Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do the Benefits of Using a 3rd Party API to Post to Facebook Outweigh the Cons?

A successful tool is one that was used to do something undreamed of by its author.
Photo by katerha

I keep reading posts about how you shouldn't post to Facebook using a 3rd party APIs because it kills your EdgeRank. Supposedly Facebook penalizes 3rd party APIs' EdgeRank (the "secret sauce" that determines how often your Page's updates show up in users' news feeds) and collapses 3rd party API updates. While I'm sure that there's merit to these arguments, I also don't think writing off social media management systems (SMMS) is necessarily a good idea, or even an option for large companies or for agencies managing multiple brand accounts.

Benefits of using SMMS include:
  • Ability for multiple people to post from one central dashboard.Yes, you can now have multiple Page admins on Facebook, but SMMSs offer the ability for multiple admins to manage posts in a more robust way than one-off posting directly to Facebook.
  • Workflow tools--post scheduling, draft/approval modes, and ability to assign issues to certain admins are all valuable workflow tools.
  • More robust moderation/blocklist capabilities--Facebook offers rudimentary moderation and profanity blocklist functionality, but for regulated industries like pharma, insurance or finance, more robust controls may be necessary. 
  • Post scheduling--yes, I know--social media is supposed to be real-time and not scheduled, but in reality, that's not how a lot of businesses work. From needing to schedule posts to cover non-business hours to just needing a schedule to stay on top of posting, being able to view both upcoming and past posts via a calendar can be enormously beneficial. Managing social media accounts is a juggling act and whether you have one person managing all company social media accounts or a bunch of people managing one account, calendaring is, in my opinion, highly valuable.
  • Data analysis and reports--Facebook's Insights leave a lot to be desired in terms of data aggregation, engagement analysis, and activity reports. Yes, there are tools you can use to augment Facebook's lackluster insights, but in my opinion they don't compare to the functionality SMMSs offer. The ability to see the number of clicks per post, total reach and/or engagement combined with Twitter, Linkedin and blog posts, and other advanced metrics simply doesn't exist using just Facebook's insights.
  • Unique features--I use Thrive as an SMMS and it offers a super cool feature--the ability to create a custom action link on posts without links. You know how, when you post to Facebook, "like," "comment" and "share" links appear below the post? With Thrive you can add a customized action link such as "donate" with a link to your nonprofit's donate page, or "shop" with a link to your company's online store, "take action" with a link to your organization's advocacy page--whatever action/landing page you want. I'm sorry but it's just cool, and you can't do it posting directly from Facebook.
So sure, there's merit to the arguments that using a 3rd party app to Facebook could potentially affect your Page's EdgeRank. However, when those arguments are coming from EdgeRank Checker--sorry, I'm skeptical. Especially when their argument against SMMSs include this:
"Posts that are scheduled typically struggle to have high engagement. This is most likely due to the nature of a scheduled update. It’s difficult to create unique engaging content several hours or days in advance. Any negative impacts of scheduled posts are most likely correlations with poorly developed content....Automated content typically performs horrendously, due to lacking human touch and craftsmanship. These types of updates struggle for engagement as is (even if they were manually posted onto Facebook). We highly advise against any automated content on Facebook."
 Sorry but that's just BS, IMHO. You can think of updates off the top of your head and have them be crap, or you can schedule posts a month out, linking back to evergreen content on your website, that result in a ton of traffic back to your website. Obviously, there's an element of "real time" to Facebook updates, but there are plenty of pages that achieve high engagement via posts that are created well ahead of time and scheduled. I don't buy this argument at all--and my experience managing Facebook pages over the past 3 years bears out my skepticism. Content that is scheduled through a 3rd party API doesn't mean that content is "automated"--it can be as carefully curated as content posted in real time directly to Facebook. The platform from which you post doesn't dictate the quality of the content you're posting.

What's your experience been with posting directly to Facebook versus posting from a 3rd party API? Have you noticed a decline in engagement after switching to an SMMS? Or do you think this whole EdgeRank/3rd party API thing is overblown?

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