Timing is everything. It’s true for music, for comedy and for your social media marketing strategy.
Facebook is one of the most versatile social media platforms out there. Its huge daily user base of 1.28 billion people, the range of media types you can share and its ad targeting abilities are just some of the attractions it possesses that make it suitable for all kinds of businesses to use for brand awareness and product promotion.
For organic content especially, businesses are having to get smart with when they post their content to cut through the noise and get in front of their audience. When it comes to identifying when to post on Facebook for the best opportunity to maximise reach though, people are pretty conflicted. There is no shortage of articles claiming to know when to post on Facebook to reach your audience. Some claim that first thing in the morning is best, while others promise that you’ll reach more people right after dinner. There isn’t a sense of agreement with days of the week either.
Knowing when to post on Facebook to maximise reach is something of a red herring. The reality is that every business is different and will have their own definition of “best time”. Instead of reading these articles and picking times randomly from the varying lists they offer that promise to boost your reach, you could try something more accurate. Build a scheduling strategy that is driven by data.
It’s important to build your strategy from an analytical approach and use the data you have from your published messages to act on evidence-based insight. Excel is your best friend here. You can segment relevant data to understand the times of day and days of the week that your audience are most active and most receptive to your content. Here are the five simple steps to get you on your way.
Download posting data
Visit your Facebook page Insights and select the longest time range available (or, if this is insufficient, add several data sets together).
Identify which metrics you want to improve
There are a number of metrics you can choose from to focus on, for instance an increase in Likes or Shares. Another useful metric for boosting reach would be to increase Page Likes.
To help you improve these metrics, you need to set a goal for your posts (we’d suggest you make that goal SMART). SMART goals, when created correctly, will specify which metrics you need to improve, making your efforts more useful. This will also help you avoid getting sidetracked by data that isnt necessarily relevant. If you have a goal abou improving brand loyalty by stimulating engagement, don’t get distrated by post reach data. While it’s interesting, it’s not helping you reach your goal.
For improving post reach, you may set a SMART goal along the lines of “Increasing post reach by attaining at 100 likes on each piece of content for the next 3 months“. This goal is easily understandable, attainable and measurable. Its clear timeframe guides the strategy, too.
Extract ‘Time of Day’ and ‘Day of the Week’
Data analysis in Excel is great, but can be daunting. In practical terms, Excel is fantastic for splicing and aggregating and processing data. If your dataset includes times from hundreds of Facebook posts dating back over 2 years, you’re facing a monumental amount of analysis if you don’t use the right tools. You need to sort through all those posts to determine which times of the day and days of the week prove the most successful in terms of highest reach. It can be an overwhelming task to sort through and extract actionable insights.
However, this is where Excel’s masterful functions come into their own. By extracting the data for Time of Day and Day of the Week columns, you’ll no longer fear the numbers. Instead, you’ll be able to easily read the data and start understanding what those numbers are actually telling you.
Hint: use =TEXT(WEEKDAY)(A1), “DDD”) where A1 is the cell containing the posting date. And remember, Facebook uses Pacific Standard Time (PST) as default, so adjust the data accordingly for your time zone.
Pivot the data to find YOUR best time to post
Pivot tables are arguably the most useful tool in Excel (at least I think so). Having only recently been introduced to them myself, I can vouch for their undeniable utility when you’re analysing data and attempting to extract meaningful insights from the endless reams of numbers in front of you. Pivot tables let you process and summarise data in an easily digestible, multi-dimensioned format.
If the data is surprising, try and figure out why. Are some posts skewing the data? You should remove outliers to ensure as accurate a reading of the data as possible. It’s also important that you have enough data for your analysis to be meaningful. It won’t be easy to glean insights from a limited number of posts you have published over the last week. The more data you have to work with, the better you’ll understand your audience’s Facebook active periods. Tracking their online movements will make it much easier for you to identify when to post on Facebook and be in with the best chance of them seeing your content, especially if it’s organic.
Now, the fun part: make a hypothesis and test it out. Testing your theory and analysing the results will build on the knowledge you gained from the initial data and bring you closer to finding your timing sweet spot.
You should schedule periodic evaulations of your strategy too. Even if you think your current strategy is working well, dive into the data and be sure you aren’t missing a trick. Yes, your reach may be good now, but audience behaviours change as platforms advance and evolve. Ensure your audience are still most active during the times you previously identified. Otherwise, you may be letting potential viewers pass you by.
Want to really take advantage of the best posting times online? Use a paid strategy to really amplify your efforts! Learn all you need to get you started with our Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Ads.