Social media tools: Is third-party automated posting bad?

There’s a common fear amongst enterprises that by using social media scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, Later or PostPlanner, you’re negatively affecting your algorithm. Is it true? We look at the evidence.

By Tilly Farrands


Social media scheduling tools have improved over the years with newer and better technology. Do you remember the Hootsuite glitches going into Facebook back in the day?

Despite their continued usefulness, a niggling rumour exists: they negatively affect our algorithms. This is despite the evidence overwhelmingly showing that posts using third social media tools get just as much reach. We review the data below to help you put those fears aside!

Third party social media tools: the evidence

Buffer recently proved that third party social media scheduling tools definitely do not affect the reach of posts.

As with anything, some posts did better than others. But their detailed assessment of 200+ native and third party posts across Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin found little difference in reach.

It also wasn’t uncommon for the third party posts to out-perform native posts. This showed on Facebook the most, the very source of the rumoured algorithm interference:

  • Nine posts using third-party tools gained 81,639 total reach or 9,071 per post.
  • Meanwhile, native posting for nine posts received 79,380 total reach or 8,820 per post.

That doesn’t mean using schedulers is going to affect engagement positively. There are a set of mitigating factors, whichever way that you decide to post. More on that in a moment.

From where did the third-party social media tool debate originate?

Rumours start for a reason. It began in 2011 when Facebook was actually limiting reach on third party posts. It was fixed quickly and hasn’t been an issue since. But the bad reputation lived on when it was stated that third party apps result in 89.5% less engagement and reach.

It’s now thought that what was actually being referred in the latter was cross-platform posting and use of automated RSS feeds. Those are different to the automation tools that marketers generally use, so it was misconstrued information.

Marketers have to juggle many platforms at once. It’s common practice to use third party tools and it would be impossible to do their jobs without them. Platforms recognised this fast and in response they took steps to improve their own automation systems.

Platforms wanted to keep users inside their sites for as long as possible. That’s the most likely and suspected reason user algorithms were affected. But the bad reputation stuck even though the issues were quickly addressed.

Third party scheduling tools and engagement – what’s the reality?

Now, many believe scheduled posting beats native posting, and not because of algorithm reasons. Because they:

  • Provide image previews (so you know how your content will appear in advance)
  • Link tracking and advanced analytics – which could be important now that Facebook has removed some of these analytics tools.

So why *do* some see their engagement go down when using automation?

The answer is that they’re being penalised for lack of engagement. When you think about it, if you’re scheduling posts outside of the platform, you’re less likely to be inside your platform as users interact. Native posting means you’re more likely to be present as soon as someone likes or comments on your content. That immediate interaction gets the algorithm working for you – this is what engagement does.

Give some genuine love on your social media

  1. You’re saving time with posting, use that time for engagement instead.
  2. If you engage with other accounts before your posts land, you’ll be rewarded. We’ve tested, it works.
  3. Keep it genuine. You’ll be penalised if you use chat bots. If we want our platforms to be genuine, then we have to follow suit. Authentic interaction grows relationships.
  4. Take note that replying with emojis instead of comments can close a conversation (of course that’s useful sometimes too!).
  5. To keep your engagement up, use a mix of tools on the platform. That way you’ll meet different users the way they like to interact (stories, reels, IGTV, lives).
  6. Share Facebook posts and Instagram stories from other sources. It makes your feed look more authentic! Social media is a community after all.
  7. Remember that you’re still trying to spark followers’ interest and have a conversation, not constantly give the hard sell.
  8. Even if everything is scheduled off-platform, you must keep up with your feed and notifications.
  9. Take note of what posts are really doing well, you may want to explore these topics further.

Other social media misconceptions to clear up

There’s a misconception that account types are treated differently which isn’t true either! Instagram has confirmed that all account types – personal, business or creator – are treated the same.

Photos and videos are also treated equally (including IGTV). So don’t be afraid to mix up your posts! Platforms are keen to promote new features like Instagram reels, so that’s the only time  different types of posts benefit you. That it’s worth embracing new tools early.

All technology has its issues. Recently I struggled to connect a Facebook and Instagram account, and they’re owned by the same company. It should be a seamless connection! No technology is perfect. But the days of having to worry about being hidden due to social media scheduling are gone – so post away!

~ Tilly at Phlashweb

Written by Tilly Farrands, Sales and Events Coordinator at Phlashweb

If you need help setting up your online presence or making the most out of what you already have, get in touch to see how we can help. Alternatively, we run webinars on managing your business remotely. Find out about attending here.

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