Does Posting with a 3rd Party App Impact Facebook Reach?

If you have spent any amount of time in the social media industry you’ve likely read articles or seen discussions about the impact posting with 3rd party apps have on Facebook Reach.

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You may have even been involved in these discussions!

Using scheduling apps to post to Facebook business pages has been a long-standing element of successful social media management by businesses, as well as social media managers.

Without these tools it would be near impossible to implement a successful social media strategy. Relying on your memory to post updates to your pages would be a nightmare, and sticking to a schedule impossible if you’re just posting when you “feel like it”.

So these tools are highly important and highly accepted as part of a social media strategy and campaign by businesses of all sizes.

Do 3rd Party Apps Impact Organic Facebook Reach?

But, there has always been an argument that Facebook is somehow “punishing” posts from 3rd parties by diminishing the Reach of posts made with them.

After all, per this argument, wouldn’t Facebook prefer you to make all posts on their site so that you are exposed to as many ads as possible?

Would Facebook really have the audacity to punish these posts? Remember that every story published to a Facebook business page is another opportunity for followers of that page to be exposed to ads.

In this blog post I hope to use scientific research to end this argument once and for all!

The Problem

Before we jump into my research let’s take a look at what others have found out in order to form a hypothesis.

Co-founder of Agorapulse, Emeric Ernoult, did some research a few years ago and concluded:

“ You can benefit from the power and flexibility of third-party applications without worrying about negatively impacting your reach or engagement. Don’t hesitate to use them!”

Quite a powerful statement!

Buffer did their own study using their Facebook page and concluded:

From this experiment it seems that posting using a 3rd party or natively won’t affect your reach or engagement on Facebook.

They based this claim on the results they got from posting 1 week with their app to their Facebook page and 1 week posting using Facebook. The Reach was virtually the same.

Mari Smith released an infographic based on research conducted by BuzzSumo that stated posting with 3rd party apps results in 89.5% less engagement that posting directly on Facebook. And subsequently suggested that Reach would be lower by using apps.

Mari Smith says posting with apps results in less Facebook Reach!

If this was true the backlash and results would be damaging!

However there was a heated debate between Mari, BuzzSumo and Post Planner CEO Joshua Parkinson (spurred on by the backlash I had received while running support for Post Planner) that happened directly on a Facebook post by Buffer’s co-founder Leo Wildrich.

You can dig through that conversation if you’d like, but basically the gist of it is they were wrong, or perhaps misleading in their statement.

Plus most of what they were calling “3rd party apps” were simply people cross posting with Twitter, Instagram or even automated RSS feeds. Not professional, quality, established 3rd party scheduling tools such as AgoraPulse, Hootsuite, Post Planner, Buffer, Sprout Social, etc.

Buffer broke down the data a bit more and found that some apps did have lower engagement than posting natively on Facebook for small businesses, while larger businesses using apps had massively more engagement.

Engagement does not equal Reach, but this does tell us that Reach may or may not be impacted by using apps per this BuzzSumo research. (Back to the drawing board!)

The problem with such research is we have no way of knowing if the pages are posting to a set schedule or simply posting at will. We also don’t know if these pages have any followers at all or are just spammy type pages.

I also surveyed a group on Facebook with over 12k members, all of whom are Social Media Managers.

Of those that responded over 80% believe 3rd party apps impact Reach, and over 93% believe they impact Reach negatively!!!

So let’s hop into my research and see if we can debunk some of these claims and finally close the case on whether posting with 3rd party apps causes a positive or negative result on our Facebook pages!

Hypothesis

Posting with 3rd party apps has no negative impact on Organic reach.

So how will I test this theory?

The Test

To properly perform research on such a controversial subject I wanted to create a test that would eliminate any variances based on time, subject, date, etc.

In Buffer’s test they only used Facebook and their app, and only posted for a short period of time. Thus giving what they referred to as “anecdotal” results. Which means the results aren’t necessarily true or reliable.

To avoid problems such as these as much as possible I decided to run a test on 3 different Facebook pages.

The Pages Involved in the Test

The 3 pages are ones’ I admin and post to on a regular basis.

  1. Space Walk of Central Texas — This is my own business page, with 5161 Likes, for my bounce house business. It’s over 3 years old and I post to the page a few times per day. It should be noted I conduct about 90% of the business via my Facebook page for reservations, questions, etc. And I also spend on average about $2500 per year on ads to promote posts and the page on Facebook.
  2. Fans of Bigfoot– This is a page I created about 4 years ago for fun to talk about Bigfoot, yes the big hairy creature that lives in the woods! The page has an active fan base that loves to talk about all things bigfoot. I use the page primarily to push affiliate products via Amazon or other sites. When I began the page I ran ads to it, but haven’t ran any ads in over 2 years. Currently sitting at 4022 Likes
  3. Grace Bible Church — This page is the Facebook page of the church I attend and help with social media. It’s in a small town with about 100 church members, although the page has over 790 Likes. I post to the page often, primarily inspirational images and updates/announcements for the church. I will run ads on the page occasionally.

These 3 pages are well established, all over 3 years old. And have had lots of content published to them using both Facebook and various scheduling apps.

The Schedule Used During the Test

I wanted to stay consistent in the posting habits of these pages so I decided to limit the test to 4 posts per day, which was very similar to the average amount of posts these pages were receiving before the test.

Admittedly the Grace Bible Church page has been sporadic and weeks go by without posts. But the Space Walk page and Bigfoot page have stuck to a schedule of at least 3–4 posts per day for some time.

To ensure I got the most Reach on posts I spread the posts out as follows:

8am, 12pm, 5pm and 10pm.

The test ran for 3 weeks.

The Types of Posts During the Test

The next decision in my test was to determine what type of posts to make.

Since videos require much more content creation and don’t post well via some apps I eliminated them from this research. Although the Reach and engagement of videos is super high currently.

I decided to alternate between Photos and Links throughout the day.

  • 8am- Photo
  • 12pm- Link
  • 5pm- Photo
  • 10pm- Link

This also was in line with previous strategies used on these pages and also supports a strategy I’ve used for years. My goal as a marketer is to get engagement on photos in hopes that when I post a link to my website those that engage with the photo are more likely to see that link post in their newsfeed due to Facebook’s algorithm. It’s a proven strategy you can read more about here.

For Space Walk all the links will be to either blog posts from my site or product links. Photos will be a mix of mainly images of our inflatables and some funny pictures.

On the Bigfoot page I will be using funny Bigfoot related images I haven’t used in the past along with Amazon affiliate links to Bigfoot related products and a few links to articles relating to Bigfoot.

The Grace Bible Church is a bit more challenging as there isn’t a blog for the church. So most links will be either to a worship album they are trying to get people to download or to simply articles relating to Christianity. Images will be spiritual related or funny.

What 3rd Party Apps Will be Used?

The next decision to make — and perhaps the hardest one — was what apps to use?

In the end I decided on: AgoraPulse, Hootsuite, Buffer and of course Facebook. My assumption is these are apps most reading this blog post will be familiar with and are probably the most used by social media managers. They also each have free trials or free plans you could use to get started posting!

To get true data on whether or not Reach is impacted by apps I wanted to ensure every app posted different types of content and in different time slots and days per week.

To accomplish this task I set up a rotating schedule per day of the week. (Hootsuite = HS, Agorapulse = AG, Buffer = B, Facebook = FB)

Monday- 8am- HS, 12p- AG, 5p- B, 10p- FB

Tuesday- 8am- AG, 12p- B, 5p- FB, 10p- HS

Wednesday- 8am- B, 12p- FB, 5p- HS, 10p- AG

Thursday- 8am- FB, 12p- HS, 5p- AG, 10p- B

Friday- 8am- HS, 12p- AG, 5p- B, 10p-FB (Same as Monday)

Saturday- 8am- AG, 12p- B, 5p- FB, 10p- HS (Same as Tuesday)

Sunday- 8am- B, 12p- FB, 5p- HS, 10p- AG (Same as Wednesday)

My hope with this schedule is each app gets seen by every user and gets different post types. Thus giving us a truly equal playing field for our results.

I decided that the Grace Bible Church page would use 1 app per day instead of alternating throughout the day. This is so that we can compare results to see if it makes a difference.

Monday- FB , Tuesday- HS , Wednesday- AG , Thursday- B , Friday- FB , Saturday- HS , Sunday- AG

Monday- B , Tuesday- FB , Wednesday- HS , Thursday- AG , Friday- B , Saturday- FB , Sunday- HS

I stuck to the same daily schedule however of 8am- Photo, 12pm- Link, 5pm- Photo, 10pm Link.

All content was scheduled in advance before the test started so that no days were missed.

The Test Results

Ok, so this is what you came for right?

Did posting with 3rd party apps have any impact — positive or negative — on Facebook Reach?

The Answer?

GO HERE TO KEEP READING AND FIND OUT THE RESULTS!

Originally published at www.agorapulse.com.