One of the holy grails of social media marketing has long been to hone in on that perfect time to post on a particular social network. Facebook, by far the most heavily used social site, and one that can achieve high levels of engagement, is a favorite for marketing, and for marketers to study. And so businesses are always asking when the best time to post on Facebook is.
Thursday at 8:00 pm.
Just kidding. You didn’t really think it could be that simple, did you?
It’s not. The actual answer is that there is no one “best” time to post on Facebook.
The Myth of the Best Time
Many studies have sought that perfect time, and they’ve found many answer. And sure, some generalizations can be drawn from compiling all the research. Thursday at 8:00 pm is a widely cited best time to post on Facebook; so is Thursdays and Fridays at 2:00 pm. Most recommendations are windows, though, like 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm during the latter half of the week.
But the truth is, these are broad generalizations that, while based on data, simply don’t account for the reality of the situation. The reality is that every industry is different, every organization is different, every social media strategy is different, and every audience is different.
For example, how spread out is your audience across multiple time zones? Are you a B2B company targeting salespeople who hit the phones hard between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm? Are you sharing entertaining videos people often can’t look at while at work? Is your buyer persona a morning person or a night owl? Are you paying to boost the post?
The Competition Factor
There’s steep competition for attention on Facebook. Consider the following statement from Brian Boland, the network’s VP of Advertising Technology:
“On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.”
And that’s from more than two years ago. Things have only gotten more crowded since.
If all these brands and social media marketers and individuals have read that Thursdays and Fridays at 2:00 pm are the best times to post, lots and lots of them are doing just that. Which means a huge spike in competition for a spot in people’s news feeds and to get noticed when your post does show up.
The same goes for the now-common advice to post at off-peak times. As that has become a more prevalent suggestion, the same effect applies.
So What Do You Do?
Does this mean you shouldn’t bother trying to figure out when it’s the best time to post on Facebook? Not at all. It just means you need to focus not on the best time, but on the best time for you.
That takes some experimentation and close monitoring of your Facebook analytics. Your own data is always the most valuable for your own brand—much more so than any generalizations from aggregated research. When do your posts achieve the biggest reach, the most engagement, and the most clicks?
Also, consider asking your audience. Ask them right there on Facebook, in person at your store, or anywhere else you can collect feedback. Let them know you’re trying to serve them better and inquire when they’d most like to see your content.
Posts timed to appear with some logical correlation to their content are also more likely to succeed. For example, if you’re posting about something people do in the morning, post it in the morning; if it’s about something they should do on their lunch break, time it just before lunch hour. If it’s breaking news, get it out there right away.
Using Facebook Analytics
Again, it all comes down to your brand’s individual experience. If you’re not too familiar with using a Facebook business page, figuring this stuff out may seem daunting. But it’s not too complicated.
Log into your business page and click the Insights menu option near the top of your screen. Then, click the Posts option on the menu on the left. You’ll see a graph showing when your fans are online over the course of the week. Look for spikes to take advantage of and note dips to avoid.
That data comes from the previous week, so keep an eye on it. It should be fairly consistent, but various things can throw off the data for one week, like holidays, special events, major news, etc.
Scroll down. Below the graph, Facebook shows you all your posts and when you posted them, and provides data on their reach, engagement, and click-throughs. The higher the numbers, the better. Keep a close eye on this to find trends and identify your brand’s best time to post.
Start experimenting. For the best testing, stagger similar (but not the same) types of content at different times all through the week and from week to week. The idea is to hone in on time as your key variable, eliminating others like video versus written content, humorous versus informative content, and so on.