Chances are that you’re here because you’ve asked yourself this question before:
It’s a simple question that I’ve yet to find a real answer to. Lots of people try to answer the question in a roundabout way with tips and suggestions—post more photos and videos, use fill-in-the-blank posts, keep your post length short, etc. I’m even guilty of doing this. But the truth is that these tips don’t really help social media marketers understand what Facebook marketing is—or more specifically what Facebook page posts are—at the core.
Using the tips mentioned above is meaningless without understanding the ‘science’ (for lack of a better word) behind posting on Facebook pages. It’s equivalent to cheating on a test. Sure, you can cheat and get an “A”, but the fact of the matter is that you still know nothing. In this post I’ll break down the four factors of Facebook Page post optimization: Content, Type, Frequency, and Time.
Note: I purposely mentioned time last. Social media marketers obsess over finding the best time to post, but the increase in reach/engagement you receive from posting at an optimal time without good content, type, and frequency is only a fraction of what it could be with good content, type, and frequency.
Factor #1 – Content
The root of the ‘content’ problem is simple—people think and measure marketing results in dollar signs. Social media marketers are pressured from the companies they work with/for to convert fans into sales– so most Facebook page posts become terrible sales pitches. The inherent problem is that Facebook users do NOT go on Facebook to buy things– they go on Facebook to connect with the people and things (Pages) that they like. So don’t ask, “How can we convert fans into sales?”—instead ask, “How can I provide value to my fans?”. Then, and only then, will fans actually consider making a purchase as a result of your social marketing efforts.
PostRocket’s 80-20 Rule for Facebook Marketing (Named after, but not actually the Pareto principle!)
A good rule of thumb is to use PostRocket’s 80-20 Rule for Facebook Page posts—for every 5 posts you make, only ONE post (20%) should be DIRECTLY about your brand/product (i.e. “Buy our product”, “Visit our website”, etc). The other four posts (80%) should be RELEVENT to your audience and provide VALUE in some form—informational, funny, interesting, etc.—but they should NOT be directly about YOU.
Which leads to the next logical question—“Where do I find this relevant, engaging content to post?”
There’s an endless amount of content on the web. Put some time and effort into finding quality content. Here are two quick, easy things you can do today:
- Find 10 blogs (do a simple Google search i.e. “popular food blogs”) relevant to your audience. Subscribe via RSS and share the most interesting / entertaining posts with your fans.
- Create Google Alerts for keywords associated to your brand. For example, a clothing line might have alerts for “celebrity fashion”, “funny t-shirts”, and “trending styles”. By doing this, you’ll get new, popular content to choose from each day directly in your inbox.
For the purpose of optimizing content, focus on columns E-G. These ‘tags’ would identify the characteristics of the content of each post. I’ve created tags for things such as source, tone, style, etc– basically anything that’s notable. To understand this concept better, consider the following post:
This post could be tagged as “funny”, “Kobe Bryant”, and “meme”. Then, using a spreadsheet, you could record the engagement rate and reach of the post [along with the tags]. After recording the performance of a significant amount of posts—say, 50—you could easily run the numbers and see which ‘tags’ perform the best– and post more content with those tags. You could also find the ones that performed the worst and remove those from your future posting plans.
Factor #2 – Type
Type is by far the most simple and least complex factor of post optimization, as there are four options– Text, Video, Photo, and Link. Despite the simplicity, there are many conflicting studies on which ones are most effective. A recent infographic by Dan Zarrella of Hubspot (partially pictured below), seems to rank the four options like so: 1. Photo, 2. Text, 3. Video, 4. Link.
While Zarella’s information spans thousands of pages and over a million posts, it doesn’t take into consideration other actions that play a role in EdgeRank. Photos can be viewed, videos can be played, and links can be clicked. Meanwhile, what you see is what you get from simple text posts, which is why I would advise against them most of the time. In addition to this, text posts are weighed less by default in Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.
From data that we’ve collected spanning thousands of pages, we’ve found these “other” engagements are very significant:
- Photo Views are typically 2x engagements.
- Video Plays are typically 1.5-2x engagements.
- Link Clicks are typically 1.5x engagements.
For example, a photo that has 100 likes, 20 comments, and 5 shares will have about 250 views. This means that the number of engaged users is much higher for photos, videos, and links than you would be led to believe by simply looking at the number of likes, comments, and shares. Text posts can be good too– as engaging questions and fill-in-the-blank posts have been a hit for pages. Ultimately, I’d recommend focusing on photos (~40-50% of total posts), while providing a good mix of links, videos, and text updates with the rest of your posts.
Factor #3 – Frequency
If you’ve ever wondered how often you should post, I hope you’ve finally found your answer here. Being that we’re such a data-driven, mathematical company, it’s only appropriate to answer and explain using math.
First, in simple terms—you want to post as often as possible to reach as many people as possible while pissing off the least amount of people.
Thankfully, Facebook provides data that lets you know if you’re pissing people off– negative feedback. Negative feedback is when someone hides your posts or reports them as spam from their Newsfeed, as pictured below. I would suggest making sure that your ratio of new ‘likes’ to negative feedback is at least 4:1, meaning that for every 4 fans you gain, it’s acceptable to lose 1 via negative feedback. For example, if the ratio is 3:1, post less frequently; if it’s 5:1, you could try posting more.
Also, you want to separate the posts by x number of hours so you don’t cannibalize your previous posts. To see how much time you need to separate your posts by, use Facebook’s real-time insights to see how long it takes for your post to reach 80-90% performance given an 8 hour limit. To make this easier, I’ve attached another screenshot of a spreadsheet I would use to manually calculate this.
Manually inputting this data and computing these percentages is very tedious, but it’s definitely worth doing– at least for a week or two– so that you can really understand how many hours you need to leave between posts.
Note that this separation time can vary from page to page, but it’s typically at least 3 hours for most pages. There are certain types of pages, however, that can’t follow this frequency formula– like news publications, who may post multiple stories within an hour (and rightfully so).
Factor #4 – Time
The most commonly asked question regarding Facebook Marketing:
What is the best time to post?
Spoiler Alert- I’m not going to tell you the best time to post is x time on x day. There is no such time that exists. The answer to this question is totally unique to each page– and even worse, it constantly changes.
Now that I’ve made that clear, let’s go back to the question. Conceptually, the answer seems pretty simple. The best time to post would be the time at which the highest number of your fans are on Facebook and engaging with content on their Newsfeeds– while also being the least active time for the other connections of your fans (This is because every story another connection creates is more competition against your story’s battle to crack your fan’s Newsfeed).
Unfortunately, this data isn’t available. So what can you do?
The easy way out is to take a look at some of the published industry reports. A simple Google search, as you can see below, will leave you with a couple BILLION options to choose from.
The best part about all these answers are that they are free. Sadly, that’s the only good part. You’ll soon find out that with each new industry report you read, you’ll have another recommendation. This is due to the fact that most of these reports come from people who use small data sets from a few clients to make generalizations about the industry as a whole. That’s a no-no. So what can you do now?
The next best option is to use one of the many tools out there– like Crowdbooster or SproutSocial. These tools will quickly provide you a free analysis based on your prior posts to find the time that was best in reaching your audience and garnering engagement.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been posting at bad times during your previous posts, these tools will only be able to give you the best of the bad times you posted. Even if you’ve posted at ‘good’ times, it’s reasonable to assume there’s a better time to post, because you certainly haven’t tested every single time. So what do these tools really help you find in regard to posting time? Your local maximum. Your local maximum is the time in which your reach and engagement is the ‘highest’– using an incomplete data set (in this case, only the times you have posted). It’s almost certain this is not the time with the highest possible reach and engagement, or global maximum.
In order to find the global maximum, you must consider your fans’ demographic breakdown and industry data along with your page’s prior performance. Facebook provides some data on best practices by vertical and overall demographic breakdown of Facebook (scroll down the page to see this).
This is one of the toughest things to do, as it inevitably involves lots of testing and lots of sifting through Insights data in addition to other reliable industry data (like the data provided by Facebook in the above links) in order to actually achieve results– but it’s definitely worth it. The first step toward doing this is actually understanding your audience. You need to be able to answer these questions. Where are they located? How old are they? What would their typical day be like? (Which ultimately leads to..) When will they most likely be on Facebook?
It’s complex for most Facebook marketers, as most pages have audiences with multiple demographic segments. In this common situation, it’s important to identify your top 2-3 segments and alternate your posting time to optimize for each segment (i.e. post at 7am for your 35-54M segment and 9pm for your 18-24M segment).
Ultimately, the ‘time’ piece is the most complex, so continue to test out new times.
Any questions or comments? Suggestions for a future post? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share/tweet!