Earlier this week Buddy Media CEO Mike Lazerow wrote a byline about the use of 3rd-party apps to publish to Facebook and how they affect engagement. Unfortunately, instead of being clarifying and constructive, the byline has led to questions and confusion. I like Mike, and here at my company Vitrue we're competitors with Buddy in the social marketing software space. But I'm concerned that some of his data was misrepresented and some of his assumptions were presented as facts. I hope this byline allows me to respectfully clarify some things that have brought confusion to the marketplace.
The AdAge.com byline is in response to a report claiming using 3rd-party applications hurts your EdgeRank score and potentially reduces your engagement due to the consolidation of posts. Quick definitions: EdgeRank Checker is a tool for managing Facebook exposure and determining if and where your posts appear in users' news feeds. Consolidation is when multiple posts are "collapsed" into a single object.
According to both our experiences and most industry experts, Facebook does not collapse posts by 3rd-party APIs in "Top News," which is the default tab for most users. It only happens on the "Most Recent" tab. The byline doesn't clarify this important point. Generalizing that consolidation happens across the board is incorrect, and conclusions are being drawn based on a smaller subset of users.
Since "Most Recent" is a timeline of every post by friends and "Liked" pages, EdgeRank appears to have no bearing whatsoever on posts that have been collapsed and appear in "Most Recent."
Next there's the question of whether post consolidation itself is a bad thing or negative for brands. The byline makes a sweeping assumption users will not click on a branded link that references additional posts by the brand, but fails to back that up with any data. Real-time posts are not collapsed; post-consolidation just elevates prior posts made by a brand. In fact, branded-consolidation is actually a beneficial way for older posts that would normally get buried far down in the timeline on the "Most Recent" tab to be seen, enjoy extended life and get engagement. Without it, users would have to scroll back hundreds of screenfolds to see non-consolidated data. To call consolidation a negative is either opinion or wishful thinking, but we have data to the contrary.
Additionally, there is a usability argument to be made that consolidation is a plus when Facebook is accessed via mobile devices. The "view more posts from X brand" message functions almost like an action link to access additional information, and clearly consolidates a brand's messaging in an easy-to-read, one-stop format. That could prove crucial for mobile Facebook access, which according to Facebook more than 250 million users currently access Facebook via mobile, and that number is expected to increase as mobile smartphone devices are projected to skyrocket during the next four years.
Another issue I have with the byline is that Mike is using engagement metrics to communicate a post's visibility to the user. As most of us know, measurement of a post's visibility to a user is called "impressions," but that 's an entirely separate metric than engagement. We have evidence our branded App ID performs as well as or better than posting via the native Facebook platform in terms of impressions, as well as garnering strong engagement. So given that branded App ID's, in our experiences, do not harm performance, I'd certainly rather have a post coming from my brand vs. a generic, non-branded "publisher."
I'm all for discussion about social marketing strategies that are debatable and propel our industry forward. But the misuse of data, a lack of understanding of measurement practices, and stating opinion and assumption as fact, does not positively add to the debate nor help brand marketers.