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What's the best time to send broadcast emails?

By Kari Chisholm:

When we do trainings, we're often asked a simple but critical question - when's the best time to send emails?

In general, the idea is to send people emails when their inboxes are empty. You don't want to get caught in the rush of people processing their inbox - delete, delete, spam, delete, skim, save for later (never!), delete, delete. You want your email to arrive in a virgin inbox when your email is more likely to get some attention.

So, overnight and early a.m. are a bad idea. You want people to have dealt with their overnight email first.

We used to argue strongly that 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. was the core zone. And of course, if your audience is national in scope, then 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. pacific gets you in that core zone in all four time zones. Outside of that zone, open rates will tend to drop.

We continue to stick to that guideline. However, there's been a flattening out of open rates in the last year or so. We're seeing open rates descend softly into the early evening, rather than falling off a cliff at 5 p.m. That's likely the impact of better mobile email devices - iPhone, Android, tablets - that make it more likely that folks are checking email on the couch.

So, that core zone is a bit less critical than before. That said, in most cases, if you're trying to get someone to do more than read an email - make a donation, fill out a form - you probably want to hit them while they're at a desk, rather on a mobile device on the couch.

Of course, remember that speed kills. If you've got breaking news at 10 p.m., send it. You want to be first to frame the story and to demonstrate that yours is a team that reacts quickly. Much of your audience may not see it immediately, but even those folks will appreciate that you moved fast when they see it first thing in the morning.

One last thought: This advice applies to email. Social media is whole different thing, but we'll save those thoughts for another day.

Posted by Kari Chisholm
on May 4, 2012 in
email strategy.