Does Facebook penalise you for using third party applications?

What’s this? Facebook updates made using third party applications such as Hootsuite are given less exposure than those made via the Facebook client? Facebook analysts EdgeRank Checker claim just that: ’Using a 3rd party API to update your Facebook Page decreases your likelihood of engagement per fan (on average) by about 80%.’

They ran the analysis on over a million updates on 50,000+ pages that influence over 1,000,000,000+ fans, and worked out the percentage engagement per fan per post (you can see their full workings in the blog post).

The result is that posts made using a third party client result in significantly fewer comments and Likes than those made using the Facebook application for mobile or web.

So why would this be? Is Facebook giving a stronger weighting to these updates, making sure they crop up more frequently in news feeds?

If it’s a yes, there could be a couple of explanations. Firstly, to increase traffic to Facebook’s own platform rather than its competitors, which of course increases ad impressions but still strikes me as a bit self-defeating seeing as the apps are still creating content and adding value to the site. The mobile app doesn’t serve up the ads anyway.

Secondly, it could be an attempt to maintain quality of the content. One of the enemies of quality on Facebook (apart from vicious crimes against the apostrophe) is auto-posting across different platforms, which is made so much easier by tools such as Hootsuite or Seesmic. There are three main problems with auto-posting:

- it’s boring. Who wants to see exactly the same post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc?

- it’s lazy. Honestly, is it TOO much to ask that you might write things differently for different communities or react to topical events?

- it’s a wasted opportunity, forcing you to write Facebook updates which fit the 140 character limit for Twitter, or missing out on all the multimedia options with Facebook when posting with Twitter in mind.

So if this is Facebook’s problem with third party apps then I see their point.

Facebook iPhone application

However, pity the poor social media guru trying to keep on top of lots of different accounts. Facebook doesn’t allow for scheduled tweets for example, which are a great aid to productivity.

Plus, the mobile app (on iPhone anyway) forces you to post the text plus the full URL with no option to edit, meaning you can’t tidy up the text before publishing or attach an image or video. Yuck.

So what should you do? The EdgeRank post advises that you should post using Facebook for web or mobile whenever possible. However, it’s worth remembering that the end goal is to present interesting, valuable content which people will want to Like, read and share. So if a third party app helps you do that it’s probably best not to get too hung up on it.

What do you think – will this report change the way you post on Facebook?

First published on The Wall Blog.