How To Engage On Sites Using Facebook’s New Commenting Plugin

Facebook recently introduced a new version of its Facebook Comment Box Plugin, allowing website owners to integrate their commenting functionality with their Facebook presence.

We’ve already looked at the pros and cons of the Facebook commenting plugin for businesses considering implementing the plugin on their sites. Today, let’s take a look at what the implications are for companies running engagement programs.

The new plugin poses a conundrum to those working in engagement programs – specifically, around how they engage in the comment streams on sites using the plugin:

  • Do they comment as a Facebook Page, assuming they have one (and deal with the lower personalization and effect on Page content)?
  • Do they personalize responses more by using commenters’ own Facebook accounts (does that cross a work/life boundary)?
  • Do they just avoid commenting on sites using this plugin?

Here’s my take on five clear options for people running social media response programs. What’s yours? Let us all know what you think in the comments below.

Option 1: Individual employees comment using their own profiles

Have company employees log in and comment using their own Facebook profiles.

  • Pros:
    • Transparency of person’s identity
    • Avoids potentially negative comment streams being pushed to the company’s Facebook page
  • Cons:
    • Requires employee to use a personal account for business purposes. Could be considered to cross a work/life divide
    • Company-related conversation aggregated on employee Facebook profile
    • Possible that some company spokespeople may not have Facebook pages
  • Conclusion:
    • As transparent as this option is, the cons and the risk of violating work/life boundaries outweigh the benefits
    • Lost opportunity to aggregate relevant conversation and to activate advocates on page

Option 2: Comment as company-owned Facebook page

Company employees log in to their own accounts, but use the new person-like features of Facebook Pages to leave comments as the company’s Facebook page.

  • Pros:
    • Clear that responses come from company’s official presence
    • Avoids using personal accounts for business purposes
    • Drive additional traffic to appropriate Facebook pages
    • Aggregated conversations provide additional content for Facebook pages
  • Cons:
    • Potential lower transparency, as company name shows as the comment author (although can be mitigated via comment content)
    • Conversations aggregated on company page may not be positive in tone
    • Dilutes official content on the company’s Facebook page
    • Requires wider group of employees to have admin access to the company’s Facebook page, meaning less control over activity on the page
    • Potential for accidental comments as Facebook Pages on non company-related conversations, if employees forget to change their commenting profile back to their personal accounts
  • Conclusion:
    • Clear benefits over using personal profiles, but increases the level of risk on company pages via increased admin access and unpredictable content. Depending on the company, this approach may be viable.

Option 3: Create new, business-only Facebook profiles for commenters

Company employees engage in the comment streams under their own names, but via  profiles created purely for company use.

  • Pros:
    • Separation of personal and business profiles
    • Avoid additional admins on Facebook pages
    • Maintains engagement on sites with Facebook commenting plugin installed
    • Avoids diluting content on Facebook pages
  • Cons:
    • Violates Facebook terms and conditions – risk of accounts being deleted by Facebook.
    • Lost opportunity to aggregate relevant conversation and to activate advocates on page
  • Conclusion:
    • Risk incurred from violating Facebook terms and conditions is not advisable.

Option 4: Create Yahoo! accounts for commenters

Company employees comment on posts themselves, but do so through a new integration in the plugin – a Yahoo! login.

  • Pros:
    • Works within Facebook’s rules
    • Avoid additional admins on Facebook pages
    • Avoids diluting content on Facebook pages
    • Maintains engagement on sites with Facebook commenting plugin installed
  • Cons:
    • Less credibility of commenter profiles – Facebook profiles perceived as more credible than Yahoo! accounts
    • Lost opportunity to aggregate relevant conversation and to activate advocates on page
    • Could be perceived as easy for anyone to claim to be a company employee
  • Conclusion:
    • This option minimizes risk to the company and maintains the ability to engage. However, this option also loses the opportunity to curate conversations on the Facebook page, and the lack of identity verification that Facebook provides may reduce spokesperson credibility (although no more than via other commenting systems).All-in-all, this provides a viable option for companies looking to engage on these sites.

Option 5: Avoid commenting where Facebook Commenting Plugin is used

Avoid the pros and cons of all of the other options by refraining from engagement on sites using the new Facebook commenting plugin.

  • Pros:
    • Avoids risk of accidental cross-posting
    • Avoids diluting Facebook page content
  • Cons:
    • Lose opportunity to participate in relevant conversations via comment streams
    • If adoption of Facebook pages increases, lose broader opportunity to engage
  • Conclusion:
    • This is the “do nothing” approach. Frankly, it’s a last-resort if a company is already engaging in conversations on third-party sites.

Conclusion: It depends on your culture

Facebook has thrown a bit of a wrench in the works for companies engaging in social media response programs. None of these options is ideal from a company perspective – each comes with draw-backs in terms of risk, transparency and credibility.

Many companies may want to use Facebook’s new ‘company as a page’ functionality (option #2) to benefit from the ability to aggregate conversations on their own Facebook pages, and to do so credibly while providing interesting conversations for fans of their pages to participate in – and a way to leverage the advocates on your page to weigh-in on relevant topics.

However, for those carefully tailoring the volume and type of content posted on their pages, this makes life difficult. Dan Zarrella, for example, has shown that if you post too often to your page, you may lose fans. By throwing comment replies into the mix, companies may run the risk of saturating their page with content, to the detriment of people on the page. What’s more, your comments are unlikely to always be positive, so you may end up aggregating negative conversations on your page.

Meanwhile, logging-in via a Yahoo ID (option #4) offers a good balance of maintaining work/life separation for empoyees, influence over Facebook Page content, and risk mitigation from avoiding additional page admins and reducing the risk of accidental comments “by the company”. The downside of this, though, is the lost opportunity to bring these conversations to your fans, and the lack of identity verification that Yahoo IDs provide.

Ultimately, this is likely to come down to company culture. Is your culture more risk averse? Then you may want to go with Yahoo IDs. Are you more accepting of slightly higher risk? Then commenting as your company’s Facebook page may provide the greatest benefits without usurping employees’ personal accounts.

What do you think? Would you come to the same conclusion? What would you add to the mix?

  • Thanks for this comprehensive overview. It doesn’t make life any easier but it certainly highlights where the issues are.

  • Anonymous

    Dave: Outstanding summary here of the various commenting scenarios!

    We’ve lobbied Facebook in the past — unsuccessfully, of course — to allow users to create a separate “professional profile” (Option 3), which would go a long way in cutting out much of the messiness that you outline above. Though it seems to go against Zuckerberg’s MO (“Why would someone want to have more than one identity?”), I can’t help but wonder if Facebook will ultimately make this concession.

    Some of these would certainly not fly with some of our clients, and others

    • Anonymous

      By the way, I found myself wishing you had the Facebook commenting plugin enabled on THIS blog. I would have liked to leave the previous comment as “LiveWorld” and syndicated to our Facebook Page!

      • I’ve certainly thought about it. I may give it a trial when time permits.

  • John Rhinestone

    I don’t really see Facebook ever giving into the idea of creating a “professional profile”. This added functionality would completely alienate a large demographic of users, such as those under 18 that aren’t currently career-minded.
    Cyan Solutions is an Ottawa marketing firm that understands the importance of reaching new target markets while not making your other markets feel like they’re being ignored.

    • Anonymous

      John: Currently, in fact, you CAN create a business profile on Facebook, but you’re not then allowed to have a separate personal profile. Having two accounts under your name is a violation of Facebook’s terms. This is what I’d like to see changed.

      For me personally, trying to keep track of which of my accounts I’d be using wouldn’t be worth it. But then, I’m generally not segmenting my personality. For the types of scenarios that Dave is outlining, that functionality would be helpful.

  • Good points to think about when engaging on 3rd party sites. I think it depends on loyalty of your fan base. For me personally, if I saw the Oreo Facebook page commenting a ton, I would love to read what have to say on outside sites. If I saw someone’s page commenting who I don’t necessarily have an affinity for, I might unsubscribe or unlike.

  • Wow! what a great idea!!

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  • Anonymous

    It’s a good summary with pros and cons.