There has been much discussion in last two weeks about whether using 3rd party tools/platforms to post on Facebook helps or hurts engagement. Obviously, this is an important topic for our customers and partners. To quickly summarize the key points to date:
- A group called Edgerank Checker kicked things off with a blog post suggesting that posting via 3rd party tools reduces engagement by an average of 70%. So far, not much more detail other than this is based on lots of data from lots of pages using lots of different tools.
- Michael Lazerow from Buddy Media then weighed in with some high level data and an assertion that collapsing of posts is certainly the culprit for reduced engagement by lesser platforms. And further, that posting from “single-tenant” applications is bad compared to posting via “multi-tenant” applications. We will return to that point below. As usual, Michael also introduced some level-headed analysis to this discussion: No, Facebook does not actively discriminate against 3rd party tools; Yes, following posting best practices (short text, links, multimedia) results in better engagement.
- Reggie Bradford from Vitrue took exception to Mike Lazerow’s assertion that collapsing posts hurts engagement. He talked about the difference between the now collapsed “Recent News” vs “Top News”. His money point – from our perspective – is that collapsing of old posts under a link can actually help engagement. Reggie did not post much in the way of data, but asserted that he has it.
Here is Spredfast’s data “gut check”. We looked at Engagement metrics (likes, comments, links) for 1,000+ Facebook pages over the last 100 days to get this snapshot.
Our conclusions and comments based on this data include:
- There is no penalty for using Spredfast to post. In fact, there is an advantage according to our results. While we would love to claim a direct correlation, we know that the Spredfast platform only plays one part in driving better engagement. The other parts include great content, following posting best practices, establishing regularity and giving your audience reasons to engage. All of these different elements contribute to our customers seeing healthier engagement than just posting on Facebook directly.
- Customers that use a branded application see the best engagement. Similar to Buddy Media, we also have the ability to support both “multi-tenant” and “single-tenant” applications for our customers to post. Our data shows that branded applications (the “single-tenant” variety) perform best in driving engagement.
- Our data – and we would assert all of the data people like EdgeRank Checker and Buddy Media have presented – is incredibly noisy. Mixed into the same data set are groups of all sizes using social for different purposes. For example, customers using social for customer care average very high engagement rates. Customers using social for brand/product awareness average lower engagement rates but very high reach/impressions. In addition, you have some people using best practices (shorter posts, links, multimedia) and others not. Some companies post twelve times a day others once. Consequently, some customers are seeing as much as 94% engagement rates, while others are in the low 20% range. How, when and why you are posting has an impact on engagement. That is why we publish best practices resources like the Social Media Pocket Guide – to help our customers get the best engagement possible with their social activity.
- We do not believe that collapsing posts is a bad thing – and we have seen no data from the market or from our customers that proves it is. We believe that this feature from Facebook – when combined with branded applications provided by Spredfast – actually increases the odds of users seeing a post they might have missed the first time around in a newsfeed – particularly on mobile. We also believe that collapsing helps companies that choose to post many times per day appear less “spammy” in the newsfeed – which reduces the chance of being hidden by the user.
- Facebook provides little insight into how and why posts appear in Newsfeeds or how and why posts get collapsed. This is an algorithm under constant change and improvement. In fact, the UI is under constant change as well. Witness all the changes announced last week – consolidation of Newsfeed views and the introduction of Ticker and Timeline.
What is clear is that the bar to appear in your audiences’ Newsfeed is getting higher and higher ever day. We believe that engagement is a function of proper audience targeting, post optimization and your day-to-day work building an audience receptive to your message. The good news is that Facebook is providing marketers with ever more sophisticated opportunities for driving engagement.
We will continue to monitor our Spredfast user data and Facebook to ensure that our customers are receiving the full benefit of Spredfast.