How do you interpret the heatmap of the "users activity" for a particular Facebook page? Why is important to have an in-depth understanding of the data that analytics software give us?
Getting the right Facebook timestamps for comments helps you re-consider your digital strategy and post on specific hours when people are active.
Software for Facebook app monitoring that analyzes competitor's pages like Socialinsider or Socialbakers, fanpage karma or Simply Measured usually show a grid with 24 columns with each representing a certain day on the calendar. Inside each cell is the number of comments made by Facebook users on that page in a given hour.
Let’s talk about this heatmap in more detail, explaining the ambiguities that come from the multiple meanings of the term ‘hour'. Every comment in this heatmap has a timestamp attached to it - the single source of truth - expressed as GMT-hour.
How to interpret the timestamp of comments on Facebook pages
We have two options:
- the GMT-hour - that Facebook has and the time returned by the Facebook API - which we know
- the commenter's local time - this we do not know - Facebook does not provide this data because of users privacy. For example, we know that Phil Smith commented on a page at 3:45 PM GMT but we do not know Phil’s timezone - if he’s in Australia - and for him, it’s late 1:45 at night or he’s in Spain and the hour is 4:45 in the afternoon. In both of these cases, the timestamp is 3:45 GMT
Within Socialinsider, we take route number one; we chose to define the time based on GMT, the way we receive it from Facebook and, from this point of view, the heatmap is correct. This way you still get to see consistent data.
If we define the time based on local time zone of the commenter, so we can see whether the comment was made in the evening or in the early morning, the heatmap is only correct if the page’s followers are conveniently 80-90% from the same time zone.
More dispersion in the commenters’ time zones would lead to more uncertainty in whether they commented in their mornings, afternoons, or evenings.
This was made at 10:10 AM GMT so this comment will be put in the 5:00 AM bucket.
However, we do not know the timezone of the Facebook user that commented. The user could be from China (GMT + 8) or from Hawaii (GMT - 11).
If you try to interpret the data this way, the data is still consistent only if most of the commenters are from the same timezone.
When people are active impacts your digital strategy
If the page's audience is grouped pretty nice in a single timezone like TechHub Warsaw which has 90% of its followers from Poland hence the same timezone, we can safely assume that the numbers in the comment heatmap are correct to, give or take 10% for both cases.
If the page's audience is evenly spread between timezones like Eva Longoria's page, then you should read the heat map like this:
These are the hour buckets the people commented relative to GMT - but we cannot assume anything about the local time of any one commenter.
This applies only to comments, not to reactions - Facebook does not attach the timestamp to each reaction.
Also, did you know that Iran, India and the middle of Australia have time zones that are offset by 30 minutes? So, right now as I am writing this, the time is 3:40 GMT, and in Iran it is 7:11, in India it is 8:11, and in central Australia it is 12:11.
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