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Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook…

There probably isn’t a single best time to share to social media.

There’s a long tradition of studies that have attempted to uncover a ‘best time’ to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media marketing channel, with each study finding a wide range of results (we’ve even created our own studies here at Buffer).

Here are just some recommendations on the best time to post to Facebook to get you started:

  • Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. [Hubspot]
  • Thursday at 8 p.m.  [TrackMaven]
  • 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends [CoSchedule]
  • Early afternoon during the week and Saturdays [Buffer]
  • Off-peak times are best [Buzzsum0]

All of these studies are based on sound logic and can potentially be helpful to point marketers in the right direction. But almost every study reveals a different ‘best time to post’ and I believe there’s no perfect time to post to Facebook (or any social channel for that matter). 

The best time to post depends on a number of factors that are specific to every business: What’s your industry? What location is audience based? When are they online? Are you sponsoring your post?

I’d love to flip the conversation and say that instead of looking for a universal ‘best time to post’, maybe we should be focusing specifically on when is the best time for your brand to post.

facebook-time

Why there’s no universal best time to post on Facebook

The content crush is truly upon us. There’s more content shared to Facebook than any of us could ever consume, and as such, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm helps to determine what is shown to us every time we open up Facebook.

On their Business blog, Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology, Brian Boland explains:

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.

As a result, competition in News Feed — the place on Facebook where people view content from their family and friends, as well as businesses — is increasing, and it’s becoming harder for any story to gain exposure in News Feed.

Whenever you post to Facebook, you’re essentially competing against at least 1,500 others post for a place in the News Feed and timing is only one of a number of factors that determines which content appears.

With this in mind, it’s also possible that the best time to post could also be the worst time. Let’s say a study found the best time to publish is 6pm on a Friday, and every brand was to try and push content to their audience at that time, it’s likely that very few of those posts would be seen due to such high competition. The same is true for saying off-peak times are best to publish – if all brands post off-peak then there will be more competition, and so they should go back to posting at peak time.

It’s all very muddled and there’s no clear answer. As such, I’d argue that there’s no specific time that’s best to post to Facebook.

So, when should you post to Facebook? A couple of strategies you can try

If there’s no ‘best’ time to post, how do you decide when to share your content to Facebook?

To answer this question, I feel like there are two approaches we could use:

  1. When your data tells you
  2. When it’s relevant

1. When your data tells you

When it comes to marketing and digital strategy, the best data is always your own. And, thankfully, Facebook has a ton of data available for all page owners and admins. A comprehensive understanding of your own audience on Facebook and how your content is performing will bring more success, than generic insights drawn from studies on a wide variety of Pages from a range of industries and brands.

2. When it’s relevant

This one is a little less scientific. But some content will work best in-the-moment or at a time when it’s most relevant. A great example of this is the content many sports teams share to Facebook to update fans on the scores or breaking news.

For your business, the same can also be true. Some pieces of content will perform best when they’re relevant. For example, the best time to share content related to the launch of your new product tends to be directly following the announcement. Or if you had an advert on a local TV station, it’s best to create and share social content around the same time that it’s broadcast.

How to use Facebook Insights to find your best time to post

If you’re looking to find the best time to post on Facebook, the first best place to start is Facebook Insights.

To see your Page Insights, click Insights at the top of your Page:

page-insights

Once you’re in the Page Insights dashboard, there’s a wealth of data available to you. For this post, though, we’re going to dive into a couple of specific areas to help you discover when to post your content.

How to find out when your fans are online

From the Insights dashboard, select Posts in the left-hand column menu. This will take you to a detailed breakdown of the days and time your fans are most active on Facebook: time-online

This chart shows the average times across the week. You can hover over each individual day to see an overlay of how that day looks vs the averages. Here’s an example of how Sunday’s tend to look for our Page (the dark blue line is data for Sunday):

sunday-data

What does this data tell us?

Here at Buffer, we can see our audience is online 7 days per week and that there’s no specific day where we see a spike. We can also see that from around 9 am in the morning the number of people online is gradually increasing up until around 4 pm where the number begins to decline slightly.

There are plenty of ways to interpret this data. But, to me, this would suggest our best times to post are during the work day between the hours of 9 am – 5 pm when our audience are most active on Facebook. I’d recommend testing a variation of times between those hours to see what works and if there’s a best time at all.

Another experiment we’ve been trying off the back of this data is posting at off-peak times. Brian, our social media manager, has recently been posting when less of our audience is online and we’ve been seeing some success between 3 am – 5 am.

How to find posting times of successful posts

Facebook Insights records reach and engagement figures for every post you share to your Facebook Page. This data can be found in the same place as the data for when your fans are online. Head to your Page Insights, click Posts and below the graph showing times your fans are online, you’ll see ‘All Posts Published’.

all-posts

Here, in the ‘Published’ column, you can see the date and time when each post was published to your Facebook Page. With this data you’re looking out for any trends regarding the times. For example, do posts published around a specific time tend to receive more reach or engagement.

Note: If your posts are Sponsored or Boosted (like many of ours in the above screenshot), this could also skew your data a little as these posts are likely to gain significantly more reach than organic posts regardless or the time they’re published.

What does this data tell us?

Personally, I think our data on the Buffer Facebook Page is pretty inconclusive at the moment. It’s clear that posts published between around 10 am – 12 pm seem to do well, as do posts at around 5 pm. But I’d love to test a bunch more variables before making any clear conclusions.

Using Buffer’s Optimal Scheduling tool

Another way to find some potentially great times to post to your Facebook Page is with our Optimal Scheduling tool.

When you optimize your schedule, we look at the past 5,000 interactions (e.g. likes, favorites, clicks, etc.) you’ve had on the Page you’re optimizing as well as similar profiles in the same timezone. We then plot these according to your timezone in a 24 hour period, to see when most interactions have happened.

We also include an ‘experimental’ element, that picks some timeslots outside your top engaged times to find unexplored, new optimal timing areas for you to post.

How to use the Optimal Scheduling tool

Step 1: Connect your Facebook Page to Buffer

To use our Optimal Scheduling tool, you’ll first need to connect a Facebook Page to Buffer. To do this, login to your Buffer and then click on the + icon next to Accounts in the top left of the dashboard. Then, select Facebook Page:

connect-page

Step 2: Head over to your Schedule tab

From your Buffer dashboard, select your Facebook Page in the left-hand column and then click on the ‘Schedule’ tab:

schedule-tab

Now, click on the ‘Try our Optimal Timing Tool’ link underneath your schedule. Alternatively, you can also follow this link: https://buffer.com/optimal-scheduling/calculate

Step 3: Select your Page

Next, simply the select the Page you’d like the tool to identify posting times for, how many times you’d like to post each day and click ‘Calculate Times’:

calculate-times

Step 3: Check your suggested times

The Optimal Scheduling tool will now display some times for your to post based on recent engagement for your Page and other similar Pages in your timezone. If you wish, you can also replace your current Buffer schedule with these times in one click:

optimal-times

Note: As this tool takes data from your Page and similar profiles in the same timezone, I tend to use the recommended times as a test to see how content performs at each time, rather than a set of ‘best times to post’.

Businesses will win because of the content, not the timing

When one of your Facebook friends gets married, the chances are you’ll see their wedding photos stuck to the top of your News Feed all day, regardless of the time they’re posted. This happens because wedding photos, whether you like them or not, are great content and as soon as they’re posted, a bunch of people rush to like, share and comment on them.

If you want to succeed on Facebook, your content will be the most important factor. Not the time it’s posted. Of course, timing can have an effect on performance if the post is timely or more relevant at set time – such as content aimed at reaching sports fans at the time when games are happening. But largely, your social media success relies on the strength of your content.

Over to you

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic: Do you think there’s a best time to post to Facebook? How do you decide when to publish your posts? Let me know in the comments, I’m excited to join the conversation.

 


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