The Dayparting Of Our Social Habit

The Social Habit survey is in the field for the first edition of our new, unified effort to improve the quality of social media consumer research available for you. In this first quarterly edition, we’re asking some custom questions, which you can ask in future editions, but we’ve built a far more in-depth range of questions about the habits of Americans 12 and up and their use of new and social media.

A series of questions we’re asking revolves around what social channels people use at various times of day during a typical weekday. Looking at the major social channels — in this iteration Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Path, message boards, blogs and YouTube are identified as such — we’re asking if people typically check or participate in these networks right after they wake up in the mornings, while working, in the evenings and right before they go to sleep.

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the surface, it might seem that we’re simply trying to ascertain what time of day people typically participate in social media. But it’s far more leading than that. Dayparting, a broadcast media term, actually does far more than tell you when people do things. It also can tell you what they prioritize and depend on rather than just use. For instance, if you spend an hour on Facebook each day, but in the evenings when you have time to kill, it could be considered a “when I get to it” behavior. But if you check Facebook first thing each morning before you even shower and dress, there’s an implication of higher engagement, priority and even need.

While we know that we don’t know the answers yet, what if we discover:

  • Facebook users participate right before they go to bed and right after they wake up, but not during work hours
  • Pinterest users are far more engaged in the evening than other times of day
  • Twitter users typically Tweet while at work, but not in the evenings
  • Any other combination of these possibilities

The types of possible answers may be more revealing about just how addicted or dependent upon certain social activities we are. We are looking at the Habits of social users. Perhaps answering “Yes” to using a certain network in all four time frames indicates a far higher level of engagement for one network’s users or anthers than we ever anticipated.

Certainly, we can guess at the answers. But if we were to go to bat with our guesses we may as well swing blindly and without consideration of the type of pitch coming. Understanding not the time of day, though that may be relevant, but the stickiness — or lack thereof — of each individual network, gives marketers some revealing information with which to make decisions.

Fortunately, we’ll also be asking a lot of other questions that when cross-tabbing with this type of information will be even more discovery-ripe. So make sure you are subscribed to the research so your brand can get smarter about its understanding and use of social media.

What other insights do you think can be extracted from understanding when a person might engage with certain social networks? We’d love your thoughts in the comments.

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About the Author

Jason Falls is an author, speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer. Find him on Twitter @JasonFalls.


  1. When I wake up, the first thing I do is to turn on my computer. I check my facebook, twitter, and email before I even get out of bed. From everything I’ve read up on the subject, the most active time on Facebook is between 7-9 A.M. and 8-10 P.M. This would mean more people use it before work and before going to sleep. When we make facebook posts, those are the times we try to do it.

    • Jason Falls says:

      But you only know this anecdotally. The Social Habit is about researching and quantifying behavior so we can say, rather scientifically, people use Facebook most during these times of day. We know because we researched and asked 3,000 Americans, etc. You can’t make smart marketing decisions based on assumptions. So we’re taking our curiosity to the people. Fair?

  2. Raúl says:

    This has been an article talking about dayparting (just learned the correct term for it) I can relate too.

    Sometimes people’s lives and daily activities are so diverse it is difficult for us to really engage in what people do. However people are creatures of habit and they will create a routine. I guess a microblogging platform like twitter allows you to interact during the full day in a more practical manner in shorter bursts of time consume.

    • Jason Falls says:

      True, Raul. There are not single ways people use, or single times people use certain platforms. But researching it and asking those questions in a quantitative and qualitative way allows us to better predict consumer behavior and make decisions around those expectations. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Here’s what I like about this Jason, unlike some ‘studies’ which take the easy route of simply trying to correlate observable & reactive data points (clickthroughs, RT’s, etc.), you’re taking the harder and more insightful route. At first blush it might seem like those observable behaviors are more important, but I’d argue that your way (with the right question set) allows for exposing lurking behaviors. Those times when we simply want to see what’s going on, perhaps mark a few things for later to go check out when we have more free time, etc. Balancing that against those reactive measures can give insight into times of day which may be very productive for a marketer but would never be exposed without this kind of harder work.

    Cheers, and thanks for not taking the easy way out.

    -Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

  4. Clare Price says:

    Jason, thrilled to find this site and see the start of this focus on real, process and data driven work in social. So much of what we have based our social business assumptions has been exactly what you call out — guesses, personal experience and anecdotes. I ‘d love to know how dayparting drives certain topics of conversation; i.e. is early use news-related or personal, late night use, recapping or setting the stage for the next day. Looking forward to seeing more of your research.

    • Jason Falls says:

      Thanks, Clare. The beauty of what we’re doing lies in the fact that every time we get answers, they generate more questions. And now that we’re ramping up The Social Habit to be produced and questions asked more frequently, we’ll be able to continue our curiosity! Thanks for coming along!

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