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Study: Using 3rd Party Apps Decreases Facebook Engagement by 70%

Facebook’s algorithm has always been tricky for marketers to figure out.  And now a new study by Applum, the developer behind Page tool EdgeRank Checker says that using 3rd party apps like Hootsuite to post Facebook updates decreases comments and Likes by 70%. Yikes!

Applum ran their analysis on 1,000,000+ Updates on 50,000+ Pages that influence over 1,000,000,000+ Fans. “We took each individual post and analyzed the engagement (comment & likes) along with how many fans the Page had at the moment of updating,” said the study.

The difference “is likely due to Facebook reducing the prominence of posts published by third-party APIs, and Facebook collapsing updates from the same API from across a user’s friends and Liked Pages, said Josh Constine over at Inside Facebook. “As Likes and comments increase a post’s prominence in the news feed, driving more impressions and clicks, all Pages using auto-posting apps should look to switch to manual posting if possible.”

If Facebook is not taking 3rd party apps seriously in their algorithm this probably accounts for one of the key reasons why so many organizations experience such low page views and interactions. According to the recent eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, most people don’t visit a page often after “liking” it – in fact the number of actual page views per 1000 users was very low at 4-7 per day, Frogloop reported last month in our article Facebook Metrics Nonprofits Need to Know.

Why is Facebook Discounting 3rd Party Apps?

Good question. There are a lot of variables. Does Facebook think that 3rd party apps are used a lot more for robo-posts rather than manual posts in real time. Are they rewarding page owners for increasing Facebook’s own web traffic by visiting the site more often? Lisa Thorell, Principal of Off the Grid Public Relations says what would be really helpful in interpreting the data would be more information on how the total Likes and comments for API posts compared to manual Facebook posts.

Now What?

For now it does appear that Facebook is rewarding those who manually update their pages vs 3rd party apps. “Take the extra minute it to manually craft a Facebook post rather than auto-post. This might require changes to workflows or allocation of additional human resources. Still, Page owners could be sacrificing a lot of their social media performance and return on investment to save a small amount of time and effort,” said Constine.

Reader Comments (7)

Great post, Allyson. Thanks for covering this so quickly. This is an important subject for nonprofits - and anyone with a Facebook page. My take (extrapolated at http://brightplus3.com/2011/09/facebook-giving-people-what-they-want/) is that most Facebook content that comes through third party apps is weaker, less engaging content. Sure, Facebook is bundling posts from third party apps like Hootsuite but its in Facebook's interest to help more engaging content rise to the top. It's harder to engage as a brand or organization so we have our work cut out for us.
September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTed Fickes
Very interesting study Allyson with huge implications for brands on Facebook. I do wonder though if the weaker results are due to Facebook technology somehow ignoring or paying less attention to posts via these tools? ... Or is it really just weaker posts brought on by behavior traps people fall into when using such tools

At LiveWorld, we moderate and manage Facebook pages for multiple Fortune 100 brands and find the nature and mix of the posts has a large impact on engagement results. We also find that posting the same kind of post across social channels (e.g same post for Twitter & Facebook) tends to produce weaker results. This because the posts become cross-channel generic, rather than in context engaging. Not realizing this many brands post the exact same post simulataneosuly to Twitter and Facebook.

Another potential pitfall with these 3rd party tools is that in the course of using scheduling and other such features posters may distance themselves from the context of the user content flow and dialogue. This too can result in weaker posts relative to engagement dynamics..

Many 3rd party tools are powerful and useful, but how they are used can impact engagement results as much or more than the technology dynamics.
September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Friedman
The articles says, "The difference 'is likely due to Facebook reducing the prominence of posts published by third-party APIs, and Facebook collapsing updates from the same API from across a user’s friends and Liked Pages, said Josh Constine over at Inside Facebook.'“

This is an interesting argument. However, the article does not suggest any reason for this link. A casual relationship doesn't not automatically generate a cause and effect. It's possible that most third party app users are not posting much multi-media (FB Is more likely to include multi-media posts in streams than text status updates) or are not posting separate messages to engage audiences on each platform. If 3rd party app users are posting the same message for multiple platforms, they will clearly have less engagement because the message will not be tailored to each audience.
September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Captain
Such an important data point! I also agree with Peter's comment that the third-party posting may distance the poster from the organization's Facebook fans. However, I also know that third party apps help the time-strapped staff person to be more efficient at work. What the data really tells me is that Facebook continues to drive how we use the web.
September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Askanase
Great summary Allyson. We will certainly be changing our procedures on client posting to accomodate the new study.
September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Neal
Very interesting information. However, I have found that it really comes down to what the content includes, regardless of it being scheduled or not. If it's engaging, people will read it... what I suspect is that the scheduled content is more dry that the immediate update. So this begs the question... how can we create scheduled content that is still engaging?
September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
When I see a Facebook post through a third party, it gives me the overall impression that a non-profit or business is handling their Facebook page as a one-way bulk "social media" advertisement, and that they are not interested in engaging in a conversation with readers. I then choose not to respond with a like or a comment. I especially think this when it is obvious that the post was designed to work with Twitter. It's not that difficult to come up with a slightly different 140 characters for Facebook. Perhaps most Facebook users feel this way; It would explain the low engagement numbers.
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

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