September 2, 2013

At some point, probably every Facebook page administrator Googled some variation of the following questions: when is the best time to post on Facebook?; how often should I post on Facebook?; or how can I increase Facebook engagement?

The search results abound with best practices posts and social media gurus spouting off the magic formula for the highest engagement numbers — but I always wondered whether it applied to my page’s audience.

Facebook is in the process of rolling out new Page Insights that will, in many ways, give your organization the tools to establish its own best practices. The new page insights will be available to all page administrators by late summer, according to Facebook, and the new features below could increase your news organization’s Facebook engagement.

1) Determine when fans are online: This feature displays a day-by-day breakdown of when your fans see any posts on Facebook. Even better, it shows you an hourly graph of the times that your fans are on Facebook. As Web editor for a national health care association, with this feature I found that many of our fans are on Facebook at noon and then from about 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In the past we sent many of our posts in the morning, but now we are testing evening posts and lunchtime posts. The data in this section is only for a one week period, so administrators should review this on a regular basis. You can find this insight by clicking on the Posts tab on the Insights page, and then on the When Fans Are Online tab.

2) Track post reach. This area has several useful insights with customizable date ranges that display line charts of post reach; likes, comments & shares; hide, report as spam & unlikes and total reach. Our social media team has had an internal debate about the amount of times we post each day.

Some thought we should post multiple times a day, others thought a few times a week, and others thought it should be about one post a day. Using the chart of when fans hide our posts, report as spam and unlike our page, I saw that in the past couple of months when we posted more than two times a day, the number of people hiding our posts and unliking our page spiked. This type of data will inform our discussions going forward about the daily amount of posts. Find this insight by clicking on the Page tab on the Insights page, and then on the Post Reach tab.

3) Figure out best post types: What is the best post type on Facebook? Chances are most of you are thinking photos. Although this may be true for many pages, according to my page’s insights, our status posts have the highest reach. This section displays the average reach; post clicks and likes, comments & shares of the different post types. Keep an eye on this insight as you try to decide the best post type to use for your content. You can find this insight by clicking on the Posts tab on the Insights page, and then on the Best Post Types tab.

4) Track who engaged with your page: In addition to seeing a gender, age and location breakdown of your fans, the new Page Insights breaks down the people reached and the people who engaged with your page. If your organization has strategic audience objectives (such as reaching women who are 25 to 34), this can show you whether your Facebook page is achieving those goals. It could also help you understand who is engaging with your page and you can test posts that specifically target those audience groups. (Find this insight by clicking on the People tab on the Insights page.)

5) Combine the insights to get results: With the information you now have about your audience, you can combine the insights to try to get more engagement. Perhaps you notice that your fans are online at lunchtime, that photos are the best content type and that young women engage the most with your page. Test a post with a compelling photograph at that time and monitor the reach, likes, shares and comments.

Since most of our fans were on Facebook at 9 p.m., I scheduled a post for 8:50 p.m. expecting to see high reach numbers. The next morning I was disappointed with the results. What happened? When I looked at the numbers again, I realized that the peak is at 9 p.m., but it falls off sharply after that. Perhaps the answer is to post in the evening around 7 p.m. It may take several attempts to get the results you want, but the new insights allow page administrators to test in a more analytical and data-informed manner.

Ultimately with the new Page Insights, Facebook page administrators can see how their own audience uses Facebook and interacts with their page. Just like the best practices and magic formulas of the past, it will take testing and reassessing to increase engagement, but at least now page administrators can discover what works for their own audience.

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