How to Determine the Best Time to Post on Social Media for Maximum Reach and Response
May 9, 2016
It’s a question as old as the chicken or the egg… or so it seems.
What is the best time to post on social media?
The question has been raised again and again, with any number of studies, tests and infographics outlining key times people are most active online, times they’re most responsive, etc.
The truth is there is no one, generic answer as to the best time to post on social media.
It all comes down to your unique audience, to when your Page fans are active online. And it goes even deeper than that – you have to consider how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm works and what competition your posts are up against at any given time, what’s the lifespan of a tweet and how does that factor into the equation? There are a lot of elements to factor in, and they’re all relative to your audience behaviors and habits.
To help with this, using Facebook specifically, here are some notes on how to locate the best times to post to social. It takes some work, but these processes will get on you track to locating the optimum response zones for your content.
The advice on when to post to Facebook is massively conflicted.
Here’s the easy way – go into your Facebook Page Insights, click on ‘Posts’ from the left-hand side menu and look at the chart to see when the majority of your audience is online.
Go through the chart, locate the time/s when the majority of your audience is online, and there you are – posting when the maximum amount of your audience is active makes sense because you boost your chance of reach and response through sheer size. Right?
As per a recent presentation by Facebook on how their News Feed works, posting at maximum traffic times may actually reduce your reach.
Because you’ll be in competition with all the other posts that each user could potentially be shown at that time, and content from people with which they have a personal relationship, or interact with more often, will rank higher.
It works like this: When posts are published to Facebook, the News Feed algorithm ranks them relative to each individual user’s affinity with that post – this is based on the users’ past interactions with the creator's content, when it was posted, the type of content it is and various other considerations. From this, Facebook gives each post a score, relative to each user’s connection with the post, and that score determines which stories are shown in their News Feed.
So, when you post at optimum activity times, you’re likely competing against a heap of posts with which your audience may have stronger connections – if you post at a time when the majority of users are posting personal updates, the chances of your Page content ranking higher than an update from a friend or family member is probably not that high, unless you have a really strong affinity with your fans.
Of course, if your post is extremely popular, that changes the equation, as interactions on each post can also weight the algorithm, but you can’t necessarily bank on post popularity – and if you’re just starting out on Facebook and looking to boost your reach, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to create a viral post that generates a heap of attention.
BuzzSumo recently conducted an analysis of more than a billion Facebook posts to measure the best ways to improve engagement – in their research, they actually found that posting between 10pm and midnight saw brands garnering higher levels of engagement.
This pretty much directly reflects what Facebook has outlined about how the News Feed works – posting late at night, when there’s less competition from personal updates, increases the probability that your brand posts will make it to the top of the list for more users.
So does that mean you should be looking to post at these times?
When you're starting out, it makes sense that you'd want to generate more response in order to boost your Page rank and response, as doing so increases the brand affinity of your Page with your audience, which will then boost the reach of your subsequent posts, and ultimately engagement. As such, posting late at night, to begin with, could be a good way to get the ball rolling on engagement, then you can progressively move your schedule back and start posting at more high-traffic times as your response rates increase, thereby strengthening your connection with your fans and giving you increased reach by posting at higher traffic times, bit-by-bit.
But this cannot be emphasized enough. The real answer as to the best times to post comes down to your audience understanding - and really, who you’re targeting. And not just who you're targeting in general, but who you're trying to reach with each individual post.
One way to determine this it to use Facebook’s Audience Insights. Through Audience Insights, you can get a more detailed view on who your Facebook fans are, where they are, and what they’re interested in.
For example, you can first go through your Facebook Page Insights and find out the demographic details of your most engaged fans under the 'People Engaged' tab.
These are the fans you likely want to focus on as they’re the ones actually responding to your posts by Liking, sharing, commenting, etc. Those are the actions that drive better reach, so catering to these people will likely help boost your messaging, as this is obviously the audience within which your content is resonating.
Once you have an idea of who you want to reach, you can then go to Audience Insights to get a better idea of who each group is and what they’re interested in.
In Audience Insights, select ‘People who are connected to your Page’ and it’ll give you detailed information on your audience.
So based on our initial insights data, we might want to focus on women in the US, as they’re currently the most engaged with our content – you can narrow down your insights onto these members of your audience.
Now we know the main age groups we’re looking to appeal to. We can also narrow down their location more specifically.
This enables us to better understand the relative time zones for the audience we want to reach – we could even focus our posts on local events and discussion to target more specifically.
We can also get an idea of what devices this group most commonly uses, their job titles and relationship status - all of which enables us to establish a clearer picture of when this target group is most likely to be online and responsive.
Based on the insights in these examples, we could surmise that if we wanted to reach this sector of our audience, we’d be best posting after hours (as they over-index in management positions, so they’ll be busy during the day) in US MDT time.
Of course, there’s a range of other potential factors to consider, but just through this experiment alone, you can see how you'd be able to use these insights to focus in on each sector of your specific target market and create content more aligned to each user group.
So Here’s What This All Means…
The key here is that there’s a level of human understanding required beyond the stats and data alone. For example, Facebook recently released data showing that new parents in the U.S. are increasingly active on Facebook in the early hours, when they’ve been woken up by an unsettled baby and are looking for something to do. In fact, Facebook found that 56% of new parents have visited Facebook on their mobile device by 7am, with activity ramping up from as early 4am.
Now, that makes sense to any parent – you know that your sleep patterns are disrupted and that you can end up trapped on a couch with a sleeping baby rested on your chest. You can’t move, for fear of waking the (finally) sleeping child, so you look to your mobile for something to do. That makes sense, but that’s not something that’s going to show up in the calculations of your peak audience times.
So the critical part of maximizing your Facebook reach and connecting with your audience is understanding them, understanding the common behaviors among the people within your target audience.
If you can do that, through the use of tools like Audience Insights, with direction from your Page Insights, and your own understanding of what’s happening in people’s lives.
That’s how you’ll be able to determine the best times to post to your Facebook Page.
This is why no basic, generalized guideline can accurately tell you when the best time to reach your audience is. Because there are audiences within your audience – because when we say ‘audiences’ or ‘fans’, we’re not talking about a theoretical group that exist in a computer generated simulation. We’re talking about people. Real people, doing real things in their day-to-day real lives.
It takes more work, definitely, and it requires research and experimentation. But if you want to maximize your reach and response, the best way to do so is to hone and refine your messaging to specific groups.
You could take a guess, sure, or you could follow the generic guidelines, and they might help. But if you’re not getting the response you want, it might be worth doing some digging and seeing what you can find out about your target market.
What methods do you use to determine the best time to publish your Facebook Content? Is your approach working? Why or why not?
Well, we have that answer too. The chicken came first. Egg shells contain a specific protein that is only capable of being produced by an actual chicken. So it would be impossible for an egg to exist, given said shell protein make-up, to have come first.