This is the raging debate in social media, isn’t it. Everyone is looking for the holy grail in Facebook posting. Now, along comes a study from PageLever that is getting some traction.

According to them the average Facebook post has a life expectancy of 22 hours and 51 minutes. Of course, your mileage may vary.

There is one small problem with the study. It measured 20 status updates from 5 pages that each have over TWO MILLION fans. This is not exactly in-depth market research. Yes, the facts stated in the study are true. The beauty of digital media is that we can see exact numbers.

Unfortunately, in our (meaning the Social Media Marketing universe in general) is so hungry for proof of performance they will latch onto a study like this and through careful re-posting and re-tweeting turn it into gospel.

It ain’t.

For most small businesses and non-profits the likelihood of reaching two million Facebook fans is pretty remote. So many are seduced by these large numbers yet fail to realize that quantity is less important to quality. You want people who actually give a rat’s ass about your business or mission. Having a large amount of followers is strictly a vanity number because most of them are so casual they will never pay attention to you after the initial “like”.

But, let’s get back to that 22 hour number. Just because a post “lives” for that long does not mean anyone actually sees it. With the changes to the newsfeed and the addition of the ticker information flies by at a dizzying pace. This is where 90% of your followers interact with you on Facebook. They are not going back to your page and admiring your apps. They are making a snap judgment about you in the blink of an eye. You either grab them NOW or they are gone.

The debate on posting frequency is a spurious at best. There is no magic number. none. Zero. No one can state equivocally that three posts a day is best. Why? Because every business is different! What works for Starbucks will not necessarily work for the local dry cleaner. you need to know your audience and listen to them to determine what works best for you.

You can determine when the best times for posting are by examining your insights. These can tell you what posts received the most attention and you can place your best content at those times.

However, even that research is a bit muddy. To really determine the best times to post you would need to post the exact copy at different times to see when the reaction is best. Of course, once you start repeating content you add a new variable that affects the ultimate outcome.

OK, my head is starting to hurt from all these permutations. The debate should not center on frequency –  it should be all about quality!

Are you delivering on audience expectations? Are you interesting, helpful, funny or (buzz word alert) – engaging?

How often – or when – you post is far less important than WHAT you post. I think that tends to be assumed as we look for the best way to reach people.

Research studies aside, use a little common sense when using Facebook pages to market yourself. Do you really think your fan is going to scroll back 22 hours to see that one post?

Would you?

One of the catch phrases in the radio business is “frequency sells”. You cannot run one commercial a day on the radio and expect to reach someone with your message. It seems the same principle can be applied to your Facebook strategy. While you do not want to repeat the same message over and over like a radio or TV campaign – touching your fans on a frequent basis with quality content will keep you top-of-mind.

Eventually, that will lead to sales or donations.