Social marketing solutions provider SocialCode examined engagement with Facebook posts from the social network’s top 500 pages from Aug. 1 through Oct. 20 to determine, as Chief Information Officer Addie Conner put it, “How brands can better optimize their page in order to have placement in the news feed.”

Conner said of brands on Facebook:

Brands are just now beginning to realize how content distribution on Facebook is really working. People don’t go to pages. There’s a mental shift to understand content and news feed.

How much are people really prone to like, comment on, or share that content after being exposed to it? How do I properly use paid media as a viral accelerant?

You are competing to get content distribution against all of that user’s friends and all of the pages they have liked. Facebook doesn’t care whether it’s organic or paid — it is very user-centric.

Here are some of the findings and resulting best practices suggestions from the study by SocialCode:

  • 50 percent of Facebook users who engaged with posts from the top 500 brands on the social network did so within the first 90 minutes that the posts were live, and 80 percent did so within 10 hours. SocialCode said, “The majority of activity comes instantaneously, making it very important to differentiate post content from that of other brands. If a post is not immediately intriguing, the chance of it getting lost in the news feed after the first hour-and-a-half is likely.”

  • Although the most common time of day for posts by the brands in the study closely mirrored traditional work hours — Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET — Facebook users who liked those brands were most active after 7 p.m. ET Wednesday through Friday. “most likely due to the end of the work day, when users are able to log-on to personal accounts to check messages and events. This suggests that there is a great opportunity for posts after 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as there is an uptick in activity, but not enough content to satisfy user engagement.”

  • As has been stated time and again, posts with photos ruled in terms of engagement, drawing a 72 percent response rate, compared with links (13 percent), text-only status updates (9 percent), and videos (6 percent). SocialCode said, “While Facebook is overpopulated with news and content, a photo is a quick and captivating way to offer a preview of what’s to come post-click — making it simpler for users to cut through the chatter and focus on what they are most interested in.”
  • Short and sweet: Posts with five to 10 words performed the best, while those with more than 10 words tailed off sharply. SocialCode said, “Clearly, social users do not have the tolerance to sift through text-heavy posts. Effectively communicating a message in concise phrasing is critical. Remember, the first hour-and-a-half of a post’s life is the top window of opportunity. Including a brief message that fans can respond to quickly is key.
  • When it comes to calls to action, asking users to like posts was the least effective tactic, while encouraging them to comment lifted engagement to three times those of average posts, and asking them to share posts hiked engagement by 1.5 times.
  • Placing the calls to action at the beginning of posts resulted in engagement rates 24 percent higher than including them at the end of posts. According to SocialCode, “Users respond well to a message or direction that is not lost in the post or platform.”

Readers: Did any of SocialCode’s findings surprise you?