Secret Whitelist Protects Top Facebook Page Management Tools From Having Posts Hidden in News Feeds

On Tuesday we published the results of a study indicating that Pages that sync or auto-post their content to Facebook from Twitter or blogs using tools like HootSuite, Twitter, and NetworkedBlogs receive significantly fewer Likes and comments per posts than those that post manually using Facebook’s web and mobile interfaces.

This is partly because Facebook consolidates into a folded thread all posts from across Pages and friends in a user’s news feed that were published through the same tool, displaying a “Show x more posts from [publisher app] link”.

We’ve now learned that Facebook maintains a secret whitelist of companies that are exempt from having content posted through their publishers consolidated across different Pages and clients. This protects them from a reduction in news feed impressions. The whitelist includes some top enterprise Page management tools from the Preferred Developer Consultant program including Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver, Context Optional and Syncapse. Facebook has forbidden those included from discussing the existence of the whitelist. Facebook has confirmed with us that “trusted partners” are having their posts treated differently.

Since consolidation negatively impacts Page post engagement and other key performance indicators, brands have to consider using whitelisted publishing tools. If they aren’t already, they should out of necessity either ask their Page management solution provider about gaining admission to the whitelist, or switch to a tool protected from consolidation. Overall, the surfacing of the consolidation whitelist may anger developers not on it, and push Facebook to change its policy on whose posts are consolidated.

Here’s some more context on what’s happening. In order to gain the maximum exposure, clicks, and other key performance metrics from publishing to the news feed, Facebook Pages need to optimize their EdgeRank, or prominence in the news feed. To do so, they need to consistently publish compelling and widely seen updates to draw Likes and comment that improve their EdgeRank.

However, Facebook has an automated system in place originally designed to collapse flurries of posts published by users playing spammy social games. That system causes any posts present in a user’s news feed that were published by an API publishing tool with a same App ID, whether from one or many Pages or users, to be consolidated into threads that show one post but require users to click to unfold and view the rest of the posts. Since users don’t always unfold the threads, consolidation reduces the impressions of posts, giving them fewer opportunities to score feedback that helps their EdgeRank.

The study by EdgeRank Checker and another by Momentus Media show reductions in post engagement rates by as much as 70% for Pages using third-party publishing tools that have posts consolidated across Pages. This engagement reduction cannot be entirely attributed to consolidation, as differences in the content of scheduled or syndicated posts, Page size, and the types of companies that pay for third-party tools all impact engagement as well. Still, post consolidation does negatively impact impression rates, and therefore publishing apps that cause posts to be consolidated should not be used by brands.

To insulate some of the world’s biggest brands who are also heavy advertisers on Facebook, as well as some of the biggest third-party Page management companies from its Preferred Developer Consultant program, Facebook quietly offered admission to a post consolidation whitelist to a few Page management developers. Tools whose App IDs are whitelisted do not have their posts consolidated across Pages (though, in some cases, a single client’s Page may have its own posts consolidated together if it posts multiple times in rapid succession).

Brands using tools on the whitelist have an advantage over their competitors, as they can attain more news feed exposure for their posts. Page management companies can use the higher engagement rates afforded them by the whitelist to attract clients. Page management companies left off this whitelist may feel the double standard is unfair, especially if brands using Twitter, HootSuite, TweetDeck, or NetworkedBlogs ditch them for whitelisted tools.