Did Facebook Really Fix The 3rd Party API Penalty?

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.

17 Comments on “Did Facebook Really Fix The 3rd Party API Penalty?

  1. Thanks for the update. Hopefully this will tamper down some of the F.U.D. with 3rd party API updating of Facebook Pages.

  2. This is great stuff! Thanks for the tests and the information. I had wondered about using the 3rd party apps, mainly just because they don’t typically post the content the same as a regular Facebook post does. I think I’ll stick with the Facebook post. What say ye of something like http://apps.facebook.com/postcron/ ?

    • Chad Wittman

      It still posts through the API, I am a bit leery of anything posted via the API.

  3. I have recently looked at our own company pages, and saw that content shared via the Bufferapp, still had way less impressions than manually posted content to Facebook. For example we had numerous posts with 200 views if manually posted on Facebook, but posted with the Bufferapp, we only received 60 views. I am wondering now if Facebook does not treat all apps equally and mainly solved the ‘Hootsuite’ issue.

    • Chad Wittman

      Thank you very much for the additional insight. I agree there may still be more deeper in the stats, but we’ll need to wait to gather a bit more data to dig deeper.

  4. Chad,

    Thanks for the update. 3rd party whitelist penalty or not, I continue to maintain that it still makes more sense to post organically. For those who would disagree, let me ask you this. How would you feel if your best friends pre-queued text messages they were going to send to you over the next month? Not very “authentic”, engaging, or relating to what’s currently going on.

    • In general, I agree. Posting organically is nice. But it’s not always practical (especially if you are a social media army one one with an aggressive editorial calendar). If you’re the type that schedules a week out, and then forgets it, I agree. Bad practice. But I think if you stay on top of your editorial calendar and tweak as you go, using a scheduling tool allows you to post when your analysis tells you it’s best to post…regardless of whether you can be in front of Facebook at the exact right time. When I see Hootsuite posts from brands, I don’t automatically assume a lack of authenticity.

  5. Is this still “fixed” or is there a new problem to consider now that TimeLine is active for everyone?

    • Chad Wittman

      We didn’t study it since Timeline. My guess is nothing has changed, but we’re planning on looking into it.

  6. Ross S

    Not sure if anyone is still monitoring this thread, but it seems like this 3rd party tool penalty back in play since Facebook’s newsfeed tweaks over the past few months. In small sample size testing for a major brand, I’ve noticed far lower reach for content published through a third party tool. Would be great to see this study revisited.

    • Chad Wittman

      Thanks for the heads up, we’ll take a look at it.

  7. I was sent to this page from a friend of mine from FB I decided it was time to automate my blog posting to certain groups on FB Well He told me this was the case I just really thought I could save some time HUM Now after reading I may have to rethink this!! Thanks for the information Chery :)

  8. Adam

    I used post planner to schedule 95% of my posts. I schedule the days post to come out at peak times. I have really noticed a hit. After reading this I am also thinking about re thinking my strategy.

    I agree a revised study would be a good choice

  9. It would be interesting to know what the stats on this are here in 2013. We use Networked Blogs to post our articles to Facebook and it seems like the number of impressions have dropped off quite a bit. We may go back posting manually if this keeps up.

    • Chad Wittman

      Good question, perhaps we’ll take a look again!

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