In early September we decided to tackle the rumor that 3rd Party APIs (using a platform to publish other than Facebook.com) had some sort of penalty affecting EdgeRank. Our article caused quite a stir reaching many of the major tech news outlets. We heard many social marketers concur that they have been seeing similar affects on their data. A few weeks after our report, Facebook overhauled the news feed (correlated with the recent f8 conference). 3rd Party APIs developers submitted a bug to Facebook detailing an issue that seemed to severely affect Impressions and Engagement. Facebook acknowledged the issue and vowed to fix it. This seemed to somewhat validate that there was some sort of effect impacting 3rd Party APIs. Approximately 1.5 months passed and Facebook updated the bug and proclaimed that it had been fixed.
How was the data analyzed?
Facebook announced their bug fix on November 6th. We grabbed data from the two weeks before November 6th vs the two weeks after November 6th. The sample size included over 4,000 Pages that posted during both of those time frames. We took every Page that posted over this time period and averaged their Post Impressions (per Post per fan at time of Post). We then noted how the Posts were published (directly from Facebook or 3rd Party API). In order to fairly assess how the bug fix affected each Page, we needed to only include Pages that posted directly on Facebook and used a 3rd Party API during our time frame. With this in mind, our data was most accurately analyzed by only looking at the most widely used 3rd Party API (in our data set). After imposing several rules to accurately compare the data, our segmented sample size was 391. To clarify, we required a Page to have posted with a 3rd Party API and directly on Facebook once each, during each time frame compared.
Did the bug fix help 3rd Party API Impressions?
The average change after the bug fix was +73% while the median change was +11%. At first glance, it appears that the bug fix had a positive impact on most Facebook Pages. We then looked at how these Pages performed posting directly on Facebook.com over the same time period. The average change for Facebook was +35%, with a median change of -18%. Facebook’s fluctuation over the time period was not nearly as drastic as 3rd Party APIs.
Looking at both the average and median change seems to indicate 3rd Party APIs have something to cheer about. The 3rd Party Platform’s publishing power has now increased with a fix by Facebook.
But does this make using a 3rd Party API equal?
Before the fix date (two weeks before), posting on the most popular 3rd Party API resulted in an average change of -19% and a median change of -35% of Post Impressions. Prior to this fix, but after the new hybrid news feed, this data shows that it was still advantageous to post directly on Facebook.com.
Posting on a 3rd Party API, after the fix, showed an average change of -1% and median change of -7%. This new data shows that the penalty is most likely removed and these minor numbers are probably normal statistical fluctuations.
Preliminarily, it appears that 3rd Party APIs have no penalty being imposed by Facebook after the implementation of their bug fix.
Marketers can breathe a sigh of relief
This new data seems to indicate that the penalty we discovered was both real and now fixed for 3rd Party APIs. It should be noted that this study is very preliminary and requires an expansion of the sample size and an expanded time period. It should also be noted that our previous study analyzed specifically Engagement across many 3rd Party APIs, whereas this study examined Impressions (the bug fix more closely related to Impressions than Engagement). We will continue to monitor this issue and will report any of our findings.