Facebook Test: Do Third-Party Apps Impact Post Performance or Engagement?

Should you use a third-party app to publish on your Facebook Page? Here’s the answer.

Facebook engaged usersThere has been an awful lot of debate among experts around the use of third-party applications to publish content on your Facebook Page.

Starting in September of last year, a study from EdgeRank Checker demonstrated that posts published via third-party applications would generate 88% less likes and comments — a very significant drop in engagement! Since there is no reason why third-party applications would affect the quality of the content, the only explanation was that the reach of these posts was significantly lower. Less reach equals less engagement. Simple math.

Then, in December 2011, Facebook announced it had upgraded EdgeRank to make sure that third-party apps would not get a less favorable treatment than posts made directly on Facebook. This sounded like good news but, unfortunately, the debate was not over!

As soon as Facebook released Timeline for Pages, HubSpot wrote another highly debated article that affirmed posts published via third-party apps were receiving 67% less likes and 60% less clicks than posts made directly on Facebook. And here we went again.

However, HubSpot jumped the gun a little in publishing the article as Timeline for Pages was only two weeks old at the time, still in Beta, and still unstable and buggy. Early April 2012, after the final and full release of Timeline for Pages, all bugs were fixed and it was a good time to find out if HubSpot’s alarming article was justified, or not. So here we come with our own test!

Before we proceed with the results, I would like to clarify one point. As noted by many bloggers, Facebook used to not display a native share link on posts that were published via third-party apps. This was highly likely that it was affecting the reach and the engagement level of these posts. This is no longer true for photos, at least. Photos published via a third-party app now display a native “share” button. No more negative side effects from this one.

Now for the test.

The Methodology

To follow a scientific approach, we have conducted our test as follows:

We chose a Fan Page that has the potential to generate serious reach and engagement. This is the page of an Italian motorbike model (MV Agusta Brutale) with a bit more than 14,000 fans. We published only the same type of content: pictures of the bike. We also selected our pictures to make sure that one would not raise more interest than the others. Here are our four pictures so you can see for yourself:

MV Agusta Brutale photos used for our test on its Facebook Page

MV Agusta Brutale photos used for our test on its Facebook Page

 

We published the first two pictures one hour apart, publishing the first directly on Facebook and the second through our AgoraPulse publisher. Then, after a couple of days, we published the other two pictures one hour apart, but this time, we published the first picture through the AgoraPulse publisher and the second one directly on Facebook. So if the first publication would get more reach for some reason, our test should not be affected.

After a week, we checked the insights for each posts, and here are the results:

Difference in reach and engagement between two pictures posted via Facebook and a third party app

Difference in reach and engagement between two pictures posted via Facebook and a third party app

To help you understand the screenshot, the two posts made directly on Facebook are highlighted in blue, and the ones made via our publisher are highlighted in red.

So, as you can see for yourself, there is no noticeable difference between the posts published via a third-party app or directly on Facebook. Whether you compare the reach or the number of engaged users, the numbers are consistent: publishing directly on Facebook will not make your post better! Actually, we even once had a 30% better reach using our Publisher!

Takeaway: Using a third-party app to publish on your Facebook Timeline can help you get organized and will not have any negative affect on your post reach or engagement, so don’t hesitate to use them!

Warning: This test was conducted using an individualized publisher, such as the one used by enterprise-level platforms such as Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver or AgoraPulse. If you publish via a mutualized publisher, for example Hootsuite or Buffer, where all users share the same app, the results can be different. That makes me think that I would love to see a test including Hootsuite for example! If you’ve done this, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Emeric Ernoult

Emeric Ernoult is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for Facebook marketing. He is a regular speaker at social marketing events and the author of several Facebook Marketing guidebooks. He is the co-founder of AgoraPulse, a Facebook marketing platform based in Paris, France. He has advised brands such as Microsoft, Playstation, Virgin Megastore or Disneyland Paris on their Facebook Marketing initiatives.

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