You might remember back in January when we brought up the question of Facebook getting into the comments platform game. Though the idea made sense at the time, and we had the evidence to support it, it’s only now that we’ve finally gotten confirmation.
In a blog post by Facebook, the new platform is laid out in detail. With a host of tools, the new platform could prove to be a welcome addition for many site owners, but there are some areas of which you’ll need to be careful. We figured that the best way to approach this would be to give you a list of pros and cons when it comes to implementing Facebook comments on your site.
Social Relevance – Facebook comments will use “social signals” to raise the most relevant comments for each user to the top of his or her comments list.
Contextual Information – Typically speaking, commenting profiles are only able to provide the information that the user has input into the platforms themselves. Facebook comments will pull more relevant information, such as your relationship to that commenter, their current city and work information.
Robust Moderation Tools – While most simple commenting platforms only offer a minimum of tools (block/spam, approve/unapprove), Facebook’s platform goes considerably deeper. It will offer a level of visibility for comments that is based on the friendship status of commenters to one another. User-generated moderation is also included, allowing users to click an X next to a comment in order to remove it from the view.
Distribution – With most commenting platforms, the comments are limited to staying only where they are made. Put a comment onto almost any blog and it’s there but only there, for as long as it lives. Facebook’s distribution allows comments to be cross posted to a user’s wall. Facebook page admins can choose to have comments appear on a Page’s wall, as well, thus narrowing the gap between a site and its Facebook presence.
Social Relevance – But wait, isn’t that a “pro”? Well, yes it is. But it’s also a likely con. Here on TNW, none of my Facebook friends comment. If one of them did, though, their content would be pushed to the top. While that’s good in theory, it goes off of the idea that social is always the better content and that’s not always true.
It remains to be seen whether Facebook will weigh your “Like” of a certain person’s comments into that relevance scale. For now, there are many of us who do not connect our Facebook pages with the outside world. It’s a walled garden, for us, and we choose to keep it that way. Social commenting is not a good option in that case.
Single Point of Failure - From what we can tell, there is no way to back up your comments that are placed on your site. Since everything runs off of Facebook directly, that means that you’ll lose all of your comments if you decide at some later point that you’d like to try another service.
This fact also brings up the point that if Facebook has a data loss, so do you. It’s a risk that you’ll have to be willing to take in order to implement them.
Limited Sign-In – Obviously, Facebook expects you to use your Facebook account in order to sign in and comment. However, there are some other options. What’s notable, though, is that neither Google accounts nor Twitter accounts stand as available options for authentication. This is going to seriously irk readers that either don’t have or don’t wish to share their Facebook account outside of the site itself.
The Facebook blog post states that “We plan to add other login providers soon.” The problem here is that Facebook would have to get Google and Twitter to agree to the terms and, given recent spats between Google and Facebook over data portability, at least one of these options is highly unlikely.
Limited Access – In areas where Facebook is blocked, that also means that the comments on your site are blocked. While your boss might have no problem with you reading TNW on your lunch break, Facebook might be a no-no in your office. That means that if we implemented the system here, we couldn’t get your feedback. That’s a big loss, in our book.
Distribution – This is another of those areas where it really depends on how you look at things. On one hand, if you don’t mind your comments on a Facebook Page being spread across 3rd-party sites, it’s a boon. If you do, it’s going to ruffle your feathers a bit.
If the comments were implemented here, and you left a comment on an article that we posted to our Facebook page, it would show up here as well. Is that right to do? It’s a question that only you can decide. Taking that point a step further, let’s say that some other site embeds our content from TNW. Your comments now show up there, on a completely unrelated site that you never intended to access.
Tipping the Scales
There are a lot of factors that you’re going to have to weigh. Is the risk of angering your users worth the reward of increased distribution? Are the moderation functions enough to keep you interested? Do social comments really lead to better results? Without a doubt, the next few months are going to be interesting. Some large sites such as Huffington Post have already implemented the system, and we’ll be keeping an eye on the results of the move.