5 things we learned by analysing lots and lots (and lots) of Facebook data

Mythbusting for social media strategists and campaigners

Last year, our friends at Crowdtangle offered to let MobLab dig through some of their aggregate data about the performance of individual posts on public pages to see if we could find anything interesting.

Data analysis via NASA

Historical photo from the MobLab data analysis center.

We jumped at the chance, looking through every post in the month of April from 572 different pages — 107,657 total posts — with an eye toward any interesting trends or takeaways we could find.

When we want to find patterns and lessons in that much data we like to pull it all into a big bucket and dump it into a statistical analysis package (R is our tool of choice here and the source of the charts below).

What we found supports many of the guidelines (or, rather, non-guidelines) that one often hears about Facebook posts and social media in general. Some of this isn’t new but, as people who work with digital campaigns daily, we found it valuable. Here it is:

1) Should we post more? Less? Data says…

There is no correlation between post frequency and engagement. Zero. None. Anyone who tells you definitively that you should post X times per day, or per week, should probably be ignored. “Posting X times per day/week has worked best for us,” is about as far as you should go.

Post frequency and engagement rate

We found no correlation between post frequency and engagement rate in the data reviewed.

2) No, it’s not that your issue is boring.

We grouped organisations by issue focus. Labor rights groups generally had higher engagement rates. This could be due to a more membership-driven fan base – with more emphasis on organising – but the data doesn’t point to a clear reason.

Issue focus and engagement rate

We also didn’t find clear correlation between issue focus and engagement rate.

3) Size doesn’t matter (for engagement).

We did NOT see a relationship between likes and engagement rate. High engagement pages had large and small fan bases. So did low engagement pages.

Likes and engagement

There is no correlation between total likes and fan engagement.

4) Weekends work (even if you’re not working).

At least in this dataset, it looks like post frequency drops off over the weekend but post performance improves over the weekend.

Posts and day of week

Post frequency drops over the weekend (when you’re not working) but engagement rises.

5) Did you just post? Go relax for a few hours before posting again.

It looks like you should wait at least 1-3 hours between posts, at least measured by likes.

1-3 hours between posts

A one to three hour window between posts seems to support engagement.

Fortunately, many allies and partners are also analysing large social media data sets. Some are sharing it in ways helpful to Greenpeace and others. Actionsprout recently created sets of Facebook engagement scorecards to help identify and visualize page performance. An environmental sector scorecard (primarily U.S. organisations) may be helpful.

What do you think? Anything in here you disagree with, or have seen data disproving? Or anything you’ve observed and want to add? Tell us in the comments!

Thank you Crowdtangle for sharing data used in this analysis. 

Comments

  1. When you say there is no correlation between post frequency and engagement, does that mean overall engagement or per-post engagement?

    • Hey Nick,

      Engagement Rate here is on a per page basis, as that’s the data that we had available. Thanks for reaching out!

  2. Thank you for this great study! We have one question though.

    So from point number five it would seem that engagement (at least likes) drops after three hours. It would then seem that in order to maximise likes (and its effect on engagement in total), the best frequency to posts is every three hours. Which then does not correspond to the first conclusion. Or are we misunderstanding your data?

    If you could please clarify, then it would be very helpful.

    • Hey Michael,

      Great question!

      I think the answer is a little nuanced, but the first and fifth takeaways aren’t necessarily contradictory. On the first graph, we’re only looking at # of posts per day, not the time between posts. So, just because a page posts 8 times a day doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily spacing it out over 3 hour increments.

      On top of that, the Engagement Rate calculated in for 1) is for the entire page, where for 5) the Likes are calculated per post, so unfortunately it is a little difficult to “combine” those two points for an overarching posting strategy. I’d definitely recommend testing the idea of posting in 3 hour increments first, since that is the more specific and actionable takeaway.

      Thanks for your question!

      Sho // Greenpeace USA

      • I would not necessarily say that the frequency of posts will drive up your per page engagement. But the quality and the relevance of the post content and your target audience online behaviour. Also likes can vary and do not necessarily have their peak right after the content has been posted. They can also go up once the post reaches an influencer with a wide follower base. There is many ways to drive up the engagement, to strategically prepare and plan the post content and implementation is one of them.
        I would be interested to see how real time responses to post likes and comments can influence the post performance.

        Thank you for the great article.

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