New Report Uncovers the Anatomy of a Facebook Post

By Mikal E. Belicove

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many businesses are directing their marketing departments to find ways to attract and retain customers by engaging them on Facebook and other social media networks. Their logic is that by using internet-based services to connect with their demographic, these companies can breathe new life into their brand, product or service.

Enter Vitrue (not Virtue), an Atlanta-based social media management company. Last month, the company published a white paper called, The Anatomy of a Facebook Post: Study on Post Performance by Type, Day of Week, and Time of Day.

Vitrue says marketers are investing a lot of time and money on social media initiatives to attract fans and engage them on Facebook. But, the report claims, these marketers need actionable information and insights to determine the most effective way to publish a post on a social media site. There's no arguing with that! The method for socially engineered posts is every bit as important as when marketers measure response rates to direct mail, print ads on certain days of the week or selected parts of the day for a television commercial.

The 18-page Vitrue report offers a social media publishing strategy -- accompanied by charts and graphs -- that offers tips on the best way to reach an audience, the best time of day to post and the best day of the week to be most effective.

For the study, the company contracted a third party to analyze data with a focus on Facebook post effectiveness. It analyzed publisher posts made from May 1 to August 11, 2010, from more than 100 randomly selected streams or pages, representing 42.6 million Facebook fans -- about 15.5 percent of total fans served -- and 32,000 posts.

Photos trump video, and both trump text.
The study contends there are three content publishing options for a marketer -- text, image and video. The results show that image posts (photos) received 22 percent more engagement than video posts and 54 percent more engagement than text posts. Video, on the other hand, receives 27 percent more engagement than text posts. That means, according to this report, that image and video are superior to text-only posts, but overall, image is more compelling than video. The fact that image posts are more effective than text is fairly easy to understand -- a picture is worth a thousand words.

But images surpassing video is surprising, unless you consider the following:

  • Creating good video is no walk in the park. Just look at your last attempt at filming a backyard family party.
  • Users need more time to click onto a video. Images are up instantly and are immediately eye-catching.
  • A video has to be pretty spectacular in order to get folks to watch it in its entirety, let alone pass it on.
  • And last, the rise of Facebook interactions via mobile devices hinders video play for format length. Suggesting that a friend watch a video puts an imposition on that person.

Bottom line, video is more time-consuming for the viewer and more labor-intensive for the marketer.

Friday is the best day to post . . . barely.
Determining which day of the week is best to optimize a post, the Vitrue findings show that, "Overall, Friday gets the most attention per fan; with 64 percent more 'shares, likes and comments,' and Saturday comes in second, with 13 percent more." However, the report claims, "Friday is only 7 percent more effective than Monday and 3 percent more than Tuesday and Thursday." Which means you shouldn't expect Sunday posts to generate much action.

The early bird catches the worm.
And the final component in evaluating the effectiveness of this online marketing effort is the time of day a post is published.

For simplicity's sake, the Vitrue report split the day into two 12-hour blocks and called them morning/afternoon and evening. Its findings show that, on average, posts made before lunchtime get 65 percent more engagement for all fans analyzed. And since most people check Facebook first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee, or in the office before the day gets busy, this seems to makes perfect sense.

Vitrue says its report is a step in the right direction toward effective communication on Facebook and offers a glimpse into the "what" and the "when" in order to help marketers get a handle on getting results from their online efforts.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. 

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