Does Publishing with Third Party Apps Hurt Facebook Reach?

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Conventional wisdom says that if you use a third party application to publish to your Facebook Page, you will be negatively impacted by Facebook EdgeRank. I’m always open to questioning conventional wisdom.

3rdpartyapp 300x300 Does Publishing with Third Party Apps Hurt Facebook Reach? EdgeRank Checker first made the claim in September of 2011. Facebook, who claimed the impact was unintentional, said they fixed the bug in November. Finally, Hubspot then reported in April of this year that posts made with third party apps receive 67% fewer likes.

Hell, even I’ve said multiple times that you shouldn’t use third party apps. It’s one reason I was so excited when Facebook made scheduling natively possible.

But then Emeric Ernoult showed me this study that he performed earlier this month that makes me wonder if all of these claims are currently true. They may have been true at one time, but the results of his experiment give me pause.

Of course, some full disclosure is necessary here. Emeric is the founder of AgoraPulse, one of my new favorite tools. AgoraPulse is an application with many benefits, one of which being that it allows you to better manage your publishing to Facebook. In other words, Emeric has a deep seeded bias.

That said, his report deserves attention, and I’ll be performing my own study to see if my results will support it.

The Study


I’m not going to completely retell what he did here. You can read about the study in its entirety. But let’s summarize…

Emeric used a popular Facebook Page as the test subject and created two sets of nearly identical posts. With each set, he published one directly through Facebook and one through AgoraPulse. Here are a few details:

  1. The Facebook Page used as the test subject was MV Agusta Brutale, an Italian motorcycle brand with over 14,000 Likes
  2. Two sets of similar images of a bike model were used to create four different Facebook posts
  3. One member of each set was published directly to Facebook and the other through AgoraPulse
  4. The two similar photos were published one hour apart
  5. The two tests were separated by a couple of days
  6. The order of the test was swapped — in the first test, the first photo was published through Facebook; in the second test, the first photo was published through AgoraPulse
  7. Photos published original 600 pix Does Publishing with Third Party Apps Hurt Facebook Reach?

    The results? The photo published through AgoraPulse in the first test reached 35% more people than the photo published through Facebook. In the second test, the reach was nearly identical.

    Takeaways


    Now, I’m not one to use a small sample size to make grand statements. Remember, we’re looking at only four total posts made here. There are far too many factors that go into your reach. Some factors include the copy, the photo, the day and time, competition for views and simply the people online at the time.

    And we certainly can’t discount the source here. While the posts are nearly identical in every way, AgoraPulse obviously wants a particular result.

    Still… No one was out to claim that posting to a third party app would give you greater reach. Even though that happened here, it’s not the point. The goal was to prove that there is not this significant punishment (67% as reported in April) when publishing from a third party app.

    In that sense, the study was successful.

    Considerations


    Something needs to be said about some third party apps and the way in which they are used. Many Facebook admins use them to publish RSS feeds, and the formatting from some of these apps is dreadful. It’s obvious that the post is coming from a third party app. It looks bad, it’s clearly automated and the person publishing doesn’t come back to interact.

    In many cases, the negative results of third party apps has nothing to do with the content being punished by Facebook EdgeRank, but instead that such content often doesn’t follow best practices and is more likely to fail.

    Posts from AgoraPulse aren’t clearly from a third party application. Here’s an example of one post I created the other day:

    facebook post from agora pulse Does Publishing with Third Party Apps Hurt Facebook Reach?

    The only visible difference between this post and one made through Facebook is the link “via JonLoomer.com.” This is a customization that AgoraPulse allows. But otherwise, it looks like a Facebook post in every way.

    So that helps eliminate formatting from the equation when talking about reach of posts. If there is a difference, it’s likely due to EdgeRank.

    Next Steps


    I want to see more. I need to see a greater sample size. More than anything, I need personal experience to convince me one way or the other.

    I am a Facebook purist. Until now, I’ve always published directly through Facebook. But to help provide some clarity on this issue, I will begin posting from both Facebook and AgoraPulse over the coming weeks.

    I do this with full understanding that my results still aren’t enough to make any grand proclamations. I have an audience of 5,000 people, and even if my study covers a month it will be a relatively small sample size with weaknesses. I simply can’t perfectly replicate the conditions I publish from Facebook and AgoraPulse to produce any groundbreaking results.

    That said, if after a month I notice no difference in reach between posts from the two sources, there will be at least one less person spouting off about how you shouldn’t use third party apps to publish to Facebook.

    Your Turn


    How about you? Have you ever used third party apps to publish to Facebook? What results do you see?

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • http://twitter.com/eernoult Emeric Ernoult

    Great article :-)

  • http://twitter.com/MikeStraus Mike Straus

    Great article and I look forward to a follow up in a month to see if you noticed any noticeable patterns in post reach between 3rd party apps and native Facebook. Of course I assume you will take into account that not all posts get the same reach due to many factors such as the content and day/time, but some of this should be evened out over time and I assume you will see similar reach patters for FB and 3rd party post.

    My personal experience managing some active pages recently is that using a 3rd party tool (or at least the one we are using) does NOT impact reach. We have significantly improved reach and engagement and recently have been exclusively using our 3rd party too.

    The main thing I have noticed is lower reach for “shared a link” posts, especially a lack of Viral reach if not using sponsored stories even if there are likes an comments on the post. Have you noticed any trends like this in insights?

    I do wonder if Facebook might take into account WHAT tool you are using, if a tool seems to be posting a lot of spam or low engagement posts maybe Facebook gives it less weight then if it comes from a tool that has been posting higher quality content with more engagement?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Mike! I will certainly take into account the various factors that impact reach. Those factors are why you can’t conduct a truly airtight and scientific experiment. It’s impossible to completely replicate the conditions.

      But that’s not really the point of the experiment. I’m not going to check back a month from now and ask, “Does use of third party apps result in more reach or engagement?” Instead, I simply want to know if there’s a noticeable dropoff.

      I haven’t used third party apps enough yet to notice any trends, but I’ll certainly keep an eye on the shared links.

      My personal feeling: I doubt that the tool impacts reach or engagement so much as the quality of the content. In some cases, the tool negatively impacts the quality of content (see those terrible RSS apps); in others, page managers misuse perfectly good third party tools (people who mass publish across various networks and never check in). I take the same approach, whether publishing from Facebook or AgoraPulse. And since the content looks nearly identical, I expect the results to follow.

      But I guess we’ll see! Thanks for providing your thoughts, Mike.

  • Susan

    Hi Jon, great research! How did you find out how many people marked you as spam?

  • http://www.jacobcurtis.co/ Jacob Curtis

    If you’re using a 3rd party app to publish content on your Fan page, it’s likely you’re using it to schedule posts. I think automated posts are fine and perform better if you also supplement by native Facebook posts (done by you) that seem more organic, timely and personable.

    That way, it seems like there is a human running your page and it’s not on autopilot spitting out an RSS feed. This will also help boost page engagement which will increase the likelihood of your fans seeing your 3rd party posts in the first place.

    /slowclap for bad formatting! That is a dead giveaway! It also shows the page admin (aka: The business) doesn’t care enough to fix what they are broadcasting.

    I also like your comment of:

    “There are far too many factors that go into your reach. Some factors include the copy, the photo, the day and time, competition for views and simply the people online at the time.”

    I think some of those things go for Facebook ads as well.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Jacob! I think another time people would use third party apps to publishing would be when there is a team of admins with varying roles and assignments. But otherwise, I agree!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericwilbanks Eric Wilbanks

    I have been experimenting w/ this via one of my clients. Posts scheduled w/ Hootsuite have at times gotten significantly higher engagement than posts scheduled with Facebook scheduler. Other times, the engagement is practically identical. I’ve been very confused by these results because of “conventional wisdom.”

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Always interesting when something doesn’t follow conventional wisdom! In general, I think the focus needs to continue to be on the quality of the content. The rest shouldn’t matter much, if at all.

      Thanks for your comment, Eric!

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  • Gustav Bergman

    I am using the tool Hootsuite, and I have had a feeling that the posts sent through that tool did not show as good as the directly posted. But I think it is correct that that was before november when the apparently have fixed a bug.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottwayres Scott Ayres

    Don’t forget FB has removed the “via” link from pages now.

  • Pingback: The Real Deal with 3rd Party Facebook Publishing Tools - JonLoomer.com

  • Cass

    Hey Jon, we have a large page that is very engaging. (1.4 million fans with 2.8 million talking about). We have tested several auto posting tools that used API paths to post. However, they all had a lower reach than a native post for our page. About 60% less every time we tested. I would have to say its not so much the posting tool but the fact that it comes in through an API path that signals the algorithm to cut the reach. Just my opinion but we have tested it enough to be confident in that opinion.

    Once we were sure about this we just created our own posting tool that does not use the API path but instead logs in as an actual user and uses photo recognition to post. This appears as a real user to FB and allows us to achieve full reach while posting 16 times a day.

    To further back up my opinion about API we created a “scrubbing tool” that would clean off all profanity, work from home, links, certain words, etc from our page comments. This tool used the API path to scrub comments on our page. Every time we turned it on our reach fell by about 60%. We turned it off and our reach was right back up. This is another reason I think its more about “if you use the API path” the algorithm restricts your reach.

    Its cool that FB lets you use the API….but they punish you for it! :)

    Thanks for all that you do to share your knowledge. Aaron Tabor told me about you and your site and I’m a new fan! :)

    Cheers Brother,

  • http://www.jeff-foliage.com/ Jeff Foliage

    As a photographer I upload to Fine Art America. I will post maybe once a week a new upload to my Facebook profile to a business page. I will usually see 1-5 people have seen this post. If I take the link and manually post the image that way I will normally see 150-800 people have seen this. So I ask if FAA is a third party APP like you are mentioning and then yes Facebook hammers my reach if I allow FAA to see my images on FAA.

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