"The answer to that question, which I'm asked all the time, reminds me of the old saying about how long your legs should be," said social media consultant Christie Keith. "Your legs should be exactly long enough to reach the ground."
In other words, animal organizations should post to their Facebook pages with the frequency that exposes their pets and their cause to the largest appropriate audience.
"The frequency you should post isn't related to how much time you have, how many volunteers you have who want to do it, or how many pets you need to find homes for," Keith said. "Your ideal posting frequency is a straightforward data point you should be able to find simply by paying attention to how different posting schedules impact reach, comments and shares on your posts."
Which doesn't mean there aren't guidelines. Posting more than twice a day, or less than three hours apart, is almost certainly going to harm your ability to reach and engage your page's followers.
"I see shelters and rescue groups that flood their pages with posts all day and all night, sometimes more frequently than every hour," Keith said. "This is absolutely a terrible idea. It will reduce overall reach, annoy your followers, and cause your efforts to be far less successful than they would be if you posted more strategically.
"I would rather see animal groups make the opposite mistake -- posting too rarely -- because while it won't help you, it also doesn't hurt you the way over-sharing does."
Where to start?
1. Post once per day at 3 PM local time and 8 PM local time to start, Keith advises. "I manage the Shelter Pet Project Facebook page, and after a great deal of trial and error, we learned those are the best times in terms of shares, comments and reach. Late nights are especially good for shares about pets needing adoption." She finds the evening is also prime time for fundraising for the medical expenses of abused or badly injured animals.
2. Watch the analytics that Facebook gives for each post. Once you have a baseline, try to post earlier or later; see how it impacts your numbers.
3. Experiment with posting just once per day. See how it affects your numbers.
4. Once you've established your best times of day and frequency of posting, stick with it only as long as it keeps working. If you see a drop-off, it may be because things have changed on Facebook. "If that's the case, you have to start the whole process over," Keith said. "The numbers don't lie."
One of Keith's biggest frustrations is animal groups that post all day long but don't get involved in conversation with their followers in the comments section of their posts.
"The more conversation that happens on a post, the more of your followers Facebook will show it to," she said. "If you have staff or volunteers who want to be involved in Facebook, tell them to work the comments section instead of posting over and over. Comments will help you; excessive posting only hurts."
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