Facebook's News Feed a Limited Engagement for Advertisers

The Half-life of a News Feed Post? About 80 Minutes, Study Says

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How long does it take for a Facebook post to get stale? About 1 hour and 20 minutes, according to a new study released by social analytics firm Visibli. So for all those brands spending money to get a mention in the News Feed, it's a very quick ride.

Part of the takeaway, Visibli CEO Saif Ajani said, is that marketers and brands can get some comfort knowing that posts on Facebook are fresh for a longer period of time than posts on Twitter, because everything on that microblog happens so quickly and in real-time. "On Twitter, 95% of re-tweets happen in an hour," he said.

And what can brands do to stay fresh on Facebook? "If you want to maximize your exposure, you should post every hour and 20 minutes," Mr. Ajani said, adding that his company has worked with brands like Interscope Records and Zagat.

The company studied the behavior of 200 million Facebook users -- an impressive number considering it's about a third of Facebook's total membership. By tracking the number of "likes" and "comments" that each post received over time, Visibli cam up with the resiliency of each post. Visibli determined the half-life by calculating that Facebook posts receive 50% of their likes in the first 1 hour and 20 minutes, 80% in the first 7 hours, and 95% within 22 hours.

What do the other numbers mean? "It means that if you want 95% of your social graph to see your post, you should leave it up for 22 hours," Mr. Ajani said. "But alternatively, if you post too often, your new posts will start cannibalizing the engagement of the previous posts."

Companies such as Starbucks are buying the kind of ad units that double their appearance in user news feed -- the sponsored story ad sold by Facebook will make sure that a user's mention of or check-in to Starbucks will show up once in his or her news feed as a status and a second time on the side of the screen as an ad, with the user's profile attached.

Starbuck's declined to comment on the study, but PepsiCo's head of digital, Shiv Singh, said there's "no question that Facebook equals news feed," adding that the time Visibli reports is in keeping with PepsiCo's research. "We see a sharp drop-off in engagement with a post after 12 hours," Mr. Singh said. His company has also done research on the best days of the week and the best time of day to put out a message on Facebook. But he said he is more interested in other analytics.

"We pay attention to the number of impressions that the post is getting, and as long as we are hitting those numbers -- as well as the Likes and comments -- then it doesn't matter what the life span is," Mr. Singh said.

Mary Henige, General Motors' director of social media, said that for brands like the Chevrolet Volt, a post is a post is a post. "No matter what the length of time is, any moment you're engaging with consumers and they're engaging with you, it increases their loyalty," Ms. Henige said. And is it worth it, all this effort and posting and research into stale posts? "It's worth it because you're connected to the consumer."

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