When to Send: Feeding Your Email List

I’ll admit it: for me, the first hurdle was WHETHER to build/maintain/develop an email list AT ALL.
I mean, how many lists am I already on that I consistently ignore (and how many have I unsubscribed to over time)? The answer is LOTS and the short story is that I got over all of that with some help. That’s not what this post is about.

The second hurdle, once I decided to start collecting email addresses and doing regular newsletters, was WHAT in the world do I say or share? I’m still green enough that we’ll call this one a jump-in-progress (sticking with my hurdle metaphor, see?), but I do have a consistent format and content that I’m trying. Watch me be super-clever: you can sign up for my email list right in the sidebar! šŸ˜€

It’s usually not until those first two challenges are behind you that this one comes into view: WHEN should I send to my list? Is there a better time than another for my good news to be landing in someone’s inbox? How can I maximize the likelihood that my beloved audience actually reads what I send? I got ahead of myself by helping clients with THEIR email newsletter campaigns, and learned a few things about “social timing” or “timing science” that I’m still playing with, and would love to pass along to you.

The Science of Social Timing

I found a few amazing infographics put together by KISSmetrics based on data from social media scientist Dan Zarrella and the good folks at Pure360 that I’ve been referencing pretty consistently, and they reveal the following about the best (and worst) times to put your content out into the interwebz.

When to Send Newsletter Emails

Gremilin on laptop computer

image by Dirk-the-Jerk on deviantart.com

First, when NOT to: Your email stats are likely to get as ugly and mean as a Gremlin if you feed your list after midnight. Zarrella’s data shows that most emails sent between 10pm and 6am are ineffective, and the daytime working hours of 10am to 3pm aren’t very promising, either. So that leaves two windows of opportunity in a given 24-hour period: worker bees get a slow start and allow themselves to be distracted by marketing emails between 6 and 10am, and several industries performed well in various swatches of 3-10pm.

Probably a huge caveat to put to you right now is that this data is a) from only the sources I mentioned, and b) very generalized. Different industries perform better and worse at different times, and all of this data was gathered in the United States. It’s also wise to be mindful of your time zone and that of your recipient(s) when planning a campaign.

As you may have noticed already, the more emails you send out and the more your list grows (and it will!), the more ALL of your metrics go up. That includes bounce rates and unsubscribes, and it just makes sense: the more shots you take, the more you miss…AND the more you make. Zarrella’s data says that abuse reports and bounce rates are highest on the weekends in the early morning. So send in the afternoon during the week, right? The timing data I just showed you suggests you could do well there, but consider that open rates and click rates are ALSO highest on the weekends in the early morning. It all goes up together (just ideally at different rates).

Another curious parallel: the Click Through Rate (number of clicks divided by the number of times it’s seen, usually referring to an ad, but relevant to links in an email too) is highest when emails are sent fewer than 4 times per month. The unsubscribe rate is also highest at this exact same frequency, but the curators of this data suggest that both rates remain rather constant with sending frequencies greater than 4 times per month, so sending slightly more often may be a worthwhile experiment.

Finally, the highest unsubscribe rate is seen among users who’ve been subscribed fewer than 10 days, the same 10 days during which those users give you the highest CTR (click through rate). So expect some users to self-select out of your system pretty quickly if they’re not digging what you’re offering, and for your CTR to taper off among those who stay after that opening honeymoon period too. If you can keep people longer than 10 days, though, there’s an intriguing spike in CTR at the 116-day mark.

When to Blog

In brief, some of their other data for comparison and to round out your strategy:
Blogging dances that fine line between daytime hours when there’s more overall traffic AND more overall “noise”, and the nighttime when both traffic and noise decrease. It’s key to know your audience demographics, or at least the attributes of the audience you WANT to have: most users read blogs in the morning hours, but most men read blogs in the evenings.

But when, exactly? Consider that blogs get the most TRAFFIC on Mondays at around 11am, but get the most COMMENTS on Saturdays at around 9am. Inbound links (other sites or blogs linking to yours) are greatest on Monday and Thursday at 7am. (Huh-whaaa?) In terms of posting frequency, your unique views and inbound links continue to go up as your frequency does, even to the point of more than once per day. PER DAY. Blog away, friends!

When to Tweet and ‘Book

Lastly, you have this great content queued up for your blog and email campaign…when do you share it on social media? Zarrella & Co.’s first takeaway is to realize that 50% of the U.S. population is in the Eastern time zone. Combine that with the Central time zone, and you get a whopping 80% of the U.S. population.

Twitter: Most retweets (users re-posting your content to their audience) occur around 5pm, while CTR spikes are seen at noon and 6pm, midweek and weekends. Click Through Rate is also best at a frequency of 1-4 tweets per hour.

Facebook: The most Sharing (users re-posting your content to their News Feeds) takes place on Saturdays at noon, with a second spike after 7pm. To get the most Likes on your Facebook Page, post ONCE every TWO DAYS. This ain’t Twitter, friends!

The BIG Picture

If you absolutely MUST have something resembling a formula:

  • Send a newsletter/marketing email before 10am, every weekend.
  • Blog on Monday before 11am, then visit on Saturday morning to respond to comments.
  • Tweet at noon, 5pm, and 6pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Post to Facebook on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and noon on Saturday.

Know what seems more realistic to me, though?
Just do it. Whenever and as often as you can. (I’m talking about publishing content to the internet, here!) Clearly there are some trends to be conscious of when the message is REALLY important, and clearly most of these environments can handle more than what I imagine most of us are putting out (do YOU publish a new blog post every single day and tweet 4 times per hour?…cuz I sure don’t!), so just go for it. Measure, watch, analyze, and do your level best, but STAY SANE!

Check out all 3 KISSmetrics infographics here:

When to Social Media - link to infographic

When To Social Media

When to Email - link to infographic

When to Email

When to Blog - link to infographic

When to Blog


What’s all this madness about, anyway?
Word Carnival happens on the last Wednesday of each month, and features a colorful collection of small business bloggers all tackling the same topic. This month is all about The Care & Feeding of Email Lists, and you can find out what all the Carnies are saying at WordCarnivals.com.

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14 Responses to When to Send: Feeding Your Email List

  1. Carol Lynn says:

    Evan, after going cross eyed trying to do all the math about when to send, your conclusion was a breath of fresh air… just do it! There are so many darn things to consider and no good rule book. The whole idea of the best times to send is really a bit of a befuddlement because 10AM for me in NJ is not the same as 10AM for my reader in CA or the one in Britain… so its all a crapshoot. The best thing a person can do is start somewhere. Do it. Test it. If you have an opt-in list and people WANT your emails, they’ll get them whenever they arrive.

    Kinda makes me want to stuff envelopes for a living. Leave the delivery up to someone else šŸ˜‰
    Carol Lynn recently posted..Email Marketing In The Dead Zone: Are You Training Your List To Ignore You?My Profile

    • evan says:

      Haha, thanks for being so fresh and frank about it, Carol…yes, cross-eyed indeed! Regarding time zones, I know that MailChimp (and probably AWeber and a few others) offer time zone segments as an purchased add-on, so that you could have your email arrive in people’s inboxes at, say, 7:15am no matter where they live. That would make it a little easier to be halfway smart about timing, but JUST DO IT remains the overarching rule at this point, in my world.

  2. Sandi Amorim says:

    Love the big picture Evan! Great distillation of tons of information that would normally make my eyes glaze over šŸ˜‰
    Sandi Amorim recently posted..Regrets of the Dying (and other possibilities for life)My Profile

  3. You never cease to amaze me, evan. This post is jam packed with some great advice (not the least of which, Carol Lynn echoed: “Just do it!”)
    So when do YOU send your email newsletter?
    Tea Silvestre recently posted..The Great Email Experiment (or, Why Your Inbox is the Best Social Media Channel to Grow Your Biz)My Profile

    • evan says:

      :) Thanks, Tea! I started sending email newsletters in January of this year, and am mightily aiming for sending one per month. That’s all the more accurate I can seem to be at this point (and even then I slipped up once!). I’ll tell ya that it’s usually very late in the month so that I can include my WordCarnival post!

  4. Annie Sisk says:

    Oh my word, you are awesome. The timing thing – so many of us just roll over and beg for statistics and infographics and science-y sounding crap. But you know what? It’s better to just freakin’ SEND the damn thing. Then you can tweak your timing based on your own stats. (Though those stats are really interesting, I have to admit.) What I love about your emails is that cartoon you include. That’s real, it’s tangible, it’s a little bit of *you* in every email and that’s what we should all strive to find, in our own contexts, of course.
    Annie Sisk recently posted..Getting Your Email Marketing Done In Your PajamasMy Profile

    • evan says:

      I like that: tweak the timing based on your own stats. So many factors affect how well the timing performs anyway, so just see how YOUR list is performing with YOUR content in YOUR industry, and massage it to fit. Another secret to knowing what your audience wants: ASK ‘EM. I’ve found that they’ll usually tell you (just be prepared for their answers!).
      Thanks for the supportive words in my “draw something exclusively for the email list every month” experiment…that’s turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought, but I’m very committed to it AND it keeps me drawing semi-regularly, which is a personal development piece that I place great value on as well. Everyone wins!

  5. Nicole Fende says:

    Evan you are speaking my language – numbers, data, formulas. *Swoon*

    Seriously this is a wonderful post with lots of fascinating data. While I agree not all of it will appeal to all people (I hate getting newsletters over the weekend), its a great springboard to get started. Then over time make it your own for your unique subscribers.
    Nicole Fende recently posted..Email Lists – Profit is NOT by the NumbersMy Profile

    • evan says:

      Hahahahaha! :) I don’t like getting newsletters over the weekend either, but evidently plenty of people do. I also notice that if I’m up past midnight (all too often), I get a mini-concert of smartphone chimes as non-profits all auto-send their emails out. Do I read them, right then or the next morning? No.

  6. As a stats junkie, this post really appeals to me, Evan. I love knowing all the possible timings, even if there’s no way a real person could ever stick to them.Thank goodness for the ‘just do it’ at the end. :)
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Why My Email List Is like a CactusMy Profile

  7. Thanks so much for the reminder about time. I forgot all about that Dan Zarella presentation, it was awesome and really good stuff…I have to revisit that and keep those timeframes in mind! I am just starting to marketing via email again and I was just not feeling it and like you mentioned I did not really know what I wanted to share…I have seen from doing this for others, frequency and consistency make a huge difference toward open rate…Nice post Evan!
    Michelle Church recently posted..How Can Email Marketing Help You and Your Business?My Profile

    • evan austin says:

      Thanks, Michelle! I’m glad there are head-scratching novices like me in the Word Carnival crew…I’ll be glad for us to figure this thing out together!

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