Credit: By Carlos Maya. Some rights reserved.

This article is published in partnership with Echobox.

For a publisher keen to use Facebook as a way to connect with an audience of potential news readers, it can be difficult to know exactly how to plan and execute a campaign that maximises both the value of the content being posted and the engagement opportunity social sharing presents.

When the publisher wants to promote news stories, pick up followers and build a presence, often their thinking turns to a single key consideration – the best moment to share content, the point where the audience will be most responsive.

The internet is awash with attempts to answer the seemingly simple question of when a publisher should share on Facebook to achieve maximum traffic, but a new investigation believes that conventional wisdom on the subject is flawed and suggests no universal best time exists for publishers to share content on Facebook.

No universal best time to share

By comparing traffic from Facebook of three leading news publishers from South America, France, and the UK, Echobox, a firm applying Artificial Intelligence to content usage, was able to determine that each had a very different click-through profile.

The South American publisher achieved its best performance when sharing between 11am and 4pm, but performed poorly at other times. The UK and French publishers achieved more consistent results throughout the day, but each experienced peaks in share traffic at different times.

In each of these cases, the publisher was well established on Facebook and created both international and national news. Echobox reached its conclusions by looking at a year’s worth of median traffic data from which it determined average volumes being pulled from Facebook to each individual site.

A best local time to share?

After establishing there wasn’t a universal best time for news publishers to share socially on Facebook, local markets were examined to determine if publishers working in different sectors, but in the same countries, shared common audience behaviours.

"We compared traffic from the French news publisher with a leading French sports publisher of similar size," said Dr David Springer, data science engineer with Echobox.

"Before 10am they achieve similar results, but by early afternoon the news publisher enjoyed a strong peak while the sports publisher was in a dip."

Overall, the sports publisher’s traffic from Facebook was more consistent, with few dramatic oscillations in traffic. The news publisher, however, had clear and definable periods when more readers were clicking through to its stories.

Even for two publications of equivalent size working in the same country stark differences were found in audience behaviour. A further test of the French news publisher against a second French news publisher found crucial differences in activity. Despite a similar pattern of peaks and troughs, the peaks occurred at different times of the day and achieved different relative highs and lows for each site.

"When one publisher experiences a peak in share performance at 11am," added Springer, "it is in fact one of the worst times for the other publisher to be sharing its content."

What works for you

News publishers looking for a best universal time for sharing on Facebook are unlikely to be reassured by the findings of the Echobox investigation. It does, however, provide evidence of how the characteristics and appetites of audiences varies greatly between publications.

"The key for publishers wanting to find the best time to share stories comes down to understanding individual audiences and its unique content," added Springer.

"But this can be very complex. It’s a calculation best done by an automated system that’s able to process large volumes of real-time and historical data to determine what’s best for each individual publication."

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