Facebook Status Updates: Exploring Optimal Time of Day/Day of Week

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NOTE: This post is no longer current. An updated version of the post, including an updated spreadsheet, is posted here.

Although Facebook has unofficially admitted that there seems to be little rhyme or reason these days when it comes to the time of day or day of week when a brand posts content on their page, it’s still worth doing a quick analysis to see if this is, indeed, the case for your page.

The challenge, it turns out, is that there are multiple aspects of what sounds like a pretty straightforward assessment:

  • What metric(s) actually make for a “successful” post?
  • How do you effectively consider time of day and day of week?
  • Have you actually posted on a sufficient variety of dates and times to have the data to do a meaningful analysis?

After scraping together some hasty cuts at this, I thought it would be worthwhile to try to knock out something that was easily shareable and reusable. The result is the downloadable spreadsheet at the end of this post.

What It Looks Like

The spreadsheet takes a simple export of post-level data from Facebook Insights (the .csv format) and generates three basic charts.

The first chart simply shows the number of posts in each time slot and each day of week — this answers the question of, “What spots have I not even really tried posting in?”

In this example, there have not been any posts from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM, only one post between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM, and only four posts on a Friday. Don’t worry if you don’t like the time windows — we’ll get to that in a bit.

The next two charts are crude heatmaps of a couple of metrics, but they both use the same grid as above, and they use a pretty simple green-to-red spectrum to show which spots performed best/worst relative to the other slots:

(I know, I know: red/green is not a colorblind-friendly palette selection. I’ll keep working on the visualization technique!)

The first of these charts looks at the average total reach of the updates that were posted in each time slot — the number of unique users of Facebook who were exposed to the post:

In the example above, Wednesdays looked to perform pretty well reach-wise, as did Saturday afternoon. If you have Facebook paid media running, these results may get skewed. It’s easy enough to update this chart to use Organic Reach rather than Total Reach, or, you can simply factor an awareness of what was running and when into your assessment of the results. Also, keep in mind that Facebook continues to fiddle with the EdgeRank/GraphRank algorithm, so there are aspects of a post’s reach that are beyond your control.

The next chart shows the average engagement rate of the posts, defined as the number of users who engaged with the post in some way (clicked on a link, posted a comment, liked the post, viewed a photo, etc.) divided by the total reach of the post. This is a pretty solid measure of the content quality — did the post drive the users who saw it to take some action to engage with the content? Now, arguably, the propensity for a user to engage is less impacted by the time of day and day of week, but, who knows?

In this example, Sundays and Thursdays were the days when posts appeared to get more engagement (although be leery of that Sunday, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, block — there was only a single post in the data set).

Timeframe Flexibility

Picking a set of timeframes is the most subjective aspect of this whole analysis, and it may be worth iterating through a few times to get to timeframes that are likely to be meaningful for the page given the target consumer. So, I’ve set up the worksheet to make it easy to customize these timeframes. For, instance, below is the same data set used above, but with only four windows of time:

The change look less than 60 seconds to implement (it’s all about VLOOKUPS, pivot tables, and conditional formatting!).

How to Use This for Your Own Page

If you want to try this out for your page(s), simply download the Excel file (this was created using Excel 2007, so it should work fine in both 2007 and 2010) and follow the instructions embedded in the worksheet. You will need to export post-level Facebook Insights data for your page, which may require several iterations (we’ve found that Facebook Insights is prone to hanging up if you try to export more than a couple of months of data at once):

Then, just follow the instructions in the spreadsheet and drop me a note if you run into any issues!

Some Notes on the Shortcomings

This approach isn’t perfect, and, if you have ideas for improving it, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to iterate on the tool. Specifically:

  • This approach measures all updates against the other posts for the same page — there is no external benchmarking. This doesn’t bother me, as I’m a proponent of focusing on driving continuous improvement in your performance by starting where you are. Certainly, this analysis should be complemented by performance measurement that tracks the actual values of these metrics over time.
  • The overall visualization could be better. It’s not ideal that you need to jump back and forth between three different visualizations to draw conclusions about what days/times are really “good” or “bad”…including factoring in the sample size. I’ve toyed with making more of a weighted score and then doing the same color grid, but, then, you’d be looking at a true abstraction of the performance, so I didn’t go that route. Suggestions?
  • A red–>yellow–>green scale just isn’t good when it comes to supporting: 1) black-and-white printouts, and 2) certain forms of color blindness. A more iconographic approach might make more sense.

Please do weigh in with how you would change this. I’m happy to rev it based on input!

25 Comments


  1. Thanks for post Tim. I like the tool and will use for awhile before I make a suggestion. I appreciate ROI tools.

  2. Great post, Tim. I’ve already used the Excel document and will be making some recommendations based on what I found. Also thinking I am going to hack the Excel document to use with Twitter data (Twitalyzer and/or TweetReach) to see what comes out.

  3. Thanks for providing the xls template Tim. Super helpful to get us analysts off the ground running after reading one of your blog posts. Keep’em coming!

  4. Like the tool. A great way to visualize posts. Would love to have a numeric value also to play with to compare against other pages.

  5. I’m just starting to wrap my head around facebook analytics and this post is really helpful. Thank you so much for sharing this tool.

  6. Great post, your website is definitely very useful ! Thank you for the excel file, but I have a little problem about it: could you please tell me how to adjust time in excel for Belgium? (Facebook time +9h). Thanking you in advance, Thomas.

  7. @Thomas In the “Select timezone:” dropdown on the Settings tab, you can select “(GMT +1:00 hour) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris,” and that should do it. Let me know if it doesn’t!

  8. Tim, this is GREAT stuff and I’ve used the Excel file a lot to get an idea of when I’m posting the most on FB page, which timeblocks seem to give me the best engagement and a few other things I pull from the report.

    One question, I recently noticed that when I’m exporting the CSV that the columns you have in the template are not correctly associated with the data that Facebook is now putting in the CSV.
    Have you seen this, or anyone else seen that the columns dont’ match up. (of course, mabybe it’s just me. haha)

  9. @Jeff Thanks, Jeff. Unfortunately, this is a wrinkle with the Facebook Insights exporting. Simply changing the date ranges for which you export data will actually affect both which columns appear and the order of those columns. That’s a royal pain, and it’s something I didn’t realize when I penned this post (and it’s been sloppy of me to not come back and update with that info).

    I don’t (yet) have a great solution for working around that. I think it’s going to wind up being a macro that I need to add that can be used to re-order columns (until I get the Graph API working such that I can hook straight into the data that way).

    Stay tuned!

  10. Tim,

    I didn’t see this setting, it works perfectly now ! Your dashboard is very useful, thank you for it and for this awesome blog !

  11. That’s odd. Is it possible that you’ve got a yellow bar across the top of the screen saying that some features have been disabled for security reasons? There are no macros and no external data connections, so I wouldn’t expect that, but it’s the only thing I can think of as a possibility.

  12. Hey Jeff, i’m pretty sure this happened to me when I deleted ALL the rows of data in Tab 2: Post Details. Make sure you didn’t remove the formulas in the Calculated columns (AS-AY). I had to download the template again and then all worked. Now I am more careful if I want to delete the details. hopefully this is what happened and you can resolve.

  13. I have it working now. I was afraid it was something do to with Mac vs. PC versions of Excel compatibility, but it ends up it was because our IT department had virus software preventing any Microsoft macros from running.

    Thank you all for your help.

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  16. Tim, in reply to Jeff’s comment ” I recently noticed that when I’m exporting the CSV that the columns you have in the template are not correctly associated with the data that Facebook is now putting in the CSV.”
    You replied “Simply changing the date ranges for which you export data will actually affect both which columns appear and the order of those columns. ”

    What date range do you recommend for them to match? I’ve been playing with it for about 30 minutes and cannot get them to match up. This post is a bit old so maybe they really aren’t associating right anymore, not sure? Any advice?

  17. Dear Tim!

    In my csv file, there is no “People Talking About: Likes (Unique Users)” column…

    Did changes Facebook since February?

    What can I do?

    Best regards!

    Zsolt
    from Hungary

  18. Unfortunately, I’ve changed jobs and am not currently working with Facebook Insights on a day-to-day basis, so I don’t have access to a page to check. Good luck — there are usually enough people chattering online about whatever latest curveball Facebook has thrown analysts that you can hopefully find someone who knows.

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