Facebook has announced a new version of its Comments Box plugin – its social plugin that enables Facebook-connected commenting on a website. In this post we’ll take a look at some of the apparent benefits and risks of this new feature for businesses.
Facebook’s Comment Box plugin
- Social relevance – the new plugin uses what Facebook calls “social signals” to prioritize comments on posts. Comments from people in your social graph, highly-liked comments and active threads rise to the top; those flagged as spam fall to the bottom
- Comment syndication and aggregation – commenters can push their comments to Facebook; comments left as a reply over there are aggregated back on the original site. Comments then stay sync’d between the two sites.
- Moderation - Facebook has included a robust set of moderation tools, including visibility settings (comments can be set to be visible to everyone or set so that people only see those from people in their social graph), blacklisting words and banning users. People can also self-moderate, hiding comments that they don’t want to see
(For more on the actual features, check out this write-up over on TechCrunch)
What does this mean for my business?
So, what might this mean for businesses? There are a number of potential pros and cons at play here:
1. Ability to comment as a Page
Core to the pros (and the cons) of the new plugin from a brand perspective is the combination of this new feature with the recent change to allow people to use Facebook “as a Page” – commenting throughout the site under the banner of a Page rather than a person. This carries over to the new plugin, meaning that a company’s Facebook Page can engage in conversations on third-party sites.
2. Broader reach of business and user comments
Commenting on third-party sites is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, companies can significantly affect the tone and course of a discussion by participating in it and giving their side of things. On the other hand, it’s hard to know just how many people actively read comments on sites – especially when comment threads get long.
The new comment plugin lets brands increase the audience for their comments, by commenting as a Page and posting the back to their Facebook Page. In doing so, the brand exposes their Facebook Page’s fans to their comments – potentially far more people than might be reading the other site.
3. Bring brand advocates onto third-party sites
As an additional benefit of the previous point, when a brand comments on an external site and syndicates the comment back to their Facebook Page, people who reply to that comment via Facebook will become integrated with the comment stream on the website. Given that (hopefully) many of those people will be brand fans and advocates, this greatly increases the potential of higher, positive, engagement on other sites.
4. Reduced spam
Popular blogs and news sites are notorious for the prevalence of spammers and trolls – people with absolutely nothing constructive to add, who just looking to cause trouble. Those people often comment anonymously, as it’s much easier to cause trouble under an assumed name.
Facebook’s new comment plugin offers the potential to reduce spam comments by forcing users to connect to their Facebook account when leaving a comment. The additional transparency offers the potential of reducing spam comments and comment trolls.
5. Potential for higher engagement on owned properties
The ability to increase the reach of comments beyond a site itself, and to increase the relevance of comments to users, offers the potential of increasing engagement across the board.
1. Potential for confusion
The new plugin allows people to share their comments over on Facebook. However, once the comments are over there it’s not entirely clear for users that their comments will be aggregated back over on the original site.
There’s lots of potential for confusion, and controversy, when people realize their comments don’t just reside within the protective, search-resistant walls of Facebook. It’s just a matter of time before people start complaining as their comments start unexpectedly showing up on third party websites, or attracting responses from company advocates over on a Facebook Page.
Meanwhile, community managers themselves need to take extra care when posting comment replies, in the knowledge they may be synchronized on another site.
The potential for confusion has a couple of implications:
- Companies using the plugin on their owned properties would be well advised to make it very clear to users that their comments may be shared over on Facebook
- Companies need to make sure they train their community managers to understand the mechanics behind the new plugin, how to minimize the risks of those mechanics and how to maximize the benefits.
2. Comments tied to one platform
While other commenting systems such as Disqus (which I use here) allow you to sync comments with your website’s database, Facebook’s comment plugin has no such feature. That means that if Facebook changes things around, or if you change comment plugins, you will lose the comments people have previously left on your site.
3. No non-Facebook login
While Facebook is looking to roll out other means of logging in to the Comment Box plugin, right now it’s limited to a Facebook-only login. That means that if people don’t have a Facebook login (even 600m users is only 10 per cent of the world’s population) or if they don’t want to share their credentials via a third party site, they’re going to be excluded from participating.
4. Facebook myopia
Just as news sites filtering news according to the views of your friends runs the risk of offering alternative perspectives to current events, so the prioritization of comments by the social graph runs the risk of not providing dissenting opinions when it comments to debates on content.
Remember – just because someone isn’t connected to you on Facebook, it doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t valid or valuable.
Good or bad?
What’s your take on this new Facebook feature? Any other pros or cons come to mind? Do you think this is a net good or bad thing for companies? Would you incorporate it into your sites?