There 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:
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.
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.