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Scheduling Content on Social Media: Theory, Evidence, and Application


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Content platforms (e.g., newspapers, magazines) post several stories every day on their dedicated social media pages and promote some of them using targeted content advertising (TCA). Posting stories allows content platforms to grow their social media audiences and generate digital advertising revenue from the impressions channeled through social media posts’ link clicks. However, optimal scheduling of social media posts and TCA is formidable, requiring content platforms to determine what to post, when to post, and whether, when and how much to spend on TCA to maximize profits. Social media managers lament this complexity, while academic literature offers little guidance. Consequently, the authors draw from literature on circadian rhythms in information processing capabilities to build a novel theoretical framework on social media content scheduling and explain how scheduling attributes (i.e., time of day, content type, and TCA) affect the link clicks metric. They test their hypotheses using a model estimated on 366 days of Facebook post data from a top-50 U.S. newspaper. Subsequently, they build an algorithm that allows social media managers to optimally plan social media content schedules and maximize gross profits. Applying the algorithm to a holdout sample, the authors demonstrate a potential increase in gross profits by at least 8%.

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Scheduling Content on Social Media: Theory, Evidence, and Application

  1. 1. From: How can firms schedule social media posts to increase engagement and returns? Kanuri, Chen and Sridhar (2018) By 2020, social media will represent 24% of the economy’s total digital advertising spend.
  2. 2. From:From:  Scheduling social media posts involves answering several difficult questions:  When to post (i.e., content timing)?  Which stories to boost (i.e., identify sponsored and organic content from the pool of stories to post)?  How to allocate the boosting budget across stories (i.e., resource allocation)?  One way to improve post performance is to post when most people are most able to store, retrieve, and process immediate information (i.e., when working memory is highest). Biological processes lead to highest working memory in the morning. Scheduling Content on Social Media Kanuri, Chen and Sridhar (2018) WorkingMemory Availability Morning Afternoon Evening For most individuals, working memory availability is highest in the morning, lowest in mid-afternoon, and moderate in the evening
  3. 3. From:From:  Timing of social media posts matters: Posting stories in the morning generated about 8.8% increase in link clicks compared to posting stories in the afternoon and an 11.1% increase compared to posting in the evening.  Sponsored content is most effective when it is scheduled in the afternoon: Sponsored content in the afternoon, on average, accumulated about 21% increase in link clicks compared to sponsored content in the morning because sponsored content serves as an attention drawing trigger when the working memory is low.  Content with negative high-arousal emotions (e.g., anger, terror, anxiety, distress) is most effective in the morning: Such content received 1.6% more link clicks in the morning compared to that in the afternoon, and 7.6% than at night.  Firms need not increase their boosting budgets to improve financial performance: Simply rearranging the posts without allocating additional budget for sponsored content can increase the firm’s gross profits by ~8%.  Boosting spend has diminishing returns: Additional spending on sponsored content resulted only in a marginal increase in gross profits. Findings from a study of Facebook data for a top 50 U.S. newspaper Kanuri, Chen and Sridhar (2018)
  4. 4. From:From: Supplemental Content Kanuri, Chen and Sridhar (2018)  HBR Supplement: