Some time ago we discovered sending messages at fixed intervals led to a bigger audience.
We trained the audience when to listen. This helped us plan content calendars
Then the internet (and sites like Mashable/Lifehacker/BoingBoing) discovered higher post frequency was strongly correlated with higher levels of traffic i.e. the more you speak, the more people receive the message.
We combined both lessons to create a monster.
The content calendar triumphed over the message. Posting at increasingly short intervals became more important than having something important to say. This hasn’t helped anyone. Instead of training an audience when to listen, we trained an audience when to ignore us (and made it harder for the good stuff to find the market).
To compensate we’ve tried to find silver bullets such as the optimum time to post. This is the mythical moment where the maximum number of people will open, click, retweet, or share. This naturally correlates with the time most people are online and looking at their e-mail/Twitter/Facebook (probably 11am to 1pm).
This too is nonsensical. We’ve decided to speak at the very moment everyone else is speaking.
When Is The Best Time To Communicate?
The best time to communicate isn’t when everyone else is speaking. It’s far simpler. The best time to speak is when you have something to say and someone willing to listen.
We’re slightly better at the former than the latter.
Do you have something important to say?
Having something important to say comprises of four things; new, unexpected, useful, and urgent.
- Is it new? New means there’s genuinely something new in the topic. Something has changed. An event has taken place. The topic is different now. You can create these events, for sure, but there must be an event. An incremental difference isn’t as interesting as a clear contrast or departure. What event has taken place between now and the last time you addressed the audience? If there’s nothing new, you have nothing to say.
- Is it unexpected? Unexpected means the audience isn’t expecting it. The sun rising today isn’t news, neither (sadly) is the world getting gradually warmer. Your audience doesn’t care if the audience has grown, nor if the organisation is taking greater market share. To adapt an old corollary, if you can’t say something unexpected, don’t say anything at all.
- Is it useful? Does the audience have any use for the information? This can be practical (how to resolve a challenge or do something better). This can be prescient (how to stop something bad happening or prepare for something good). It can be uniquely entertaining. It can be emotionally beneficial too. The message has to be useful to that audience.
- Is it urgent? Does the audience need the message now? Why not tomorrow or next week? Perhaps even next year? Why does your audience need to receive the message now (as opposed to you wishing to send the message now)? This urgency relates to all of the above. You need to communicate the urgent in the message.
If you have a message that passes all four tests, you have something worth communicating. Sadly, this isn’t the same as having an audience willing to listen. There are specific moments where the audience has the means, motivate, and opportunity to listen to your message.
Do you have an audience willing to listen?
Climate change is an important message, but the audience isn’t willing to listen. Our means and motivation to listen to messages shifts frequently (often without fair warning).
Willingness to listen comprises of four elements. Does the audience have the means to receive the message? Can the audience give the message a good level of attention? Does the audience have the motivation to read and act upon the message?
- Can the audience receive the message? We get far too excited about this part. Ensuring a message reaches an audience is as easy as being in the same room at the same time or having an e-mail/postal address/phone number. It becomes more complicated when we use Twitter/Facebook, where unread messages are missed rather than stored. If it’s an important message, don’t rely on social media to spread it. Rely on a medium you can ensure it reaches the post box.
- Can the audience devote enough attention to the message? Posting when everyone else is posting isn’t very useful. Someone reading on their mobile device probably isn’t going to give your message much attention neither. Perhaps weekends, evenings, and holidays are better? If you’re part of the shouting chorus, no-one can distinguish your voice.
- Is the audience willing to listen? If the audience doesn’t know and trust you, your message will struggle to gain traction. It might not be opened, believed, or acted upon. It’s chicken and the egg, but to have an audience willing to listen you need a good track record of only sending important messages.
Throw away the schedule. Identify the important messages. Use a medium that guarantees receipt of the message, at a time the audience can devote attention to the message and when the audience is willing to accept the message.
On November 12th, we’re going to explain how to optimise every message we send to every member of the audience. You can sign up here: http://sprint.feverbee.com