Published February 7th 2016

How To Improve Facebook Engagement: Insights From 1bn Posts

As you know, at BuzzSumo we love discovering insights from big data. We took this to a new level in January when we analyzed over 1 billion posts from 30m brand pages on Facebook. We shared our findings with Neil Patel, who pulled out the key insights from this research for marketers. You can read his post on the implications for Facebook marketing here.

We have summarised the key findings from the research and analysis in the slides below.

In summary, the core findings are as follows:

  1. The post formats that get the most engagement are questions and images.
  2. Short form text posts of less than 50 characters get the most interaction. It seems Facebook is not a place for reading but finding and engaging.
  3. Videos that are directly embedded get over six times the engagement of embedded YouTube videos.
  4. Surprisingly posts without hashtags get more interaction than posts with hashtags.
  5. Posts published between 10 PM and Midnight of your audience’s local time get the most engagement. It seems publishing when there are less posts being published, and vying for attention, increases engagement. Thus you should zig when others zag.
  6. Posts published on Sunday get more engagement on average. Again this seems due to less competition from other posts.
  7. Posts that link to longer form articles over over 1,000 words get the most engagement.
  8. Posting images via Instagram appear to provide a 23% increase in engagement.

How do these findings chime with your own Facebook experience?

We have previously set out how Facebook is becoming a major content discovery platform that all sites, both B2B and B2C need to engage with.  Recent data from on the sources driving traffic confirms this trend as we can see below.

facebook v google’s database includes over 400 major news and media outlets, including Wired, The Atlantic, Reuters, Mashable, The Next Web and Business Insider. These sites receive over 6 billion page views and over 1 billion unique visitors per month.

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37 responses to “How To Improve Facebook Engagement: Insights From 1bn Posts”

  1. Ian Chew says:

    Another quality data driven post, Steve! Really agree with all the findings esp. 2.

  2. You did a great job, but I think I read Neil’s post before where he mentioned these findings. 🙂

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Luke, Thanks, yes we shared the detailed findings with Neil and his post covers his reflections on the implications for marketers. We have just provided the summary slides here.

  3. Steve thanks for this Great Information I just learned some Tips that I will be testing on my FB page Number 5, 6 & 7 are on my agenda this Week.

  4. Wonderful post. I’m still wondering though, in my experience the hashtags do help as long as they are not in the main part of the text. And I’m wondering very much about the 10pm bit, as most of the businesses I work with have parents as customers and our research says before 8pm. So, the question is, how much of this do we take a gospel and how much do we check our own analytics? The native video and Instagram post data is the same as ours.

    • firstoneout says:

      It is a pretty general statement when it comes to time since viewers vary. Our analytics show that we have the best interaction between 8-9pm consistently through the week and drops like a rock after 9pm.

    • Raj B says:

      I agree with you Phyllis. Track your own analytics, align your content to your target audience. Interact with your audience personas, learn, adapt quickly to changing trends.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Phyllis, Yes, these are just averages so you do need to check what works for you. There does seem to be evidence that posting when there is less competition, but when your audience is still online, may have benefits. Thanks for sharing and confirming the video and Instagram findings.

  5. David Sallinen says:

    Excellent post ! Nothing about wording ?

    • James Gardner says:

      Kind of was… 🙂
      1. The post formats that get the most engagement are questions (and images).
      2. Short form text posts of less than 50 characters get the most interaction.

  6. Lisa Toner says:

    Great post and so timely. HubSpot just partnered with AdEspresso and analysed 100k Facebook business ads to identify what goes into making a successful one. It covers wording, imagery and content so complements your findings nicely! 🙂

  7. Lucas Rockwood says:

    Super interesting, but I think it’s worth noting that with social content the exceptions throw off the curve in a way that makes generalizations pretty meaningless. A viral post goes so viral, it throws off the average for other “good” or “effective” posts. Most FB pages are local and don’t actually have (and shouldn’t have) viral content, so I’m fairly certain many people trying to use this averaged data in their local businesses will find it doesn’t apply, particularly the data in reference to post times, length of post, and FB images from Instagram. But I’ll test it all for sure;)

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Lucas, Thanks, you are right about the dangers of averages. What we try to do at BuzzSumo is highlight insights from data and inspire people to try new things. What really matters though is what works for you and you need to find that out from testing and reviewing content performance.

  8. Raj B says:

    Good data points but these are indicators in general. When it comes to content marketing, every business need to experiment, find what works for them. Every business is unique and you have your onw target audience, geography and demographics you want your content to resonate. Key is experiment, fail quickly, learn faster and adpat. Need incentives to fail in Content Marketing!

  9. says:

    Great stuff and amazing post!

  10. The Wardrobe Stylist says:

    Awesome! Love this.

  11. Jaime Jay says:

    Fantastic read. It’s great to hear these stats based off such a large volume of posts as it really helps us determine what we can do that might spark our conversions even though we don’t have large data sets.

  12. CreditBridge says:

    Just out of curiosity, how did you pull the Facebook data?

  13. Brad Marcus says:

    Outstanding article. Looking forward to testing out the bullet points.

  14. BeaZea says:

    Loved your analysis. A lot of useful insight.
    One remark, when looking at the engagement each post type received, I’d guess the giveaways/ coupons types, which are meant to draw people to your brand/ site, received the most LinkClicks, but these do not show in your analysis.

  15. Controlling what shows up in your rich snippets boost Facebook engagement (and sharability) substantially, too! #welovesnippets

  16. Frederique says:

    Interesting findings, but I noticed most of the graphs have “# of interactions” as the y-axis — was reach taken into account?

  17. Aljaz Fajmut says:

    Interesting findings… Would be great to see this data split up by different markets

  18. Benny Traub says:

    I use your service all the time! Gave you a thumbs-up in a new article on how to benefit from third party content in your marketing:

  19. Elijah Carroll says:

    Great article. There’s a typo in #7, as the word “more” is written twice.

  20. llumba1991 says:

    Isn’t video on the list of most viewed content on facebook? As facebook is prioritizing more on online videos and native videos are getting more views.

    • Nathan Newton says:

      I am posting both video content as well as images on my fanpage. What I have noticed is that due to the way Facebook uses it’s newsfeed, your images are going to get a far greater audience reach as well as engagement. This may just be due to the niche that I am in, but this is what my research has show. I have found that the images help me to increase my audience reach if used correctly. I also get a greater engagement response through my images as opposed to video sources.

  21. Brad Einarsen says:

    The post type of “Question” is unclear to me. It’s not an official “post type” on Facebook so are you interpreting any post with a question mark in it as a “Question” post? Thanks for this, these are great insights, especially the Native vs. YouTube video.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Brad, thanks. We filter any post with a question mark as a question post. Not perfect but a good way of seeing questions that are resonating.

  22. Cat PAYEN says:

    <3 love the info here guys, brilliant research, so grateful thanks. Interesting to know that 10pm to midnight is best time no matter the country helps too. All points help so glad I found this to help moi!!!

  23. Any plans to update this? Curious what things look like a year later 🙂

  24. Yaolin Huang says:

    From my experience, pics are welcomed. But the question is i get very few shares of any types of post. How to improve this? ANY ADVICE?

  25. Dana N. says:

    So what’s the deal with those #hashtags?