The Internet is awash with attempts to answer the seemingly simple question of when a publisher should post on Facebook to achieve maximum traffic. Coschedule, Fast Company, Hubspot, ShortStack, Forbes, Hootsuite, QuickSprout and many others claim to know the best time to post on Facebook. And there is evidently appetite for this knowledge: the supposed “best time to post” insights are being used to guide a vast number of publishers in how they go about posting to Facebook and other social platforms.
In this study, we use data from sector-leading publishers to examine whether there really is a universal “best time to post” on Facebook. We also share how publishers can accurately determine when to post to Facebook to drive maximal traffic.
Download the PDF of this study:
How did we study the best times to post on Facebook?
For our investigation, we analysed the median traffic that articles received from Facebook three hours after they were shared. Some news stories are prone to “go viral”, so we used the median for all stories, as the mean may be skewed by outliers. The daily averages were based on one year’s worth of data. For data protection reasons we can’t specify the individual publishers.
Are there universal best times to post on Facebook for publishers?
To test whether there are universal best times to share on Facebook, we started by comparing three news publishers in different countries (South American, France and the UK). All three publishers enjoy a significant presence in their respective country or continent and publish national and international news.
It’s clear that the shape of the Facebook traffic profiles for the publishers are very different. The South American publisher achieves best performance when posting to Facebook between 11am and 4pm, and poor performance at other times. The British and French publishers achieve more consistent results throughout the day, but both experience peaks in Facebook referral traffic at different times.
This demonstrates that there are indeed best times to post on Facebook, but a one-size-fits-all approach for publishers in the same sector doesn’t work.
Are there best times to post on Facebook per country?
Now that we’ve illustrated that publishers of different nationalities have different audience behaviours, the natural next question is whether there are country-wide best times to post on Facebook.
Could it be that the French all consume content more consistently throughout the day than the South Americans? Can there be specific guides for post times per country?
To answer this, we compared traffic data from that same French news publisher with another leading French sports publisher of similar size:
We can see that posting to Facebook before 10am generates similar levels of referral traffic for both publishers, however the curves then diverge. By early afternoon, the news publisher is enjoying a strong peak in Facebook traffic per share whilst the sports publisher is in a pronounced trough. Overall the sports publisher’s Facebook traffic is more regular, with fewer dramatic peaks and troughs, while the news publisher has clearly demarked periods when more readers are clicking on their Facebook posts to read their stories.
This shows that even two publications of equivalent size working in the same country can experience stark differences in Facebook audience behaviour, and the best time to post on Facebook is therefore unique to each publisher.
Are there best times to post on Facebook per vertical?
Could the French news publisher’s data be a guide for the best time to post on Facebook for another French news publisher with similar content?
We tested this by comparing the Facebook traffic profiles of two French news publishers, both of which are leading names in France and publish similarly high profile national and international content.
Even between these two publishers, there are crucial differences in referral traffic activity. They both experience a similar pattern of peaks and troughs, however these are of different relative heights and occur at different times during the day. For example, when one publisher experiences a peak in Facebook post performance at 11am, it is in fact one of the worst times to post for the other publisher.
Interestingly, when two very similar publications in the same country are compared, their Facebook audiences seem to consume content at different times. These nuances help us understand the particular characteristics of audiences and their varying appetite for content at different times of the day. But even these descriptions of the individual publishers do not do the subtlety of the data justice.
Although we’ve compiled the data here using averages across the year, to be of maximum practical use a publisher would need to perform this analysis regularly on a real-time basis due to strong daily fluctuations.
This is something Echobox does automatically. Determining the best time to post to Facebook is a very complex calculation, and one best done by an automated system that can process large amounts of historic and real-time data.
The best time to post on Facebook depends on several fluctuating factors
Our insights show that there is no “universal best time” to post on Facebook. The key for publishers to identify the best time to post to Facebook is partly about knowing their individual content and audiences – not just when they are online, but also when they are most receptive to clicking through to a full story. That kind of information is difficult to compute, but it is key for publishers looking to maximise referral traffic from social media.
Luckily, Echobox may be used to determine best times for publishers as each Echobox is customised to every single publisher using the service. Learn more about how Echobox works.
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