki’s tweets go missing, so using the final number of retweets would reduce our sample by about 66%.  In addition, we’ve seen that the number of retweets a few minutes after a tweet is posted can predict the final number of tweets very accurately.

2 Tweets that were posted between 9 – 10 a.m., 10 – 11 a.m., and 7 – 8 p.m. were significantly different from the mean at p < .01, p < .05, and p < .1 respectively. 


  1. Awesome analysis, Santiago! The 7pm PST spike makes sense since East Coasters end their days late (10pm EST). but the difference between 9am and 10am is funny.

    Curious, how did you collect the data?

    You should show this to Twitter Ads! It can help their monetization strategy as they prime for IPO. Imagine how useful this can be if it's personalized for those targeted followers people buy at $3 per follower on average. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment Mary! I collect the data with a little program that I wrote. The program uses the Twitter API to listen to Kawasaki's Twitter account and measure retweets.

    I like your monetization idea. Are you thinking that Twitter's customers could target other Twitter accounts based on the hours when the target Twitter accounts see above average number of retweets?

  3. I am proud to provide enough data for you to do this analysis. :-)

    1. Thank you for your comment, and vast amounts of data Guy! Any thoughts on the reasons behind the time-of-day effect at 9 – 10 a.m., and 7- 8 p.m. PST?