Strategy report: Can media organizations benefit from refined posting schedules on Facebook?


There is no perfect time to post on Facebook, but posts perform better when published during peak “awake” hours in the U.S., according to the CrowdTangle U.S. local news trends report.

Leaders at two local newspapers, Erie Times-News and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, have done significant work in the last couple of years to understand their unique audience’s social habits and consumption behaviors and preferences.

Using data from Facebook and CrowdTangle, Executive Editor Matt Martin said the Times-News has established its own cadence for posting that resonates with its audience of about 77,700 followers.

“[We] pay attention to mornings. While we have more followers active around 8-9 p.m., the 6-10 a.m. window is the most critical for engagement and referrals seven days a week. If we miss it — if we don’t publish our best material twice an hour, up to nine posts total — it’s almost impossible to make up the losses throughout the rest of the day, barring major breaking news or publication of a gallery of 50 or more photos,” he said. “On Saturday and Sunday, missing that window dooms us every time. It’s clear there is a morning routine, that on weekends in particular that routine is mobile (up to 80 percent of all visits), and that mobile users are treating Facebook as their de facto home page.”

Additionally, “5 p.m., drive time, is dead to us. It’s generally not even worth posting on Facebook between 4:45 and 5:45 p.m.,” he said.

The Times-News is scheduling Facebook, generally on the hour 6 a.m. through at least 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Martin said. Sundays sometimes the team will follow that schedule or switch on the quarter-hours instead.

“That 9:45 a.m. post instead of 10, or 12:45 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. weekdays, often will drive more referrals simply because they’re earlier rather than at the close of those known user windows — by 10 a.m. daily, noon to 1 p.m. weekdays.”

A couple of years ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did a deep dive into their content to uncover actionable insights for scheduling on social, according to Emily Ristow, loyalty and engagement news director at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“We looked at what types of content — whether links, photos, videos, Facebook Lives, the topic of those content types, like news and sports—and looked if there were certain times of day things tended to overperform, and also just what was resonating with our audience,” she said. Previously the newsroom posted most of what was published on the site, sometimes later in the evening, missing opportunities to capture earlier followers. “Now we’re pretty particular about what we share. And one of the guiding things for us is, ‘Are other people likely to share this on their feeds, too?’ That to us indicates that they are more likely to comment, react, or click on it if it’s something that they would be interested in sharing themselves too.”

Takeaway: Regularly review data to discover programming and news consumption trends for your specific audience, and dispatch those learnings in schedules and standards.

Keep reading: What local news Facebook videos are most engaging and why?

This report was produced by the Local News Resource Center, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project