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How Facebook Post Type & Time Can Impact Performance (Irish Study)


November 7, 2013

By Luke Abbott.

One of our services here at Discovery is producing and distributing content for brands. Once we have a shiny new piece of content it’s distributed through the content supply chain (made up of Owned, Earned and Paid channels), taking opportunities to optimise performance along the way. With Facebook being an important channel in the content supply chain we wanted to understand the impact of different formats of Facebook posts (Photos, links, status updates, videos) on organic reach. Not only could this affect how the content performs but it would also have an impact on the overall page performance. So we conducted a study looking the organic reach of 800 Facebook posts on Irish pages between April and October 2013. It’s a commonly held belief that posts reach 16% of Facebook Users, but this figure doesn’t outline if all of those users are fans of the page, if reach varies by post type, by hour of the day or by time of the year.


To give an extra dimension to our study, Edgerank Check published a very similar study last week, using similar methodology that allows us to benchmark some of our figures against international standards.

The Edgerank Checker study analysed 50,000 Facebook posts on over 1,000 pages to understand how Organic Facebook Reach (how many Facebook users have seen you post without the use of advertising) has changed in the past year. Their study identified Organic Facebook Reach has dropped from 16% to 12.6%, our study found Organic Reach was at 16.4% for the client pages we examined. However our study dug a little deeper to identify other factors that played a role such as the types of content, the times of the day and even the month had a significant impact on organic reach.

Here’s what we found;

• On average posts reached up to 16.4% of Facebook users (fans and non-fans)
• Of this figure 14.9% were fans of the respective pages
• The difference of 1.6% accounts for Facebook users who were reached ‘virally’
• Status updates out-performed all other types of posts reaching 34.2% of fans
• Photos have the greatest potential of going ‘viral’ (ie. they generate more shares, likes & comments)
• Posts that went live after 8pm reached 23.7% of users, more than posts that went up at other times of the day
• Reach also varied by month reaching a peak in June of 19.3%

Total Average Facebook Reach:

When we looked at all the posts we found on average they reached 16.4% of Facebook users. When you drill down into the figure further we noticed the vast majority of these were fans of the page.

• 16.4% of Facebook users (fans and non fans) were reached on average
• When you just look at fans of the page this drops to 14.9%

We split the reach into Facebook users, and into fans of the page. This allows us to identify what types of content might be more viral and what types of content are best for reaching out to fans only.

Facebook Reach by Post Type

It’s probably no surprise to community managers that status updates have been out-performing all other types of posts since April. What is surprising is by just how much they outperform the others. This table breaks down the posts by type;

Post Type  % of Fans  % of FB Users  %Difference (Virality)
Links                   10.7%         10.9%                      0.2%
Photos                  12.8%        14.9%                      2.1%
Status Updates   33.5%        34.2%                     0.7%
Videos                    11.3%        12.3%                         1%

Status updates out perform all other post types in terms of reach, so if you want to get a message out to fans this is the obvious route to take. These updates reach almost three times as many fans as other posts. The difference column outlines the percentage difference between Facebook Users and Fans reached. The larger the difference, the more Facebook users that have been reached virally. From the above you’ll notice that Photos have the potential to be more ‘viral’. One reason for this might be that photos are more likely to be shared on Facebook than status updates. It could also suggest that photos are better for engagement than all other types of posts, while status updates are great at reaching fans, they don’t travel as well as Photos. Although without knowing the full details of Facebook’s Edgerank or Story Bump algorithm we’re just making assumptions!


Facebook Reach by Hour

Looking at Facebook Reach by the hour it would seem posts that go up at late in the day achieve much higher reach than posts that go up earlier. One reason for this might lie in the fact that a small percentage of posts tended to go up at this time. If you examine your own Facebook Insights dashboard under ‘People’ you’ll probably notice most of your fans are online later in the day so perhaps it’s no surprise posts going up at this time have the highest organic reach. Another contributing factor may have to do with how few posts go up at this time – just under 10% of all posts in the study went up at this time of the day. Perhaps there are less brands competing for space in a users Newsfeed at this time.

Time               % of Fans   % of FB Users    %Difference (Virality)
8am – 12pm        17.2%            18.9%                         1.7%
12.01pm – 4pm   14.9%           16.4%                         1.5%
4.01pm – 8pm    12.9%            14.8%                        1.9%
8.01pm – 12am   22.6%           23.7%                        1.1%

What’s interesting to note is the excellent performance of posts that go up after 8pm, but their relatively poor virality and how this is the opposite for posts going up at the earlier time of 4pm and 8pm.

Facebook Reach by Month

The difference in Facebook reach from month to month is something beyond the control of any community manager or brand. Trying to identify the factors that play a role here could be almost impossible. It’s hard to understand why there are fluctuations in reach between 19.3% and 13.2% on any given month. Perhaps the overall quality of content was high in these months, or maybe there were more status updates, or fewer posts vying for space in the newsfeed.

Month           % of Fans     % of FB Users     %Difference (Virality)
April                   14.8%               16.9%                          2.1%
May                     15.6%              17.4%                           1.8%
June                    16.8%              19.3%                           2.5%
July                     16.1%               18.1%                             2%
August                15.9%               17.2%                           1.3%
September         11.9%               13.2%                            1.3%
October              13.8%               14.8%                             1%

Key Takeaways

While this study only measures Facebook reach and not engagement (likes, comments, shares), there are five key points that community managers and brand owners can take away and apply to their own properties;

• The Irish pages in this study outperformed the international standard. However, you need to find out if your page is under or over-performing.

• Status updates are best for reaching a high percentage of fans organically, without having to use paid media.

• If this is the case status updates won’t add as many new fans as these types of posts are less viral than photos.

• Photos are still the best for viral reach, this may seem obvious but it would suggest Facebook users are more inclined to share a photo than a status update.

• Avoid posting links to Facebook, they are the poorest performing post types. If you must post a link consider putting the link in the copy of the update and deleting the thumbnail (so it posts as a status update), or else use a photo.

• Time of the day is a factor. This study suggests after 8pm, but this might vary again from brand to brand and like point 1 above it should be tested on your own page.

• While virality is important the study suggests the best way of reaching your fans is after 8pm using a status update.

• It doesn’t look like Organic Reach is capped by Facebook (ie. posts can only reach a certain amount of users without the use of paid media). Several posts that went ‘viral’ reached almost 90% of users. However this included a large viral reach as users shared, commented and liked the posts.

• The highest fan only organic reach for a post came in at 64% of fans. Unsurprisingly this was for a status update. The top 10 performing posts in terms of reaching fans only were all status updates.
While brands cannot control month to month fluctuations, during an under-performing month paid media could be used to boost reach. However, you need to have a process in place to quickly identify if a month is under-performing.

November 7, 2013

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