[Updated: 12/01/11 11:25AM ET] // We did a very preliminary study now that Facebook has changed the news feed and has been made aware of a particularly important bug. We outlined our findings here: Did Facebook Really Fix The 3rd Party API Penalty?. At a preliminary glance, it appears that from an Impressions perspective, 3rd Party APIs may have regained equal value. //
[Updated: 11/10/11 6:45PM ET] // Facebook has reportedly adjusted EdgeRank to reduce the negative effect of posting as a 3rd Party API. In effect, this validates our findings while hopefully removing the negative impact that 3rd Party platforms were experiencing. We will be following up on this information to test if Pages are actually experiencing this change. //
It’s been a general consensus in the EdgeRank community that 3rd party APIs (this simple list provides examples of potential 3rd Party APIs) are punished in Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. We ran a study across our entire data set to provide evidence that our hypothesis is true. The result of our study was quite eye opening. Using a 3rd party API to update your Facebook Page decreases your likelihood of engagement per fan (on average) by about 80%.
We ran our 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. We then analyzed Facebook vs The Top 10 Other APIs (based on our sample size). We did a weighted average for the 3rd Party APIs, which resulted in 0.22% engagement. The result is a percentage that represents engagement per fan per post (on weighted average, of our Top 10 3rd Party API). Our sample size ranged per API, although we cut it off at the Top 10 APIs outside of Facebook.
Why are 3rd Party APIs so much lower?
We have a few theories explaining the results:
- Facebook Penalizes 3rd Party API’s EdgeRank
- Facebook Collapses 3rd Party API Updates
- High Chance of Being Scheduled or Automated
- Content is not Optimized for Facebook
Facebook Penalizes 3rd Party API’s EdgeRank
When an object is created in Facebook, it is assigned a weight. We believe that Facebook strategically reduced the weight of objects created through the API. The reason behind this strategy would be to encourage more content creation within the Facebook Platform. This ultimately increases the value of their platform while increasing ad impressions.
Facebook Collapses 3rd Party API Updates
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.
High Chance of Being Scheduled or Automated
Posts that are scheduled typically struggle to have high engagement. This is most likely due to the nature of a scheduled update. It’s difficult to create unique engaging content several hours or days in advance. Any negative impacts of scheduled posts are most likely correlations with poorly developed content.
Automated content typically performs horrendously, due to lacking human touch and craftsmanship. These types of updates struggle for engagement as is (even if they were manually posted onto Facebook). We highly advise against any automated content on Facebook.
Content is not Optimized for Facebook
One of the conveniences of a 3rd Party Platform is that you can simultaneously update Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, and hopefully not MySpace :P. Unfortunately, this typically requires the social marketer to optimize their content for all the social networks at once. Twitter has character limitations at 140, Facebook allows for many more characters. Some networks allow photos to be attached, while other networks do not. This distracts the social marketer from specifically optimizing their update for Facebook.
Should I Stop Using a 3rd Party API?
Most 3rd Party APIs are still a great tool that we recommend while consulting social media marketers. In our opinion, 3rd Party APIs are to be used in moderation and not in all situations. Scheduled updates work great when there is no possible way for you to update the account on time. It’s better to have a scheduled post go out, then no post at all. 3rd Party APIs still work great on other social networks.
What About the 3rd Party APIs Outside of the Top 10?
We decided to focus on the Top 10 3rd Party APIs. The Top 10 was based on sample size of our data. A few Platforms that didn’t crack the Top 10 (due to a small sample size) performed better than the Top 10 average. However, we hypothesize that these 3 Platforms’ engagement ratios would decrease with a larger sample size.
How Do I Take Full Advantage of this Study?
In order to maximize your Facebook marketing efforts, we advise that you post directly on Facebook.com or use an Official Facebook App (iPhone, Blackberry, etc). Posting directly will give your posts the greatest chance of engagement (which drives EdgeRank). Don’t immediately abandon 3rd Party APIs, they still have their place in social marketing. We recommend not relying on them day-to-day for Facebook updates.