Local Interactive Strategies

Facebook Comments reduces vitriol

I ‘ve been advocating using Facebook’s comments system on public sites for a while (I didn’t realize how long – 2+ years??  ). It’s been surprising that so few publishers (both traditional and startup) have stuck with the usual systems. Mostly the argument seems to come down to either (1) we want to own our own system, not use someone else’s or (2)   anonymous comments are an important part of the dialog.

Now the LA Times has done an A-B experiment, running the same story with two commenting approaches: Facebook Comments and the paper’s existing commenting system. Poynter examines the outcomes. 

I see two very important takeaways: First, Facebook isn’t just a powerful technology, it’s a powerful viral marketing system. LA Times has seen significant increases in engagement (measured in traffic) in the Facebook experiment. Second,  it reduces vitriol in comments not just because people’s names are attached, but because the comment shows up on your Facebook wall!  I believe the latter point is key. It’s one thing to make some idiotic comment on a site where a friend may or may not see it. It’s something else when that idiotic comment is broadcast to all 899 of your friends.

In the past couple of years as Facebook has become embedded in the culture, there’s an even bigger reason to use Facebook if you’re a publisher. Remember Willie Sutton’s response when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”  Why use Facebook? Because that’s where your audience is.






August 19, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. So don’t take my use of my Facebook account to comment as an agreement with your stand. I’m just a big fan of irony.

    I worry about using Facebook’s commenting system because it’s dangerous to outsource these functions to organizations such as Facebook. Basically you are forced to allow comments based upon their terms. They seem harmless enough now. But what happens when (not if) they change those terms?

    Disqus seems a bit better only because they don’t have the same track record as Facebook.

    If you look at my blog, you will see that I use Disqus for commenting. It rocks as a filter for comment spam. Why is it OK for me to outsource my commenting system? Because I don’t care about comments. I mean I care what people have to say. But the blog is built to advance my viewpoint and share my knowledge. Comments are welcome but not a vital part of why my blog exists.

    It’s not like I’m running a community.

    Which is an important distinction. I would argue many newspapers aren’t running communities either – even when they say they are. Their online versions aren’t real examples of discussion and interaction in many cases.

    This deserves a separate manifesto but reader comments – which can be very valuable – on stories simply are not good examples of community and interaction. Using Facebook comments doesn’t help.

    And I disagree with the assertion that “Trolls don’t like their friends to know that they’re trolls.” Trolls really don’t care. They don’t think they’re trolls. It’s the rest of us who are wrong.

    The best reason to use FaceBook comments is that it’s easy and can save you a lot of work. It’s not going to solve any other problems or create community.

    Thanks for letting me runoff at the keyboard. I gotta start that manifesto.

    Comment by Carl V. Natale | August 24, 2011 | Reply

  2. I mostly agree.

    I look at FB Comments as an alternative when a site is unwilling/unable to moderate comments. Some sites have stopped using comments because they just can’t deal with the crap.

    As for the possible problems with FB down the road, I don’t see anything wrong with taking the immediate benefit and worrying about potential problems later. When FB Comments stop being worth the tradeoff, find something else.

    The biggest benefit of FB Comments is exposing your content to the commenter’s friends.

    Comment by joemichaud | August 24, 2011 | Reply

  3. they re on facebook now, but do you think facebook is a potential medium that is at risk of segmentation? For many years now the fastest demographic has been middle aged women…but what about their core users/ the early adopters? Does the myspace-certification of facebook open the discussion of their own demise?

    social network empires have fallen before (aol / prodigy / compuserve) and no company, no matter how attractive the value proposition exists without a vulnerability that can be exposed and unforseen by management ala netflix….if the moneys there, for how long?

    Comment by tim | September 20, 2011 | Reply

  4. Tim, you certainly raise an important consideration about Facebook (or any platform) carrying strategic risk for any company. My point about Facebook is that for most companies, FB is now where their customers are, so why not go engage with them there?

    Key point is “now” – Smart companies will keep a close eye on their customers’ behavior, and potential customers’ behavior, and adjust accordingly. If Facebook starts going the way of MySpace or Prodigy, you should be able to see that coming, and/or avoid spending so much resource on FB integration that you can’t get untangled fast enough.

    Comment by joemichaud | September 20, 2011 | Reply

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