There’s No Such Thing As A Universal ‘Best Time’ To Post On Facebook

Facebook marketers have obsessed over figuring out the best time to post on Facebook for years now.  So much time, money, and effort has been put into finding an answer to this problem.  Heck, it’s one of the main reasons we started PostRocket.  But one major issue I’ve seen in the approach taken by many people in study after study is obsessing over finding one universal answer, one answer that applies equally every single one of the 50 million+ Facebook pages out there.  There is no shortage of answers, as a quick google search will yield a couple billion results.

Google Search Screenshot - Best Time to Post on Facebook

Google Search Screenshot – Best Time to Post on Facebook

For example, bitly says to post during the middle of the week from 1-3pm EST and avoid posting on weekends for best results, while Buddy Media says posting on the weekends during after hours (8pm-7am) is better than during the week, and Hubspot says 6pm-8pm EST is the best.  If you dig deeper, I’m sure you can find other sources saying other times and days are the best.  While all these sources are reputable and their sample sizes are vast, their studies are fundamentally flawed.  My good friend Jon Loomer talked about this more than 6 months ago in a playful, eye-opening post (more on that and the link later).  [Also, it’s pretty clear that something’s wrong when they give you 3 totally different answers].

So why do I believe there’s no such thing as a universal best time to post on Facebook?

Competition [to get into the Newsfeed]

Competition is the main reason why I dismiss the ‘value’ of bitly’s study.  I’m not saying that the study isn’t accurate, I’m saying that it provides no real value to any individual page in regard to timing their posts.

Anyway, what exactly do I mean by competition?

When you post to a Facebook Page, your post competes with every other post, action, and interaction by every connection in each of your fan’s social graph.  For example, when a page that I ‘like’ creates a post, it competes with stories from my 1000 friends, 100 apps I use, 10 groups I’m in, 10 lists I’m subscribed to, 300 other pages I like, trending articles, and sponsored stories.

Ok Mike, but how does this relate to the bitly saying that 1-3pm EST is the best time to post?

I’m glad you asked.  Bitly’s study says this is the best time because this is when the most activity happens on Facebook– their idea is that if you post at this time, you’re more likely to get better engagement.  This is likely true, if (and it’s a big IF):

  1. Your fans are located in the US, East Coast time zone (more on this later).
  2. Your post actually makes it into your fans’ Newsfeeds.

Number 2 is the key point here.  Because there’s so much going on at this time, there’s increased competition to get into the Newsfeed.  This is the time when the most stories are being created– and remember, the number of stories the Newsfeed can show is a constant, regardless of the number of stories created.  Can your page’s post compete with a bunch of my friends’ status updates and Instagram photos? Probably not.

Takeaway: Times with generally high levels of activity aren’t necessarily the best times to post.  Consider these times a double-edged sword.  You’re more likely to get engagement, but less likely to make it into your fans’ Newsfeeds.  Posting at non-peak hours will have less competition– which may lead to higher engagement despite lower number of users online at that time because it’s easier to make it into a fan’s feed.

Diverse, Global Fan Bases and Timezones

Let’s take a step back and think critically about the process of aggregating this data [in regard to the Buddy Media and Hubspot studies]. Before I say anything, I want to be clear that this isn’t an attack on either company– they’re both great companies who really know their stuff, but tried to answer an un-answerable question.  Let me explain.

World Time Zones Map

World Time Zones Map

Facebook fans are everywhere, especially for pages with large audiences.  Hubspot, or I should say Dan Zarrella of Hubspot, measured the top 10,000 pages.  Buddy Media measured 1,800 of the top big-brand pages.  These pages have fans everywhere– and all in different proportions.  One of these pages may have an audience made up primarily of Europeans, while another may have an audience made up of Americans in the Pacific time zone.  It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that this combination of data means anything at all.

I’d explain more, but I’m not sure it’s possible to say it better than Jon Loomer did six months ago:

 Most of these studies survey hundreds or thousands of Pages to come to their conclusions. But this is a mishmash of geographies that are bound to have very different results. A business whose audience is only in Australia is bound to have a different peak time to post than a business in New York City.

That’s obvious, but unfortunately people still take this stuff as gospel. These reports are fun for entertainment purposes, but only you know the best time to post. 

Wait, you don’t? You’re reading those posts and this one because you want us to tell you? Well, you’re failing.  Check out your Facebook Insights. From there, find the posts that generated the most engagement over a three month period. Find the posts that had the greatest reach. Then you will know the best time and days to post that are relevant to you.

Takeaway:  To put it simply, all these studies are aggregating information from a ton of pages that are VERY DIFFERENT and have VERY DIFFERENT fans from VERY DIFFERENT places/time zones.  While the answers they give may speak truth to the ‘average’ across all pages, the value any individual page can take from these studies is close to zero. There are always people on Facebook engaging. It doesn’t matter when the most people are on average– it matters when YOUR people are!

Finding the best time for you to post to your page is a part of our mission at PostRocket.  We do this for you automatically, analyzing the Insights data from your page along with other Facebook users similar to your fans.  Start posting smarter to your page using PostRocket– try it free by clicking here.

Source: PostRocket

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