The Art, Science, and Dumb Luck of Timing

They say timing is everything.

In baseball, just the slightest fraction of a second in a swing can be the difference between a foul pop-up and a monster home run.

In football, the slightest fraction of a second in the release of the ball can be the difference between an incomplete pass and long touchdown.

There’s a science and art to timing, and of course there’s their fuzzy little cousin: dumb luck. All of these can be factors in whether we achieve something wonderful or face something horrible. And of course most everything falls somewhere in between.

This past week a conversation on my Facebook wall started with this observation I made about a Groupon deal I received via email:

The Art & Science of Timing

This status expressed both my feelings on Groupon, as well as the musicians in question. I’ve worked in the music industry with both venues and musicians, and have been involved in the booking of concerts. A number of my friends work in that industry, and with the input of one friend who works at a major venue in the area, the conversation took an interesting turn.

You see, venues book these concerts pretty far in advance. And that’s where timing comes in. When this particular concert was booked, the artists in question were probably at the height of their popularity. In fact, Hot Chelle Rae is still doing pretty well, but they are the opener for the rapidly sliding Demi Lovato. Now here, we are a week out from the concert, and people are apparently not so willing to shell out anywhere from $25 to $89.50 for tickets, especially considering the target audience for this show is the tween and young teen crowd. That means either mom or dad will also have to shell out for their own ticket to accompany the kids. Hence the Groupon deal for $17.

With acts like these, you have a flash in the pan. You run the risk of booking them, only to have concert day roll around, and people wondering why anyone would go to see yesterday’s news.

We face the same thing on a daily basis with the way we market our businesses in the real time online world.

Timing is everything.

It’s both an art and a science, with a measure of good ol’ dumb luck thrown in for good measure.

That tweet or status update might just hit at the right time and gain traction. But if your biggest fans and influencers don’t log in around the time of your post, and they miss it, you might hear crickets. But if the right person sees it at the right time, you might be able to catch lightning in a bottle.

Weekends are generally fairly slow on my blog, but this past Saturday one of the A-list bloggers happened to find one of my posts interesting and retweeted it. The result? Double the traffic for a normal Saturday. That’s where the dumb luck comes in to play.

Timing is important. Knowing which messages to post on which platforms at which times can be both and art and a science, and while you can hedge your bets, there are no guarantees. It’s important to plan, but don’t over plan. Don’t plan things so far in advance that you can’t react to what’s going on in the world around. Don’t miss opportunities because they don’t fit into your schedule.

This past week a friend asked me about how I schedule my blog posts. I had to admit that I rarely schedule them more than a day or two out. This is because I never know what idea will strike me, and I want my posts to be timely and relevant. Interestingly enough, my most popular posts are historically the ones where no planning at all was involved. The ones where Facebook makes some sort of change, without much notice, and I write about those changes so as to help my clients and others understand them. That’s why my recent posts on Promoted Posts and, ironically, Scheduled Posts both did well for me.

We need to plan. We need to work on our messaging and play around as we figure out what works for us. There are plenty of studies that will tell you about the best time to tweet or post an update on Facebook, and plenty of tools that will offer to help you maximize your efforts. That’s the science.

You need to take the information and play around with it to see what works for you, understanding that the “best time” for you in a specific instant might be rather fluid. That’s the art.

But no matter how hard you try and tweak, you’ll never figure it all out; at least not with any real level of certainty. You’ll have your moments of hearing crickets, and your lighting in a bottle moments. You’re dealing with humans, who can be a rather unpredictable and ornery bunch. That’s the dumb luck.

No matter how much you plan, remember: you’re a human dealing with humans. Keep it human.

As you live and work online, think about your timing. Take a look at the science, add your own level of art, and hope that dumb luck is on your side.