social media how toHaving trouble engaging your Facebook audience?

If your fans are not interacting with your brand and sharing your content, what value are they?

In this article, you’ll discover how to get more likes, comments and shares. I’ll reveal five strategies for Facebook posts that get your fans buzzing.

#1: Keep Your Updates Short

Research repeatedly shows that the longer a post is, the less engagement it will receive.

Blame it on Twitter, but people don’t have the time or patience to read anything over 140 characters anymore.

Results vary, but research shows that 100 characters or fewer seems to be the sweet spot. This will also allow for easy cross-posting on Twitter.

Want even more engagement? Let a photo do the talking.


Posts with fewer than 140 characters combined with bold, beautiful photos get the most response.

According to Facebook, posts that include a photo album, picture or video generate about 180%, 120% and 100% more engagement, respectively.

Starbucks is a great example of a brand combining short posts with beautiful photos. Their posts generally fall within the 100- to 140-character mark and elicit thousands of likes and comments.

#2: Don’t Use URL Shorteners

A recent study by Buddy Media found that engagement rates were three times higher for Facebook posts that use a full-length URL, rather than a link generated by a URL shortener like

bad bitly post

Converse fans may have liked this post, but how many actually clicked on the link? Generic URLs are less likely to drive traffic to your site.

Why is this?

The likely explanation is that Facebook users want to know where you’re taking them. This makes even more sense considering the fact that Facebook users are increasingly accessing the social network exclusively from their mobile devices (20%, or 102 million and growing).

A shortened URL does not indicate what type of website you’re taking them to, which is a deterrent to mobile users.

But didn’t we just learn that longer posts have lower engagement? Yes, but a URL doesn’t seem to count in this instance.

If you’re worried about post length, use a brand-specific URL shortener that lets users know you’re taking them to your website.

For example, Victoria’s Secret uses instead of this crazy-long link:


Get more clicks by using a brand-specific URL shortener. Fans want to know where you're taking them.

#3: Post at Times Ideal for Your Fans

Getting your post at the top of fans’ newsfeeds is paramount for engagement. So how do you do this?

For one, make sure you post at the right times.

Recent data from shows that the optimal time to post on Facebook is between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, when Facebook traffic peaks.

Links posted between 1 and 4 pm get the highest click-through rates, with Wednesday at 3:00 pm being the best time to post all week. Links posted before 8:00 am and after 8:00 pm are less likely to get shared.

Another thing to consider is the TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) factor. As office burnout peaks toward the end of the week, more people will be escaping to Facebook.

Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursday and Friday than other days of the week, according to Buddy Media. Engagement rates fall 3.5% below average for posts Monday through Wednesday, when people are more focused at work.

If your goal is likes, not comments, Dan Zarrella of HubSpot found that Saturday and Sunday posts get the most likes.


Don't forget about the weekend. Saturday and Sunday posts get the most likes.

Finally, make sure you post enough content to stay visible in the newsfeed without annoying your fans. The key to walking this fine line is to know your posts’ lifespan.

The average Facebook post lifespan is 3 hours, although this varies by page.

A post is considered “alive” when it’s occupying the newsfeed or is a Highlighted Story and receiving a continuous stream of engagement.

A post is considered “dead” when its engagement stops growing more than 10% per hour.

Never post while another post is alive or you risk losing engagement.

How do you find your average post lifespan? EdgeRank Checker Pro analyzes your post engagement on an hourly basis (found in the Post Grading section at the bottom of your page analysis).


EdgeRank Checker Pro lets you know your average post lifespan and the best time to post again.

It also tells you the best time to post again. Once engagement has fallen below 10%, your post is considered dead and it’s safe to post new content.

If your average post lifespan is 3 hours, then wait at least that long before posting again.

#4: Use the Right Words for Higher Engagement

What you say—or don’t say—on Facebook matters. Certain words elicit more engagement, while others will leave your post dead in the water.

Buddy Media found that action keywords like “post,” “comment,” “take,” “submit,” “like” or “tell us” are the most effective. Be direct in your request, and fans will listen.


Want your fans to do something? Tell them! Fans respond well to specific instructions.

On the other hand, if you’re running a contest, sweepstakes or other promotional offer, fans don’t respond well to direct or aggressive language.

Softer-sell keywords such as “winner,” “win,” “winning” and “events” will make fans excited rather than feeling like they’re being sold to.

Aggressive promotional keywords like “contest,” “promotion,” “sweepstakes” and “coupon” will turn them off.

#5: Ask Questions

Asking a question is a surefire way to elicit comments, but not all questions are created equal. How and where you ask a question matters.


Place questions at the end of posts to increase engagement.

Questions placed at the end of a post increased engagement by 15% over questions placed at the beginning.

Where,” “when” and “should” drive the highest engagement rates, with “would” generating the most likes. Avoid asking “why” questions, which have the lowest like and comment rates.

Beauty retailer Sephora has mastered the art of when to use action keywords, promotional keywords and questions to get fans engaged.

This Facebook post generated 38,028 likes, 2,188 comments and 4,778 shares.


Combining action keywords like "shop" with soft-sell keywords like "score" will encourage fans to take action. End your post with a question to get 15% more engagement.

For even more tips, read 5 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Engagement.

Now it’s your turn.

What do you think? Did you find these tips helpful? How do you keep your fans engaged? Please share your questions and comments in the box below.

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  • Awesome post Sarah! I love it when the article is about Facebook. Knowing the best time to post is a HUGE piece of information! 
    As usual SME has proven there are amazing things we can learn when it comes to social media! Rock on!

  • Have read elsewhere that longer posts actually increase engagement, particularly among a certain segment. Would like to see the data behind your first conclusion. On the other hand, posting images definitely does increase engagement. Further, have also read on multiple sites differing opinions regarding the best time to make posts on Facebook for better engagement. How did you come to the times/days you reference? Thanks.

  • Love the advice. We are running a photo contest now … oh, I mean photo “event” … and will take into practice your comments about the DOs and DON’Ts of words to use.

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  • Great article, thanks Sarah! I’m still not sold on the URL shortener, though. As a user, I find them more attractive/less spam looking. Personally, when I see a company using a short URL, it portrays to me that they are up-to-date on social media and are more savvy — in a sense, gaining more of my trust already. That’s just me.

    Secondly, where is geo-targeting posts? Wouldn’t targeting an audience with geographically-relevant content increase engagement?Thanks again!-Chris

  • Robert

    I find that reading some of these posts are disheartening – so many of us are small businesses with often much less that a 1000 likes as opposed the the big boys – and yes most of us would like to have 20-50 thousand like but so many of us serving a local market with a limited clientèle – can you help us out?

  • Shane Turner

    This article was very informative. I really appreciate the segment regarding specific times to post, and post intervals. This will definitely help me in my endeavors.
    Thank you

  • Timothy

    Very insightful

  • Robin Pike

    Robert, I have been struggling with this issue since I started my business almost three months ago. I am always looking for way to advertise to my local market. I have a pet sitting business and the internet and social media doesn’t seem to be a good method for local businesses, or at least I haven’t found it to work as well as printed materials.

  • Mrhayden50

    I’m with you Robert. I’m about ready to get off FB all together. I don’t have time as a one-woman-show to be continually watching the clock to remember to run to the mac and post something with a picture that is worded just right. This is just madness anymore. I just don’t think people pay attention to advertising in any format until they are looking for that product/service. I am completely disheartened overall.

  • Great post, Sarah! I’d also encourage page managers to run their own tests to find out when their audiences are most likely to engage. If your audience is a 9-5 crowd in the finance industry, they might engage differently than those in the education field, for example. By running your own tests, you’ll pull data that lets you pinpoint exactly when your customers or fans are primed for engagement.

  • Quick question about brand specific URL shorteners  – How do you create this?

  • Michael Stetina

    Great Post Sarah! That’s the first time I’ve seen FB engagement data on time. I’ll be sharing this with all our clients. Thanks again!

  • I’m also curious about brand specific URL Shorteners.   Is there a specific site u can use to create these?

  • Chanda

    Agree, would love to have my business analyzed/see small business success stories…though did pick up some great tips off this one! 

  • Tina

    Great info!!!

  • Good article Sarah!  Folks, those of you that are disagreeing or questioning the main topic of her points ~ she’s done the research and this advise is based on testing.  I’ve read the same tests and done my own testing for confirmation.  If you want to do your own thing – great!  If you want best results – you might take notice of her post.

  • Dlwardster

    Great post!  I made notes of the words/actions to use on my future fb posts.  I’m always looking for help to get our customer fan base engaged on fb. 

  • Why was my comment not approved  Sarah Pierce???

  • You can schedule your posts very easily using Facebook scheduling techniques. You can login and schedule your posts for a whole week, month or even year!

    I would recommend taking some time and sitting down to plan you posts for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Use a word document first then transfer them over to facebook. Try it and let us know what happens 🙂

  • You would have to have access to your companies web development servers and create them manually.

    Im sure there is someone who had written some code for url generators. Talk to your web guys and Im sure they have an answer. 

  • Eddieographer

    I dont know about this part, seems a little far fetched to me:
    On the other hand, if you’re running a contest, sweepstakes or other
    promotional offer, fans don’t respond well to direct or aggressive
    Softer-sell keywords such as “winner,” “win,” “winning” and “events” will make fans excited rather than feeling like they’re being sold to.
    Aggressive promotional keywords like “contest,” “promotion,” “sweepstakes” and “coupon” will turn them off.

  • Jay Perkins

    I think the Buddy Media study (linked in the article) is where a lot of opinion comes from regarding when to post etc. Its quite a good read actually, recommend it!

  • Alyssa

    I understand about being discouraged and feeling pressure to watch the clock. I recommend to all my small business clients that they use the “Schedule” feature to get a bunch of posts ready at once. Take a small chunk of time, maybe during a lull in your schedule (those free hours between 2 and 4 in them morning, right?! lol) Come up with a few posts and schedule them to go out during the times you think will be best for your people. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It is going to be good for your business to have stuff out there. You can find the Schedule button on the bottom left of the post creator on your Facebook page. 

  • Jay Perkins

    How have you guys found facebook ads, targeted to your local community to gather likes? The sponsored post option is huge for engagement outside of your fans

  • You can use Easy to set up an account and easy to shorten the link. Well worth it

  • Alex

    Which coast are you referring to in terms of time?

    Great article

  • Florena

    There are services such as Buffer App where you can create several Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. and they will research when your audience is online and post them at those times. I believe HootSuite also does this. But Buffer  is integrating with a lot of different groups to save time and automate alot of engagement tools.

  • I found this to very helpful. Thank you!

  • Sarah…… This is a great post, you are so very thorough with your explanation. As a newbie. I find this easy to follow and understand, I really appreciate your efforts in this post.

  • Excellent article, great info on when to get the best from posting

  • Sarah Pierce

     Glad you liked it!

  • Im glad I found this article to read today. I am just getting started as a Social Media Manager and it really helps to have tips like these. I have to agree with Audiomind..I have also read that others have found different posting times to work for them..I would say it has more to do with your target audience..if you are targeting the youngsters in their 20s–then early morning posts are not gonna reach them..but all in all..this was a great article and will def be using some of the tips.

  • Sarah Pierce

    You’re right — there’s varying data that supports both longer posts and shorter posts. The short answer is it depends on which industry you’re in. However, based on all the studies I read, the majority of them point to an average post length of between 95-140 characters. Some experts do suggest longer posts, however. Test out the engagement on your brand page to see what works best for you.

  • @Sara I’m visiting SME after a long time 🙂 I’m itself analyzing my posts, and if you go to Andrea’s wall and see her post “Is it Wednesday already??” it will let you know that your research and hard work is 100% remarkable! Having a crystal clear strategy for your business/brand for social media will drive more traffic, comments/likes to your posts. Time is key for your posts, mostly people don’t understand this small factor and they are away from these analysis.

  • Sarah Pierce

     Good luck on your “event”…and to the lucky “winner!”

  • Sarah Pierce

     I agree. The title of that section is a little misleading. URL shorteners are great and SHOULD be used, but brands should consider using a brand-specific shortened URL instead of a generic link generated by so that users know they’re clicking on a trusted link. Geo-targeting posts is a great idea for another article! Thanks!

  • Sarah Pierce

     Don’t let the example images pulled from major brands dishearten you — all of these tactics can be used by small businesses. As a SMB you’ll probably never have the number of “Likes” and comments that major companies do, but it’s all relative. What really matters is if the engagement you do have — no matter how small — keeps your customers happy and hopefully buying your products or service.

  • Sarah Pierce

     I’m working on putting together a new regular column for that will take a random or user-submitted Page and have an expert weigh in on what works, what isn’t working, and what can be done to improve engagement. Shoot me an email at if you’re interested.

  • Sarah Pierce

     Great advice. The Buddy Media report I linked to in the article goes more in depth about post times for specific industries. It does vary.

  • Sarah Pierce allows you to do this for free. You just need to know your Domain Name Server. Go to the “Tops and Tricks for Advanced Users” section of for more info.

  • Sarah Pierce

     See my comment above in reply to Windy City Publisher. (its awaiting approval from the moderator)

  • Richard – Did you have a link in it?  If so it goes to our editorial team for review

  • Caro Jende

    Thanks for the great article Sarah and the detailed advice on brand specific URL shorteners. I had the very same question and you already answered it!

  • Great article Sarah. Curious, are you a HootSuite or Buffer fan and why?

  • Sarah Pierce

     I use HootSuite because it was recommended to me. Although I’m considering changing just to see if there’s a better platform out there. Haven’t tried Buffer or heard much about it, but sounds like it’s worth looking in to. Do you use it? If so, do you recommend it?

  • Sarah Pierce

     I have to be honest: I don’t know what time zone these studies are referring to. They never mention it, which is odd. I’m assuming they mean Eastern, though. Don’t quote me.

  • Hi Sarah,

    Wow! Great tips.

    I remember reading somewhere that “filling the blank” type of post will increase the enganement as well. For example “Today I am feeling high spirited because of _________ “. What is your opinion on this approach?


  • No, I am still hunting around myself. I am researching a complete solution as well, such as HubSpot3, or Marketo. For “doing it yourself” or small firms, HootSuite Pro is recommended, but check out Buffer and let me know what your thoughts are. Here is grand list for paid services:

    With HootSuite now offering scheduled posts, Buffer might not be needed:

  • Great tips. I wonder what type of engagement the Facebook offers feature is getting.

  • Amal

    Great piece of work by Sarah. You have hot the nail and the post is really useful for everyone struggling to get engagements in FB

    I love your post!

  • Do I still need to use Google Spreadsheets even though I am able to track my metrics using Google Analytics? 

  • This is a great post, Sarah. Thanks for sharing it with us. I completely agree with you on the point that URL shorteners drive much less engagement and eventually traffic to your website than if you display the URL in full length. In my opinion, people are just more cautious when accessing a site, when in reality they don’t know where it will lead them.

  • Great tips Sarah! and certainly learn one thing new here which using of short URL and now it gives me lot clearer point to not use short urls.

  • we are web design company and we use images or snapshots of latest web design created by us, We also use inspirational quotes relevant to our industry . We use hootsuite to schedule are update at peak time as you mentioned in the post but we never taken post length seriously but now we will definitely consider. We use bitly to shorten our url to measure clicks.

  • Indeed, all great tips, Sarah. I’m having an issue with the posting times, however, which I still haven’t really found a solution to. My Page is most popular with readers from USA & Canada on the one hand and the UK and Australia on the other. I think you can see that the time difference plays a big role! I usually try to post at around 5-6pm my time (Greek), which is first thing in the morning Pacific time and still before bedtime in Australia! Does anyone else have this issue and how do they handle it?

  • seventhman

    Wow, thanks Sarah!  I’m lost when it comes to engaging fans on Facebook, especially with the EdgeRank update and I found your tips here super helpful.  I’ve taken down some notes and will test with your recommendations here.

  • Erica

    Thanks for these really GREAT tips. I especially enjoyed the info on optimal FB posting times!!

  • Thanks Sarah for this very informative Facebook issue!  Thanks Michael for the Social Media Examiner series! I look forward to reading each issue and work to implement your tips into my social media marketing. 

  • Florena

    I don’t have a website yet. I have done websites for my employer in the past.  I work for a government bunch that is still afraid of Social Media and I am having trouble with buyin from above. But I am studying it all with the idea of taking my creativity elsewhere. So although I first suggested Buffer, I have not put it through its paces yet. But I am on their email list and they have great blog posts. The group is small and relatively young, but I really like them. They are really into productivity hacks as they call it and so are partnering with a lot of new sites and tools out there. I believe it is a browser extention. But they also write about getting everything done in general and what works for them. Hope this helps. And I also echo, good article Sarah, I have enjoyed it and all the discussion.

  • Jaydanielsh

    Great read, I love the article!
    Any guidance or recommended readings on how companies can measure the Engagement Value?

  • Go Gollings

    We take a lot of photos of our new customers. We have found that the best response is when the customer is touching their vehicle…leaning on it. sitting in it…it really give that feeling of ownership.

  • Great post Sarah. When I first read the title I was like, “Here we go, another post on increasing Facebook engagement.” But you laid it out very well and the statistics you included are EXTREMELY relevant. I handle  SMM/SMO for 40+ clients and this really adds a new dimension to future strategy. Cheers.

  • SusieQGuru

    You can schedule your posts in advance!

  • Wow! Another great tips you have here Sarah!

    Engaging words plus a photo is really effective in Facebook marketing. Tricky one yet it worth to test and try various tricks to know which really works. Thanks Sarah!

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  • Yes, I realise that Susie, but my issue is – schedule them for what time? A good time for North America is not a good time for Australia etc.

  • really enjoyed this article… i really haven’t paid much attention to the time of day – or even WHAT day(s) we should be posting – so this was pretty eye opening.  can’t wait to test it out by posting some good stuff today (friday)!  thanks, Sarah!

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  • Info34

    Thanks Sarah for this essential information.  Facebook is a great place where I share and meet new friends all over the world.  Keep up the great article writing and educating our minds.

  • Charlotte

    Awesome article, Sarah! Thanks for sharing. The tip about Edgerank Checker just saved me HOURS of frustration. 🙂 

  • Hi Sarah,

    Wouldn’t you add “use images”?. I think I’ve somewhere read that images on Facebook  have three times the impact compared with simple text

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  • Rainbow

    Think it depends where your market is based, Facebook insights can tell you where most of your ‘likers’ are based so if it works well at 4 pm on US why not try 4pm in Aus time? It will also depend on your customers are they office bound types? Or people who don’t regularly use computers all day and are more frequent visitors after hours?

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  • Never thought that using URL shorteners like would affect the engagement in my Facebook page. Thanks for enlightening me on this, as well as the other tips.

  • Sarah – Noticed that lots of big pages post questions but never bother replying comments, because there are way to many comments. What do you think about that ?

  • Hey Sarah,
    Thank you for this guide.  I like the idea of asking questions to engage the readers.  Got me thinking.  Maybe I will start running some polls.

  • McArdle Kelly

    Count me in

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  • Petrice

    This article on Social Media Today says that Wednesdays are the worst time in the week to post or advertise on Facebeook.  You say Weds at 3 pm is the best time all week to post. Which one is correct?

  • Great Read. Thanks for the Info!

  • Suedav

    Good info. Thanks

  • This is great! I think it’s important just to mention that every encounter counts! So using these tips and others regularly to make sure that anyone encountering your brand at any given moment is having a positive experience can help leave a good impression. Which, in turn, can make people want to return for further engagement. 

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  • Sarah, you really nailed it with this well written piece and timely piece. As a marketer today, of course I’m using Facebook to represent my clients, as much as I personally prefer Facebook primarily as a venue to communicate with family and friends. However, when we are there, Facebook often becomes an entertainment channel, and smart brands now recognize the opportunity to engage with their customers on a more personal level, in a playful way. I loved the examples in the photos…Starbucks has a huge following and this image shows why…speaks volumes in a single shot. I definitely would like to hear from other social media marketers ideas on how to engage on this Facebook page: Izzui, a Facebook App fan page. . One of the issues is that most of users of the app are in Brazil, and I don’t speak Portuguese! Thoughts are welcome.

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  •  really great piece, now can you write one about Twitter??

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  • It’s really tough to make presence on facebook and increase the fan page likes but this post can help a bit for everyone who are new to facebook marketing. I really appreciate for sharing these tips with us.

  • There is something new and fresh! I have never thought that time between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, is the time when Facebook traffic peaks. Thanks for info!!!

  • Russell

    I’ve noticed that sometimes when someone shares a status update, and when people comment on it from a friends facebook page, that the comment appears on the *original* facebook page (where it was posted) and sometimes the comments only appear on the *friends* page (the person who shared it).  Why is this?  Is there a way to post updates to ensure that all comments from friends of friends appear on the original post and not just on the friend’s post?  

  • Beyond_gifts

    I would definitely be interested. I own a small business selling gift baskets, currently its a home-based business. Other than setting up at the occasional craft fair, my facebook page is currently my business website. I would be quite interested to see a small business page analyzed. Great post by the way!

  • Great Post Sarah… Nice tips, especially the time to post tip. I’ll test it out and measure accordingly.  

  • I am just starting with SMM and this article was informative and to the point. Sure to apply these tactics in my SMM. Thanks.

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  • Naomi Comerford

    I’d be interested to know what percentage of fan base user engagement is considered a good response rate. In direct mail it used to be 2% – 3%. Is their any data like this for social media?

    For example, if it’s 3% with like and comments combined, then a page with 1000 followers can look at their post and say “Hey, between likes and comments we got about 30 responses which is considered successful based on the number of followers that we have.”

    This would help quantify, and put into perspective, the success of user engagement for companies with a much smaller fan base.

    Otherwise it’s difficult to know if smaller, niche companies are ‘doing it right’ when our likes and comments pale in comparison to Starbucks, a page that has nearly 34 million followers.

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  • loved this!

  • ellynambrose

    OMG – great post. Thanks!

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  • Mary Gorges

    I’d be interested. pls let me know if something is planned.

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  • Great post, didn’t know I was sealing my own faith all this time. I’ll definitely subscribe to your site to get more updates, thanks again.

  • Chen Glnovia

    Agree most of advice ,thanks

  • Eureka Forbes

    rally gd info. for improve ur fb

  • Princy Saxena

    This article was exceptionally enlightening. I truly value the section with respect to particular times to post, and post interims. This will help me in my tries.

    Much thanks to you

  • Princy Saxena

    This article was exceptionally useful. I truly welcome the fragment with respect to particular times to post, and post interims. This will help me in my attempts.