EdgeRank punishes third-party apps

Kathryn McConnachie
By Kathryn McConnachie, Digital Media Editor at ITWeb.
Johannesburg, 13 Sept 2011

Research has shown that posting to Facebook via third-party applications significantly decreases the amount of feedback on the post.

This means that such posts receive, on average, 80% less comments and “likes” than those posted directly through Facebook. The research was conducted by the creators of the EdgeRank Checker tool, Applum.

EdgeRank is the algorithm that governs how objects appear in the Facebook News Feed. Value is assigned to objects according to affinity, weight and time decay - the higher the value, the more prominent the object's position in the news feed.

Affinity is determined by a user's relationship with the user who posted the item (this is determined by interaction with that user on Facebook). Weight is determined by the type of object the post is - so status updates, photos and links have different values. Also, as an object gets older, the lower its EdgeRank value becomes.

Applum analysed over a million updates on over 50 000 Facebook Pages. “We took each individual post and analysed the engagement (comment and likes) along with how many fans the page had at the moment of updating,” explains Applum.

“It's been a general consensus in the EdgeRank community that third-party APIs are punished in Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm.

“The result of our study was quite eye-opening. Using a third-party API to update your Facebook page decreases your likelihood of engagement per fan (on average) by about 80%.”

On the edge

Inside Facebook also recently reported that the majority of interaction with Facebook pages occurs within fans' news feeds, and not on the actual page itself.

Statistics from PageLever show that as pages grow in size, unique page views decrease rapidly. “This means money and time may be better spent on planning and executing a successful news feed posting strategy than on designing and promoting page applications when it comes to engaging existing users,” says Inside Facebook.

If it is correct that once users are fans of a page, they typically only interact with that page via their news feed, then it becomes even more important for page owners to make sure their posts are appearing in those news feeds.

Applum puts forward a number of theories to explain why posts from third-party apps are receiving less engagement. These include the idea that Facebook penalises third-party API's EdgeRank, the collapsing of updates from apps in the news feed, and the fact that such content is not optimised for Facebook.

“When an object is created in Facebook, it is assigned a weight. We believe that Facebook strategically reduced the weight of objects created through the API,” says Applum.

“The reason behind this strategy would be to encourage more content creation within the Facebook platform. This ultimately increases the value of their platform, while increasing ad impressions.”

Applum advises marketers to post directly on Facebook or via an official Facebook app to improve engagement.

“Don't immediately abandon third-party APIs; they still have their place in social marketing. We recommend not relying on them day-to-day for Facebook updates.”