Is Using Facebook Comments Good for Publishers?

Facebook logoThere were some interesting posts over the weekend from Steve Cheney and Robert Scoble on whether utilizing the Facebook Comments Box plugin kills or in fact increases user authenticity within on-site commenting. TechCrunch also shared that comments are down but quality is up since implementing the system and they’re going to stick with it for the time being.

Is it what users want?

As someone who limits his Facebook friends mainly to actual friends but who frequently reads and comments on industry and marketing blogs, for me the main concern with using Facebook Comments is the desire to keep my professional and personal lives separate.

It’s safe to say that most of the things that I read and comment on professionally are of little interest to my friends from high school, college, time spent overseas, etc. So I’d rather not put that activity into my Facebook news feed. And in my professional interactions I want to represent myself through a link to this blog or my Twitter profile, not my Facebook page.

Regarding the first issue you don’t actually have to post your comments on Facebook:

Facebook Comments Box plugin

Malcolm Coles had a good suggestion for the second issue: set up my blog as a Facebook Page then do professional commenting as the Page and personal commenting via my personal profile.

I like this idea but not everyone has a blog or a professional Facebook Page. Hopefully in the future Facebook will allow users to share comments with only certain friends; you can do this now with wall posts if you have lists set up.

It is also important to note that most Facebook users are interacting largely with mainstream media and general interest content that is not professional in nature. So for the average person these concerns are not always relevant. But there are plenty of users out there that are concerned not only with privacy but also with having to mix their personal and professional interactions.

Is the system good for publishers?

There are certainly downsides like the lack of backup/export, ceding control and giving Facebook access to valuable data for free, weakening your own on-site community, etc. Ryan Singel covered this well last week.

But publishers also get increased exposure on Facebook and with that more opportunity for traffic, engagement and social sharing, all of which has the additional benefit of helping directly and/or indirectly with SEO.

It also proves helpful to sites that are battling with comment spam and low-quality or inappropriate comments. And the reality is that not every site is able to build up a strong, active on-site community of its own.

So if you publish content that appeals to a wide audience, and if you don’t already have a well-engaged on-site community, the positives outweigh the negatives and the Facebook Comments Box plugin is worth experimenting with.

UPDATE:
April 2011: Facebook has added new features to the Comments Box plugin including an improved News Feed story format, permalinks to each comment and the ability to access comments for every URL via the Graph API, among other things. Hotmail has also been added to the list of login providers (Yahoo! and AOL were already options).

June 2011: Facebook has added reverse chronological sorting to the Comments Box plugin.

Comments

  1. I don’t think Lack of Backup is an issue. Facebook makes it pretty easy to pull out all the comments as part of their OpenGraph API.

  2. Thanks EJ. Based on the coverage I’d read it didn’t appear that publishers have the ability to export the comments should they decide to stop using the system. If that’s not the case, that’s another plus for giving it a try.

  3. I like to read up on industry blogs and I have been noticing more of the Facebook comment box. I can see how it would increase the quality of comments, since it’s actually holding a real person accountable for the comment. However, there are probably many people that don’t feel comfortable signing into their account like that just to place a comment.

  4. I have to agree with Adam with his concern to keep his professional and personal life separate, but due to cut throat competition people are using every possible means to market themselves and their business.

  5. Hey Adam,

    Really interesting opinion. We just wrote about this plug-in — and the issues of privacy it brings up — on our site as well.
    http://thehiredpens.com/blog/?p=1104

    Cheers,
    Anna

  6. I agree Nick, not everyone wants to be identified by their real name so it’s nice when users are able to make that choice for themselves.

    As a side note your comment got caught in my spam filter for some reason which is why it didn’t get published right away. Kind of ironic for a post on effective commenting systems. :)

  7. Thanks for sharing that Anna. I agree that using Facebook comments is not the right choice for every publisher and there a number of things to consider in making the decision.

    Regarding using the Facebook comments plugin to maintain a certain quality level, interestingly a major magazine site that I work with just made to choice to stop using it because they were apparently getting overrun with spam in their comments. So using the Facebook system has helped some publishers in dealing with spam but in other cases the issue has actually become more problematic.

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