The truth about third-party apps’ impact on Facebook post performance and engagement

Posted on October 17, 2012 by

There has been much debate amongst experts recently surrounding the pros and cons of using third-party applications to publish content on your Facebook page. That led to a big confusion among marketers who chose to play it safe ans assume that third party apps were not the best choice. Is it really the case? As we tend not to rely on hearsay when it comes to Facebook technical issues, we’ve made our own test. Here are the results.

The Debate

At the beginning of September last year, Edgerank Checker released a study that indicated posts published via third-party applications were generating 88% less likes and comments than those posted directly in Facebook. This is, obviously, an alarming difference in engagement.

Since the use of a third-party application will not affect the quality of the content in a post, it became very clear that third-party posts were being treated in a way that severely limited their reach. Very simple math dictates that less reach equals less engagement.

Shortly after this, in December, Facebook announced an upgrade to EdgeRank that would ensure third-party posts would not receive less favorable treatment than direct posts. Problem solved, right?

Unfortunately, no. The debate continued!

Publish direct or via a third party app? That is the question...

Publish direct or via a third party app? That is the question…

As soon as Facebook released Timeline for Pages, HubSpot wrote another highly debated article indicating that third-party published posts were receiving 67% fewer likes and 60% fewer clicks than direct posts. More controversy arose!

HubSpot did jump the gun a little bit, however. The beta release of Timeline was only two weeks old and buggy. After the final release of Timeline in April 2012, when all bugs were fixed, it was time to find out if HubSpot was right. So, we decided to check for ourselves!

Before we proceed with the experiment, I would like to clarify one point. As many bloggers pointed out, Facebook didn’t used to display a native share link on third-party published posts. It was very likely this affected the reach and engagement level of these posts. This is no longer the case, at least for photos. With a native ‘share’ button displayed, photo posts can now be evaluated equally.

The Methodology

We took a scientific approach in this experiment.

First, we chose a page that had the potential to generate a serious amount of reach and engagement. We used the page of Italian motorcycle MV Agusta Brutale, which had just over 14k fans. We posted only photos and selected images that were similar enough to not overshadow each other. See for yourself:

We chose pictures of the product that would generate the same level of interest from the targeted audience

We chose pictures of the product that would generate the same level of interest from the targeted audience

Next, we published the first two pictures one hour apart. The first was published directly in Facebook and the second through the AgoraPulse publisher. After a couple of days we published the second set of photos. This time using the AgoraPulse publisher first and posting directly in Facebook second. This was to ensure the order of the posts would not bias the results. After a week we checked the statistics for each post and here is what we found:

Highlighted in blue, the posts made directly on Facebook, in red, the posts made through the agorapulse publisher

The two posts published directly in Facebook are highlighted in blue and the AgoraPulse posts in red.

As you can see, our test indicates that direct posting has no advantage over third-party posting. Whether looking at the reach or the engagement, publishing in Facebook directly does not make a post better! One of the posts actually had a 30% better reach using the AgoraPulse publisher!


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!

PS: This test was conducted utilizing an individualized publisher used by enterprise level platforms such as Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver and AgoraPulse. Results may vary if you publish via a mutualized publisher, where all users share the same app, such as Hootsuite or Buffer. Just for comparison, I would love to see this test run with Hootsuite! If you have done it, it would be great to read your comments..

Emeric is the co-founder of AgoraPulse, a Social Media Marketing Software company launched in 2011 and based in Paris and San Francisco. AgoraPulse is currently being used by more than 5,000 businesses across 180 countries.   Since 2000, he has been one of the European pioneers in the field of Social Media Marketing. He has advised French and international brands such as Virgin, FIA and Microsoft.   He is a regular speaker at International conferences such as the AllFAcebook Marketing Conference, Facebook Success Summit and BOLO. He is also an accredited instructor at the Online Marketing Institute.