Analyzing over 32,000 tweets sent by presidential candidates since January 1, 2011 reveals the below trend. All times are based on Eastern Standard. To the dismay of bosses everywhere, people are most actively retweeting political events during (and shortly after) working hours. If a great idea comes to you late at night, save it and send it in the morning at 10AM EST for maximum impact. This is when most reporters are being assigned their story to cover for the day, so it’s a great time to attract coverage and provide a bit of fuel. 1PM, 4PM, and 7PM are also peaks, and map closely to office down-time. People check Twitter once they are settled for the morning, after lunch, before leaving work, and around dinner. Following these peaks also allows you to evenly space tweets, which maximizes impact instead of splitting retweets and reactions among several messages. Through the day your chance of news coverage lessens, so target the press in the morning and supporters at night.
The below graph was derived from over 580,000 mentions of President Obama, Governor Romney, and members of Congress over the past week. While the overall volume of activity drops off after 7PM EST, the proportion of sent messages that are retweets steadily increases throughout the day. Perhaps users’ timelines are just filled with great messages by the evening, or as they get tired they rather share what somebody else said than come up with an idea of their own. Whatever the reason, it seems people become increasingly inclined to listen rather than talk in the evening. This reinforces the idea that you should try to make the news in the morning and reach out to supporters in the evening.
Slicing the same data-set another way reveals people share links most often from 8AM to 4PM EST. Again, that is in part thanks to breaking stories being released in the morning and afternoon, while the evening provides an opportunity to reflect upon what happened. Most links in the political sphere are to external news articles and breaking stories. Note that links start overtaking tweets without links at around 8AM, but most users aren’t active until 10AM. That gives you a two-hour window to see where the news cycle is going and come up with your reaction.