Influencers Are Lying and Statistics Are Only Telling Half The Truth

Last week Kim Garst posted an article about various ideas for posts for your Facebook page. Kim writes in the article that you should post several times a day – but I guess some of you have heard about the statistic research stating that the optimal frequency would be ten times a week. In the comments to Kim’s post the question came up again: Why does Kim suggest something that does not follow the statistics? And what should you do?

There is a similar discussion for Twitter: Social Bakers state that three Tweets a day would be optimal, Track Social found some five Tweets to be the optimum.

Influencers like Jeff Bullas follow the advice by Simply Measured that tweeting every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes can increase by 31% and increase engagement by 89%. (I know tweeting every 30 minutes is still very many times more often than five times a day).

There are many similar situations where someone states a statistic or some advice by influencers you should follow, which either your own experience does not confirm – or which is in direct opposition to advice by other people you trust.

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You can make some of your own calculations to add to the confusion:In Social Media: Influencers Are Lying: Statistics represent some kind of average. Without more data statistics can and should not be more than a first indicator for your social media strategy.

As a mathematician I could calculate the following: If I post once a day and my post is visible for 4 hours (that is the average lifespan of a Facebook post, another statistic), that means I (or my business) am basically invisible for 20 hours. That might even work, if I know exactly which 4 hours a day all members of my audience are on Facebook. Since I do not know that, I personally would go for more posts. For this calculation Kim Garst has it right, saying you should post 4-6 times a day. With 6 posts each being visible for 4 hours I can cover all 24 hours of a day.

That sounds perfect? Could be. It does not have to be. There are so many factors in Social Media (like interaction, likes, retweets, shares) – and they all add to the success of your strategy. Especially on Facebook, where the engagement of people with your updates decides how many people actually get to see your update, the mere number of updates is not what counts anymore. What counts is also how much engagement you manage to inspire with your updates.

(The Facebook tool PostPlanner comes in handy for this. It helps you find updates to share on your page which fit your site’s topic and which already inspired a lot of engagement on Facebook.)

What now: Should we follow statistics, or influencers or follow our own thinking?

The problem with statistics is, they represent some kind of average. They often do not tell you much about other factors that influence the results of the variance in the results, or the sample used: Can you really be sure, they represent your own special case? Is your business average? What about all the other businesses, blogs, people? How do they fit into general picture?

There are many statistics on many different aspects and the results do not necessarily add up to the same conclusion. Often what influencers or statistics suggest you should do might not be practicable for everyone.

As an example let us assume we believe Jeff Bullas has it right (which I do, by the way) and we should tweet every 15 minutes. That means you need the incredible number of 96 different Tweets to cover a day. And if you do not want to sound like an old record with a flaw, and want to make sure, you do not repeat yourself more often than every few days, these tweets sum up to few hundred updates you need before you can even think about using this strategy. Jeff Bullas can easily do that. He has been posting an article a day on his blog for the past several years. Do you have these many evergreen posts to tweet?

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What if you do not know if you fit the “average”?

The truth is there is not one solution that is right for everyone, and almost no business is average. Even if a suggested strategy works for you, you can be sure there are some tweaks you could make to make it even more successful for your special case.

You need to figure out what is best for you and your business and should not blindly do what you read or are told. That is why data is so important in online marketing. In the end, you have to do your own calculations and create your own statistics: Statistics that apply to you.

Without enough data, statistics can and should not be more than the first indicator for your social media strategy. You might take statistics as a starting point, but you should never follow without questioning the results, measuring and drawing your own conclusions. And before following any advice, ask yourself if you and your business even fulfill requirements of a strategy.

As always: It is more complicated than that.

  • vivienne neale

    The real key when using statistics is to interpret the data intelligently; that’s where marketing storytellers come in. By testing intuition, testing hypotheses and data mining beyond the obvious, actionable results can make a huge difference. Stats do only tell half the truth; we’ve always known that- what’s important is businesses should DEFINITELY not blindly do what they read or are told. I comment on this because I am about to launch ‘The Marketing Storytellers’ and have spent ages developing actionable insights from Google Analytics. Happy to write about this is you would like an article:)

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Thank you Vivienne.

      We are open to guest posts and your suggested topic sounds very interesting. Please send your article to thesocialmarketers{at} and we will consider it.

      – Susanna –

  • jessbahr

    Or you could use a platform like SocialFlow where your messages send out at the cadence your audience wants, without you having to go through a guess and check process to find the optimum frequency.

    Beyond determining the cadence your audience is open to consuming your content, what about timing? Posting 5 times a day will be no better than 3 times a day if you aren’t sharing content when your audience is active and open to receiving it.

  • SiteHealthAnalysis

    Good points to consider! Another would be the consequence of posting frequency. Someone who posts every 15 minutes might possibly be earning himself a large collection of mutes from engaged users who actually read their timelines. Depending on the influencer’s goals, maybe that doesn’t matter so much, but would be a concern in our case. Thanks for the post!

  • kagil

    Even a great drumbeat gets annoying if people keep beating it night and day.

  • Melissa Remigio

    Quality v Quantity. I’ve seen a lot of bad content on social media. The Internet doesn’t need more content. It all just adds to the noise. Instead, we need to provide solutions to problems.

  • John Hornbeck

    Excellent post. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a new article or infographic on how often to post or when to post, or both. Often the recommendations on when to post are based on when the most people are posting, which is exactly when you are more likely to get lost in the noise. My eyes were first opened on frequency of posting when I was listening to a webinar with Guy Kawasaki and he said that he typically posted on Twitter at least a couple of times an hour — and this was a day after reading a blog that opined that the ideal was three times a day on Twitter (which intuitively just seemed wrong). It really does come down to your final observation: “It is more complicated than that.” Including the quality of what you are creating or curating. Thanks for this one.

  • claireify

    I think it was Mark Twaine who said there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” So there’s that….

  • Amethyst Mahoney

    I get so tired of hearing the “influencers” who are so popular give bad advice. Maybe that worked 2 or 3 years ago, but they need to keep up with the times instead of spouting the same old info that no longer works. Incidentally, I bought one such person’s course a few months back that was FULL of tons of bad advice not to mention ads for upgrading to the next level of the course – material that was supposed to be included in the course I bought. I stay away from all such influencers these days.

    • Cat K

      Hopefully you posted a review so others who often look to such resources (like me!) don’t waste their time or money on it. That’s the best way to get their attention and force a responsible change from them. Out of everything that this new technology has produced, I think my favorite is the voice it’s given to the everyday consumer. We don’t have to be called “influencers” just to have actual influence over the market. We just have to speak up! (And I hope you also got your money back. Twitter has been instrumental in that regard for me)

  • Philip Quintas

    I like the way you presented the information here, Susanna. You mentioned tweeting every 15 minutes and sited Jeff Bullas with his several years of evergreen content from his blog as a source. That is just one source of content (his own stuff) what about sharing other people’s great content and being “that guy” who introduces people to others who have evergreen content worthy of sharing? I’m experimenting with that strategy (I’ve been posting to my own blog daily) and doing a 4:1 ratio with other people’s fascinating content. I have seen a dramatic increase in my number of followers (yeah, I’m “just starting out” so the stats aren’t signifiant enough to really publish yet!) from one or two a day to 5 to 7 or so. My point is: it takes a lot less time to read and share someone else’s post (related to your offer) than it does to write your own.

  • Suzanna Kiraly

    I think the advice of posting once or twice a day is meant to be a minimum for small businesses to keep their profiles up to date since many small businesses cannot hire a full time social media person to post all day long every day. But as with other things, the more time you put into social media, the more you will get out of it. And it is also important to balance posting with engagement. Some people are just posting and not engaging at all.

    • Cat K

      Thank you so much for bringing this up as it’s a critical, imo, deal breaking aspect to all of this. You can post 100 times a day but if you are not replying to the readers that give you a reason to do so, I will never trust or respect your opinion. I think that it may often come down to resources and time constraints (I would hope anyway bc the alternative is far worse) but with that said, where are those opportunity costs factored into these equations? Or are they even? I will support/ hire/ work with/ advocate for/ etc. the individual that interacts with their audience bc after all, without them, you’re just talking to yourself! But out loud and online! Lol. But if you only post one item a day, and it is well thought out and helpful or informative, and you dedicate the rest of the time you could’ve spent posting more content, to answering and engaging with the people who supported you by reading your content and sought out further information on the matter, then I would follow you and more importantly, consider you a go to source on the subject. I think that there IS a place for “customer service” in today’s fast paced publishing world and it’s an art that very few have perfected. Or seemingly even considered.