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We Analyzed 43 Million Facebook Posts From the Top 20,000 Brands

Aug 7, 2018 10 min readNews and Trends

What a year for Business Pages on Facebook!

It sure feels like every time we as marketers and business owners think we have our Facebook marketing strategy figured out, a major algorithm change is announced or a new tactic becomes the latest trend.

Over the years, we’ve learned that the best way to reach our audiences on Facebook is to study the data, experiment constantly, be open to learning, and take a growth mindset.

In the spirit of learning, we partnered with BuzzSumo to analyze more than 43 million posts from the top 20,000 brands on Facebook in one of the largest studies of 2018.

Today, we’re excited to share the eye-opening research with you (hint: Page engagement continues to decline) as well as how your business or brand can revamp your Facebook marketing strategy moving forward and still find a ton of success on the platform.

Let’s dive in!

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Table of Contents

Lessons from analyzing 43 million Facebook Business Page posts

BuzzSumo has access to some of the most robust Facebook data on the planet, which powers some incredible research studies like this one where they analyzed more than 100 million Facebook videos.

Earlier this month, we approached their team with one (not-so-simple) question:

How are Facebook Business Pages performing in 2018?

Here’s what we learned…

1. Top Pages are posting a lot more

It’s long been debated whether or not posting more results in more engagement and reach for your Facebook Business Page. Many brands report a positive increase in results when they post more, while others experience the opposite.

Either way, as we can see from the chart below there has been a 24% increase in the number of posts per quarter from 6.5m posts to 8.1m posts over the past year.

That’s an increase from 72,000 posts per day in Q1 2017 to 90,032 posts per day in Q2 2018. In other words, nearly 20,000 additional pieces of content are being posted by the world’s top brands… every day.

Number of Facebook Business Page Posts - Facebook Marketing Strategy

In Q2 2018, the top 20,000 Facebook pages were publishing an average of 135 posts per month, which amounts to just over four per day.

2. Overall Page engagement is declining (again)

Naturally, if the world’s top Facebook Pages are posting an additional 20,000 pieces of content per day to the platform, there’s going to be an increasing amount of competition in the News Feed and a decrease of engagement across the board.

As businesses, however, I don’t think we truly understood how dramatic this decline in engagement (shares, likes, reactions, and comments) has been overall – until now.

Our findings show that engagement has dropped by more than 50% over the last 18 months.

Facebook Business Page Engagement - Facebook Marketing Strategy

In that same time frame, the average engagement per post has dropped by over 65% from 4,490 engagements per post to 1,582 engagements per post.

As with most social networks, the data shows that there is a difference in performance between the various types of content that are posted (links, videos, images).

Interestingly enough, we found that images (not video) regularly receive the most engagement. However, consistent with the data above, average engagement per image dropped from 9,370 per post in Q1 2017 to just 3,454 per post in Q2 2018.

Respectively, average engagement per video fell from 5,486 to 2,867. Here’s a quick chart to show the differences between types of content:

Facebook business page post type performance

Note: More on this chart and why it’s important for your Facebook marketing strategy later!

4. Posting 5 times per day resulted in the highest overall engagement

As we’ll discuss later in this article, there seems to be an “optimal amount of posting” to consider when it comes to your Facebook marketing strategy.

The data showed that Facebook Business Pages that posted less than once a day had the highest engagement per post:

Average Engagement Per Post

However, those that posted less than once per day had the lowest overall levels of engagement. As you increase the frequency of posting overall levels of engagement rise, but only to a point.

Pages posting 5 times per day received an average of 2,466 engagements per post (a total of 12,330). Pages posting 10 or more times per day received an average of 1,202 engagements per post (a total of 12,020 engagements). In other words, posting 5 times per day appears to be the optimal Facebook posting frequency.

We also found that engagement fell over the last 18 months regardless of posting frequency, all Pages suffered a greater than 50% reduction in engagement.

Drop in Facebook Business Page Engagement

Those Facebook Business Pages that posted more than 10 times a day saw the biggest fall off in engagement of nearly 66%.

5. Top Page categories experienced 49-70% overall drop in engagement

Last, but not least, we looked at the overall engagement drop by Business Page type:

Total Drop in Engagement by Facebook Business Page Type

Artist Pages saw the biggest decrease in engagement at 70.6% followed by movie Pages and media/news Pages.

Page categories still play a key role in the overall success of your Facebook marketing strategy. When selecting your Page category, be sure to understand the nuances between each and how it will affect your content.

If you’d like to check out all of the original data, feel free to jump into the Excel spreadsheet here (created by the team at BuzzSumo) and run an analysis of your own!

Now onto more insights!

5 reasons why Facebook Business Page engagement is declining

Although the data above paints a fairly bleak picture for businesses, there is still hope for your Facebook marketing strategy moving forward. In fact, we believe that the future is very bright for Pages willing to experiment and make a change.

But first, we must understand why we’re seeing a decrease in engagement so that we can know where to start to improve.

Increased competition

Today there are more than 80 million Business Pages on Facebook with a staggering 41% of all small businesses across the globe having a presence on the platform.

The challenge for these businesses is that as the volume of Page content increases, the space available in the News Feed for content remains the same. In other words, there is simply too much content being posted.

Higher quality content

Businesses are becoming more and more savvy at creating high-quality content across all social media channels. Video marketing no longer remains a mystery for many brands, ad content is better and more targeted than ever, and marketers are improving tremendously at their jobs every day.

For audiences, this is actually a major positive. As brands, much of our success on Facebook depends on our ability to be able to create and deliver quality content on a consistent basis. But that also means the content quality bar is higher than ever before.

The Facebook algorithm continues to evolve

There has long been a slow and steady decline in organic reach as Facebook has changed the News Feed algorithm over the years to favor family and friends over Pages.

Facebook News Feed Algorithm

According to Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri, in January 2018 Facebook began to “shift ranking to make News Feed more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation.”

Businesses are no longer only competing against each other for attention in the News Feed, they’re now facing competition from every single profile, Page, and Group on Facebook.

Prioritization of ad content in the News Feed

At the end of the day, Facebook is a business of their own. In order to continue to provide a great experience for their users as well as a return on investment to their shareholders, they must be able to turn a profit.

And because Facebook is completely free to use for people, businesses, and developers, their largest source of revenue comes from advertisers on the platform.

Facebook Advertising Revenue

For Facebook, there is a constant balancing act between creating a great experience for their users and maximizing profit for their shareholders. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a shift towards more ad content in the News Feed.

Now that we’ve looked at several of the top reasons why engagement is declining on Facebook, let’s dive into some actionable takeaways for your Facebook marketing strategy.

How to improve your Facebook marketing strategy today

As mentioned before, I believe that there is truly an exciting opportunity for businesses and brands on Facebook – as long as they are willing to make a change and experiment with their Facebook marketing strategy.

Here are my 3 biggest tips that will help your Page improve engagement and reach starting today, including a few great examples from the world’s top 20,000 brands. We can all learn a thing or two from them!

1. Consider the return on investment (ROI) of each Facebook post

One thing that doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to your Facebook marketing strategy is the ROI of each Facebook post. In looking at the data above, it’s clear that the success of each post dramatically decreases after posting 5 (or more) times per week.

In this regard, there seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to Facebook posting frequency: quality vs. quantity.

  • Quality: Focused on posting fewer, quality Facebook posts that reach a higher number of people per post
  • Quantity: Focused on posting more Facebook posts that reach a higher number of people overall

In the past, the quantity approach worked for hundreds of Business Pages – the more they posted the more engagement they saw on a daily, weekly, etc. basis. However, the data above shows that this approach no longer works, and in fact, might be decreasing the effectiveness of all of your Facebook content (i.e., the ROI of each post).

Facebook Pages such as HubSpot have shifted their Facebook marketing strategy to focus on tactics that work such as producing more viral videos and images and stopped spending time on things that don’t work such as posting links to their website.

Facebook and other social media channels are no longer a means to an end. They are now the platforms in which people can consume content, be entertained, shop, share, and so much more without ever having to leave the comfort of their app.

A large part of your new and improved Facebook marketing strategy should be focused on engagement, interacting with your audience, and increasing the ROI of each post, instead of simply broadcasting your message.

2. Tap into your audience’s top reasons for sharing online

In 2011, the New York Times published an intriguing article on the science behind why people share online. More than seven years later, the lessons learned in that research are still as relevant as ever for your Facebook marketing strategy.

They found that the top 5 reasons why people share online is to:

  1. Delight others with valuable & entertaining content
  2. Identify and present ourselves to others
  3. Foster relationships
  4. Self-fulfillment
  5. Spreading the word about issues, products, and brands

It’s no coincidence that some of the most viral content on Facebook is related to food, animals, fashion, humor and beauty!

Top Video Content on Facebook

I encourage your business to go through your last 50 Facebook posts and examine them from a consumer perspective. Ask yourself: if I were to see this in the Facebook News Feed, would I actually interact with the content?

Brands such as Brain Pickings are creating content centered around people’s desire to connect and share interesting things with their friends and family. Even if that something is as simple as a friendly “hello” or reminder about the special place their relationship holds in their heart. This is a great example of the simplicity of viral content:

If you’re interested in reading more about why people share online, Brian Carter made some interesting observations about what makes Facebook content viral, including 7 things that content must do in order to be shared.

3. Optimize your content for mobile consumption

The rise of mobile usage and consumption is a big deal for businesses, particularly on Facebook.

More than 95% of Facebook users access the social network from their mobile device, meaning that it’s time for us to start consider the implications of mobile and how we might evolve our Facebook marketing strategies moving forward.

One of the biggest factors driving this change is vertical video viewing, a format which reflects natural user behavior (many of us hold our phones in an upright position). Facebook studies have shown that 79% of vertical video consumers agreed that the format is more engaging, and said they would choose the vertical format in most cases. They also found that 65% of respondents said that brands using vertical video for their advertising are “more innovative.”

Brands such as LDN are using vertical video to creatively show off their products in a fun and unique way:

LDN NYC Vertical Video Video Example

The other major factors to consider when optimizing your content for mobile are video length and caption length.

BuzzSumo found that the optimal video length on Facebook is anywhere between 30-120 seconds. In other words, your videos should be no longer than 2 minutes.

Optimal Video Length

When it comes to caption length, we did a bit of subjective analysis within the BuzzSumo tool and came up with a way to think about captions: show, not tell.

BuzzSumo Facebook Page Analyzer

The quicker you can get someone to click on or engage with your content on mobile, the better. That often means keeping your captions short and sweet as to not distract users from your ultimate goal.

Over to your Facebook marketing strategy

I’d love to hear from you!

How are you feeling about your Facebook marketing strategy moving forward? Are you excited for the future of Facebook in general? What experiments do you plan on trying first?

Feel free to drop me a comment or question below about the data in this study or just to say “hello.” I’m looking forward to hearing your Facebook ideas so that we can all learn from each other!

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