Contrary to the old adage, timing is not everything when it comes to Facebook wall posts. Important? Yes. Tricky? Certainly. But not everything. So says a recent study by Buddy Media that looked at a two week sampling of the wall posts of 200 brands.
Let’s take a look at what Buddy Media found that’s relevant to your Facebook engagement initiatives. There’s at least one finding that caught me by surprise.
The released research paper, “Strategies For Effective Facebook Wall Posts: A Statistical Review,” cites three primary success metrics.
Comment Rate: number of comments as a percentage of fan base
“Like” Rate: number of “likes” as a percentage of fan base
Engagement Rate: a combination of the above factoring in fan base size
Brands are likely to have other measures of success, but the metrics on this list are readily measured and, if not end-goals on their own, indicators of how well wall comments are moving them towards those other objectives.
The research was compiled by analyzing all Facebook Wall posts from the Buddy Media Platform by more than 200 client brands during the period from January 30 through February 12, 2011. “Likes” and comments made to these posts were also analyzed. The posts sampled were in the entertainment, media, retail, automotive, business and finance, fashion, food and beverage, healthcare and beauty and travel and hospitality industries.
Key findings called out by Buddy Media include:
1. Post Length: On average, posts between one and 80 characters had a 27% higher engagement rate than posts with more than 80 characters, yet accounted for only 19% of all posts.
2. Keywords: Avoid the hard sell. “Events” and “winning” were the keywords associated with promotions that had the highest engagement, while “buy,” and “shop” had low engagement.
3. URL Shorteners: Engagement rates are three times higher for posts that used a full-length URL, rather than a URL shortener. The research report suggests this is likely because the shortened URL masks the identity of the linked site and recommends using a branded URL shortener.
4. Post Timing (Hour): Brands that posted outside of normal business hours had 20% higher engagement rates on their posts.
5. Post Timing (Day): Engagement rates on Thursday and Friday are 18% higher than other days of the week.
Intuition supports the post length and keyword findings. With discovery of wall posts frequently occurring on News Feeds, brands need to capture attention quickly and avoid detuning readers with excessively blatant sales pitches.
The URL shortener statistics come as a bit of a surprise. Is a “bit.ly” or “tinyurl.com” URL still untrustworthy when presented by a known brand? I would like to see this examined more closely, with an eye on the content “surrounding” the URL, such as captions and graphics, to confirm that other variables are not at play.
With so many brands across a variety of industry verticals examined over a period of only two weeks, I would pause before moving my core posts to after business hours on Thursday and Friday. The Buddy Media report details the differences among the industries included in its research and finds quite a bit of variation.
The data provide a mandate for brands to pay careful attention to time-of-day and day-of-week, but reveal no secret formula for brands to put their posting times on permanent autopilot. Further, I’ll make an unscientific guess that when one or more major brands in an industry vertical shifts posting times, the “sweet spots” change for the entire sector.
Other companies, such as HubSpot and Vitrue, have also published studies with pointers on best practices for wall posts. While these and others all provide guidance on factors to optimize Facebook initiatives, brands need to look at these recommendations in the context of their industry, the maturity of their social media activities, competitive landscape and total marketing program.
Based on the body of research currently on hand, it will still take some “trial-and-success” to find the most appropriate wall post strategy, as well as consistent monitoring to stay ahead of the changing landscape.
How does Buddy Media’s research jibe with your Facebook wall post experience? Comment below or join the discussion on the Buddy Media blog.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, with a track record of success across linear, digital and social media. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.