Update as of May 28, 2018: In addition to all the research we’ve compiled below, we also have big news—we’ve received official confirmation from Facebook that posting from third party tools has no effect on reach.
Not only that, but third party posts are also treated exactly the same as native posts on the platform.
From Ryan Kintanar, Technical Partner Manager at Facebook:
“Using a Facebook Marketing Partner for scheduling content will not impact your reach negatively. Posts and ads created by FMP’s use the exact same delivery systems as content created through Facebook’s native tools, so they will perform exactly the same, regardless of publishing method.”
And as luck would have it, we’re a Facebook Marketing Partner.
“If I post with a third party social media management tool, won’t it negatively affect my reach? I’ve heard Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/LinkedIn penalizes you for not posting natively.”
Here at Falcon.io, we get questions like this pretty often. That’s why we’ve decided to comb through all the latest research to dispel a few common misconceptions.
Posting through a third party social media management platform will not harm your organic reach on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social network. It won’t improve your reach either—effectively, it’s the same as posting natively.
But how can we be so sure? Let’s get into it.
If you’re looking for ways to increase your reach, here’s our coverage of how to deal with the effects of the latest Facebook algorithm change on reach, and 11 ways to boost organic reach on Instagram.
A legend is born
To see if third party SMM platforms actually hurt reach, we first looked into the origins of the myth. Where exactly did the idea arise?
Actually, probably from Facebook themselves.
That’s because before 2011, Facebook really was limiting the reach of posts from third party social media management tools.
At the time, many brands noticed that they got lower reach and engagement numbers when publishing content via third party tools.
However, Facebook development consultant Matt Trainer released the following statement in November 2011:
“…we recently made a fix that added more signals to detect good quality posting behavior. This should improve the situation with the distribution of posts coming from third-party apps in the News Feed.”
In other words, since late 2011 Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has treated posts published via third party social media management tools the same as native posts.
Yet the myth still persists. And to be fair, none of the other social networks have publicly confirmed or denied whether they limit the reach of posts from SMM tools.
So how can we prove definitively that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn won’t restrict your reach for using a third party tool? It’s all in the data.
Look at the numbers
Brian Peters at Buffer recently did an in-depth experiment to determine once and for all whether using a social media marketing tool hurts organic reach.
He compared the reach and impressions of posts published from three third party social media tools to posts published natively on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The test included over 200 posts from 35 different profiles and took place over a three-week span.
So what were the results?
The average reach for native Facebook posts was 8,820. The average reach for third party posts, meanwhile, was 9,071.
So on average, posts published via third party social media management tools actually performed better on Facebook.
As for Twitter, the average impressions for native posts was 21,671. Meanwhile, third party posts got 21,108 impressions on average, which was slightly less.
Finally, when it comes to LinkedIn, the average reach for native posts was 6,071. The average reach for third party posts was 7,024, or nearly 1,000 more people reached per post.
A few stats never hurt anyone
But wait—if you’re a true stats geek, you’re probably wondering if any of these differences actually mean anything.
Were those differences in average reach and impressions more than just random variations in the data?
Well, we’ve got you covered. We crunched the numbers on Buffer’s raw data from the experiment and ran a few unpaired t-tests to see if there was a statistically significant difference between the reach of native posts and third party posts.
Stats-to-English translation: we looked at the odds that the differences between third party posts and native posts are because the posts are actually penalized/boosted vs. the chance that some posts just randomly had more reach than others.
For Buffer’s Facebook data, we found that there was a 90.8% chance that the difference between third party and native post reach was meaningless.
For their Twitter data, we found that there was a 71.5% chance that the difference was meaningless.
And as for LinkedIn, we found a 37.8% chance that the difference between native and third-party posts was meaningless.
In a standard t-test, anything lower than a 5% chance is considered to be a truly meaningful difference in the data, so 37.8% doesn’t exactly make that cutoff either.
To sum up: statistical analysis proves that there is no real difference in reach or impressions between posts published natively and posts published through a third party social media marketing tool.
Still don’t believe us? Scott Ayres over at Agorapulse conducted two more experiments that pitted third party social media tools against native publishing.
Interestingly, Scott started off by surveying a 12,000-plus member Facebook group of social media professionals about third party social media tools.
Surprisingly, 80.2% of respondents believed third party SMM platforms affected reach, and 93.3% of that group thought the effect was negative.
We guess it just goes to show how pervasive this myth really is!
So, Scott tested the theory that Facebook limits the reach of posts from third party social media tools by alternating third party posts with native posts over a three-week period.
He used both photo and link posts and tried three different third party tools to ensure variety. He also posted to three separate Facebook Pages with different popularity and types of followers.
The results? Two pages saw higher reach with third party social media tools, while one saw slightly lower reach. For all three Pages, the differences were small enough to not be statistically meaningful.
Plus, in his recent follow-up experiment on Twitter, Scott addressed claims that Twitter was punishing users who posted with third party social media management platforms.
So, he tested four different third party tools against native Twitter posting to be sure.
Over a three-week period, Scott posted 100 tweets each from Twitter and the four third party tools on three different accounts, for a total of 1500 tweets.
And surprise, surprise—after a series of A/B tests he found no statistically significant difference between any of the tools and native posting.
(Third) party on, people
So, should you be worried about third party social media management tools hurting your organic reach? In a word: no.
By now, multiple independent sources have run a variety of social media experiments that put this myth to bed for good. It’s safe to say that if there was a noticeable difference in reach, we would have noticed by now.
In some tests, posts made via third party tools had higher reach than native posts, and in some tests, they had lower. But the fact of the matter is that none of the results in these tests were statistically significant.
It’s safe to say that Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are not penalizing anyone for posting from third party SMM platforms.
So, pick your favorite scheduling tool and post away. Feels good, right?