Facebook Comments – Does It Make Sense for Your Site?

By Gordon Plutsky
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Should you add the Facebook Comments plug-in to your company’s website? Maybe, maybe not. King Fish Media’s director of marketing & research (and all-around smart guy) Gordon Plutsky explains.

Facebook recently introduced its Comments plug-in, which allows visitors to use their Facebook login to post comments. Content sites are quickly embracing Facebook Comments to replace their current system of commenting. You can see why.

From a viral marketing standpoint, Facebook Comments sounds like a dream: Now those comments appear not only on the company’s site, but on the commentor’s Facebook Newsfeed, too. But if we take a closer look, there are some big warning flags that businesses and consumers should heed. In fact, it starts to sound a bit more like a nightmare to me.

Reduces nasty comments … and all comments for that matter.

Sure, not allowing users to post anonymously or under a pseudonym cuts down on the number of negative or inappropriate comments, but guess what? It cuts down on comments, period. Way, way down.

Case in point: My local paper, the Salem News, had a rollicking comments section that contained a mix of good writing and opinion, tempered with some vicious personal attacks and outrageous accusations. It could be great fun to read, and a hot story could get 25-50 comments — some received well over 100.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, they went to a “real name” Facebook ID login to “add more civility” a few weeks ago. (Some speculate that any number of local politicians squelched the section because they were getting pounded by anonymous comments.) If deafening silence is civility, then they succeeded. Most stories now have no comments whatsoever, and the small handful of people who do comment are local cranks, retirees and people trying to get name recognition.

Then there is the whole issue of personal privacy.

The use of real name and identity will have a chilling effect on the desire to comment on topics outside of your professional venue.

We live in a hypersensitive and partisan era where flame wars break out easily over the major topics of the day. Do you really want to express your thoughtful and reasonable opinion on such hot-button topics as abortion, public employee unions, local politicians and global warming — not only using your name, but also potentially identifying your family, friends and employer along the way? I’ll pass on that, thanks.

So what’s the solution?

Well, for a lot of companies, it may be as simple as keeping your old system but doing a better job moderating it. Otherwise, as with the Salem News, your hope of monetizing the free content, increasing engagement and expanding readership backfires by cutting traffic and negatively impacting revenue.

So before you adopt the new Facebook Comments plug-in, think hard. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and do what is right by them — and your organization.

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