While marketers are, of course, employing monitoring tools to track fan response levels to brands' Facebook page postings, publicly available research providing insights about how content type and timing affect response -- particularly across product/service categories -- has been scarce.
A new white paper from social media management company Vitrue, "The Anatomy of a Facebook Post," provides insights on the relative effectiveness of creative elements or communication techniques, both across a wide range of product/service category clients and deeper digs into the quick-service restaurant/QSR and consumer product goods/CPG categories.
For the research, Vitrue -- which delivers messages, content and applications to more than 265,000 fans or followers through its Social Relationship Management platform -- employed a third party to analyze client brand Facebook posts made between May 1 and Aug. 11 of this year, spanning more than 100 randomly selected streams or pages and representing 42.6 million Facebook fans (15.5% of total Facebook fans served). Engagement/effectiveness was measured by the gross interaction (comments, likes and shares) divided by the number of fans for a particular stream.
Looking at content publishing options -- meaning text, image or video -- across all fans across the brands analyzed, image posts generated 22% more engagement than video posts, and 54% more engagement than text posts. Video, however, generated 27% more engagement than text posts.
Within the CPG category or vertical, images generated 204% more engagement than video and 86% more engagement than text. However, among CPGs, an exception was found to video as the second-most-engaging format. Text was found to rank higher than video within this group (text generated 63% more engagement than video).
Among QSRs, images generated 136% more engagement than video and 182% more engagement than text.
While the intuitive guess might be that video would be most compelling, Vitrue suggests that images' superior engagement performance is perhaps not that surprising. "An image like a coupon or photo provides the visual impact that bland text lacks, in terms of grabbing consumers' attention, without the time commitment required for loading, watching and perhaps sharing a video," notes Vitrue CEO Reggie Bradford. "While video consumption, including on mobile, will continue to grow, there are practical limitations -- particularly at work."
Furthermore, when it comes to QSRs and CPGs, the images being posted are often coupons or promotional offers -- which have, of course, become stronger-than-ever engagement devices in the current economy, Bradford points out.
Looking at effectiveness by day of the week of posting, overall, Friday posts were found to generate more engagement, followed by Tuesday/Wednesday. Sunday and Saturday showed the lowest engagement rates.
However, significant variance was seen among verticals. For CPGs, Thursday posts generated the highest engagement, followed by Tuesday/Friday. Wednesday showed the worst performance. Among QSRs, Wednesday posts performed best, followed by Thursday/Friday. Sunday was the worst posting day.
Vitrue notes that the QSR pattern likely reflects consumers' propensity to pick Wednesday to dine out, as a midweek break from home dinners, while Fridays are prime time for checking out restaurant offers and choices for the weekend.
Looking at effectiveness as a function of time of day of posting, the analysis found that overall, posts made in the morning (between 12 a.m. and 12 p.m.) had a 65% higher engagement rate than afternoon posts. Among CPGs, posts made before noon pulled 21% more engagement than those made in the afternoon, and among QSRs, morning posts generated 12% more engagement than afternoon posts.
This, suggests Vitrue, likely reflects people's habit of checking Facebook early in the morning, and then again before lunch.
The overall takeaway is by no means that all brands -- or all QSRs or CPGs -- should now pounce on a specific content format or day of the week or time of day, stresses Bradford. In fact, he says, the variability shown in the comparative results for QSRs and CPGs, and the variability seen among brands within a category or vertical (not disclosable for confidentiality reasons), underline the importance of brand-specific Facebook research.
"While this analysis points to some rules of thumb, and we'll be doing additional research and analysis going forward, each brand must understand its own consumers and how they respond to posts, including content type, day of week and time of day," sums up Bradford. "Given the rapidly growing investment in Facebook and other social media, they deserve the same type of research that enables marketers to determine the optimal content and timing for communications in TV, direct mail, email and other media."