New Facebook Data: A Powerful Challenge to Fundamentals

Queen of Hearts

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What you knew yesterday may not apply today….

I hate that….you probably do to. In the land of social media and digital marketing it really is like what the Queen of Hearts said to Alice, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”  Drives me crazy…

In my research this week I came across a great presentation and further links to articles via Buzzsumo about a data study they completed analyzing over 1 billion posts from 30 million brand pages on Facebook. While it is true that correlation IS NOT causation, the data show a number of things that just go against what the social media heroes have been touting for over a year, including:

  1. Posts published between 10 PM and Midnight of your audience’s local time get the most engagement. It seems publishing when there are less posts being published, and vying for attention, increases engagement. Thus you should zig when others zag.
  2. The post formats that get the most engagement are questions and images…not coupons, contests, or links to articles.
  3. Posts that link to longer form articles over over 1,000 words get the most engagement. Shouldn’t be more than 3,000 words, but the “short and sweet” post doesn’t cut it.
  4. Posts published on Sunday get more engagement on average. Again this seems due to less competition from other posts.
  5. Surprisingly posts without hashtags get more interaction than posts with hashtags!
What are some of the A-to-B surprises here?

Well, publishing engagement is not what we’ve been lead to believe. The strategy has been to go to your Post Insights and publish at times when your audience is actually on Facebook, regardless of a set time or date. The data seem to show that posting on Sunday will get you more engagement, as will publishing between 10 PM and Midnight of your audience’s local time zone (so, if your business is global, that’s pretty much anytime….). I still agree with Jason Falls that you should post when your customers are there, but you might want to try some A/B testing and see what you find with your business. Your audience may behave differently, but it would be good to find out!

We already knew about the attractiveness of images and that questions (well chosen for your audience) did well, but combining them kicked it to an entirely new level. According to the study, text-only question posts only received 144.45 interactions whereas the combination of questions with images garnered 616.7 interactions! WOW! Following questions and images, the types of posts that get the higher number of interactions are (from higher to lower) video, links, giveaways and coupons/discounts.  Videos work best if you’re focusing on shares.

The optimal length for your content, which you are linking to from Facebook (it IS your content, isn’t it?) should be more than 1,000 words. The interaction numbers from the study show a much lower correlation of 171.65 for articles under 1,000 words. The best bracket is 1,000 – 2,000 words (277.37 interactions), and the next best (nearly identical) is 2,000 – 3,000 words (274.06 interactions). Over 3,000 word articles came in at 225.02 interactions, so if you regularly write at that length you might not be getting the most from the links from Facebook to those articles (and you may need to get a good copy editor!). So, Facebook users enjoy reading solid, in-depth posts, but not the Great American Opinion Piece.

The last item on our list is one that goes against the grain of what social media experts have touted for some time: the deal with hashtags. The data in this study say that posts without hashtags received 34% more interactions than posts with hashtags. The folks at Buzzsumo have no explanation for this. My first thoughts are that many brands and individuals have so overused and abused hashtags as an information ordering methodology that they have become visually annoying. That is, a user sees even just one hashtag and, associating that with other posts that can have untold numbers of spammy hashtags, actively avoids it.  I have no data to back that up, but I can understand the sentiment. When I see a post with a dozen or more hashtags of varying degrees of appropriateness, it annoys me. Once again, how Facebook users search for and discover interesting new content CAN include using hashtags as a way to organize it, so “your mileage may vary.” Test out the focused, targeted hashtags in A/B tests with similar posts without and then analyze your data to see what works for your company and your audience…..AND keep in mind that things change ALL THE TIME! What works today might stumble tomorrow.

So, what’s your new strategy here? Rip and Replace? Place your fingers in your ears and engage in a hearty chorus of “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!?” Well, no….

You need to bring in an expert to analyze your current state, assess that your goals and plans align with what you’re trying to accomplish with your social and digital marketing, build it and execute! You might also consider keeping them around….who know what the data will look like next month?!

You need this….NOW!   Set up a meeting with me today.

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