A service called EdgeRank Checker revealed data this week that showed how using a third-party application -- like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck -- to update your Facebook Page decreases your engagement per fan (on average) by about 70%.
As you can imagine, the data was reported widely, tweeted, shared and taken by many as gospel. This post aims to shed more light on what's really going on.
The EdgeRank Checker study looked at 1 million status updates on 50,000 pages that influence more than 1 billion fans, and concluded that third-party tools hurt your EdgeRank score.
EdgeRank is Facebook's algorithm that tries to separate the signal from the noise to present each user with the most interesting content. It uses engagement as a primary factor in its weighting. A post that receives little or no engagement does not get through to the feed. High engagement increases the post's visibility in users' feeds and increases the Page's EdgeRank score. For more on EdgeRank, check out this great post on Econsultancy from last month.
The company behind the data speculated that there are four potential reasons for the lower engagement:
- Facebook penalizes third-party API's EdgeRank
- Facebook collapses third-party API updates
- Scheduled or automated posts have potential for lower engagement
- The content is not optimized for Facebook
I commend the authors of the report for bringing this issue to light and compelling me to share some of what we are seeing and some actual data. This is an important issue and anyone who brings valuable data to the party should be commended.
Based on my knowledge of the Facebook Platform, I wanted to address the data and shed some light on each of the potential reasons the company outlines for decreased engagement from third-party publishing applications. I have also included several takeaways that will help you make the best decision.
What makes me qualified to comment? I have spent the past four years working on the Facebook Platform. Buddy Media's software is used by the world's largest retailers, media companies and brand marketers to publish content to Facebook -- to a combined total of just short of a billion fans. Buddy Media was one of the first three companies named to Facebook's preferred developer group, we have some of the deepest pools of data about engagement on Facebook and intimate knowledge about how Facebook's advertising and Page products function.
Lets get into the four potential reasons for lower engagement that I outlined above:
1) Facebook collapses 3rd party API
From the EdgeRank Checker report: "When the same 3rd Party Platform has multiple updates within your feed (regardless of the Page or People who created the object), Facebook will collapse the objects and only display a single object. This can potentially kill visibility for objects that are caught in this collapse."
Let me go on record to say, categorically, that this is the primary reason for lower engagement for Facebook posts. If your fans don't see your posts, they won't engage. And if they don't engage, your EdgeRank score goes down. If your EdgeRank score goes down, the next post you make will be penalized as coming from a "less engaging" Page. This is what I call the engagement death spiral. Many of our clients come to us from free tools and immediately see large increases in engagement simply from the fact that we are able to increase the visibility of their posts.
There are three primary types of applications:
- The first are consumer applications like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck that are used by millions of people.
- The second are multi-tenant enterprise products like the Buddy Media Platform.
- And the third are single-tenant, branded applications used by many large companies.
I can confirm that the free consumer applications have been getting collapsed. (I am careful to use "have been" as I expect Facebook may change this at some point, if they haven't put that in motion already). So when you publish via Twitter, Hootsuite or others, your posts will be buried under other friends' of your friends on Facebook.
So when my friend Dan Roth from LinkedIn published to Facebook from Twitter, here is what it looked like in my feed. You will notice that Dan got through. 172 other posts from my friends who used Twitter did not.