amrita Using Facebook Comments For Your Business or Blog

I want to open with the fact that TechCrunch’s decision to use Facebook for comments is both short-sighted and paranoiac on their part.

I can certainly see the appeal of using Facebook comments – I think that given the number of people that are on Facebook as well as the number of people that use Facebook as their digital/ online identity – certainly makes a case for inclusion. However a decision to move exclusively to Facebook comments and Yahoo is extremely limiting.

In a nutshell, Facebook Comments does not solve the problem of anonymity.

For example, I like to have a bit of control over what people perceive my online identity or image to be. Facebook is not my primary persona. Neither do I want it to be. I have all of 63 friends on Facebook. A majority of them are very close friends and family living in different parts of the world – people that I don’t get to see too often and people that know me since childhood i.e. strong ties, not just casual connections. In a nutshell: Facebook is not my primary way of connecting or identifying myself online. This holds true for many people.

So for sites like TechCrunch, to limit commenting by people in order to ‘reduce or all-together eliminate anonymous comments’ is bogus. If anything, it makes people more anonymous, simply because Facebook is not a good system to establish what this person really stands for. There is no way for the business (in this case TechCrunch) or other users of the site, to perceive the commenting user’s preferences, opinions, biases etc. What good is a comment like that?!

In fact, I firmly believe that negative comments by trolls or otherwise is part of the business  and if you can’t take people – anonymous or otherwise – disagreeing with you, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business. Alternatively, you could just put better moderation in place!

Unlike many other embedded commenting systems (including Disqus which I personally LOVE), when you comment using the new Facebook comment plugin, your comments can show up in your Facebook news feed for all of your friends to see. Moreover, if one of your friends then responds on Facebook to your comment, then their response will also show up on the website or blog.

As much as this feature has major viral implications, I really don’t think my mom cares (or understands) why the iPad 2 is such a big deal. Nor do I want comments from my friends in other industries on why I think some sites have crappy UX. Their thoughts may or may not be relevant, but more importantly, that is not a conversation I want to have with them! The missing link here is the fact that there no way I can target or filter these updates and that in itself will dilute the value of my comment. Not to mention losing the implicit privacy that we currently enjoy.

Do I really want all my friends on Facebook being aware of my other internet activity?

However one thing I will admit – Facebook integration does give businesses and website owners a chance to get a lot more detailed information about who is seeing their content on Facebook. That is powerful and hence I agree that there is some value. But I don’t believe there is value in limiting comments through using Facebook and only Facebook, much like what TechCrunch has done, especially since it does not currently support any Twitter or Google integration. 

In this case, I believe that most of the benefits of the commenting system will be reaped by Facebook; not the website, blog or end user. Facebook wants to grow its empire by any means necessary and this is simply more fuel in their kitty to further collect more data about their user’s activities on the internet.  Facebook’s motives with this whole commenting system are underestimated to say the least.

For more reactions on why TechCrunch has decided to move towards Facebook comments, check out this post by MG Siegler on Quora. But before you do, take a moment to tell me what your thoughts are on the matter. Would you use Facebook comments for your blog or business?

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10 Responses to Using Facebook Comments For Your Business or Blog

  1. Vikram says:

    Hi Amrita,

    I would personally not only have facebook for commenting but would allow all the available channels or say top 10 channels with an extra option of anonymous (moderating the comments) definitely.

    I feel this is going to backfire or irk the community atleast majority of them and also general users as i feel it gives a monopoly to facebook which should not be the case.

    Thanks,
    mekala

    • amrita says:

      I agree – it sure looks like a monopoly.

      It is in bad taste… and as much as they might think users can be “coerced” into using Facebook comments exclusively, they will soon know this to be an illusion.

  2. RM says:

    Amrita, this is a great article!

    I was so surprised to see a tech-blog as big as TechCrunch using Facebook comments system. Like you said, do we really want our friends and family to be aware of our other internet activity? No.

    I haven’t left a comment on TechCrunch (or read any of them) since they rolled out this new system. And there are several reasons for that. The first one being – I have facebook-disconnect extension installed on Chrome so it automatically blocks facebook plugin on all websites across the web.

    Even if I uninstalled the extension, I still wouldn’t comment on TC. We act differently in different environments (I act professional at work, silly engineering student and school, and a lazy kid at home), so why shouldn’t I be allowed to do that online?

    Using the new system brings everything back to my FB network – where my friends and family can see what I have been posting online. This doesn’t allow me to act differently in different environments the way I can in the ugh..’offline’.. world.

    MG’s response on Quora about the whole it gets rid of negative comments by trolls is BS. Sure it gets rid of negative comments, but it also gets rid of some amazing comments by anonymous commenters.

    And lastly, what about people who don’t have Facebook or a Yahoo account? What are they supposed to do? I found this ironic since one of the guest writers on TC (Vivek Wadhwa) only uses Twitter (http://techcrunch.com/2010/01/01/twitter-and-me/) . He doesn’t have Facebook and I doubt he has a Yahoo ID (well he could have one, but what if he doesn’t?)

    There are some advantages of using the new system, but I disagree with using it exclusively.

    RM

    • amrita says:

      Hi Rahul, thanks for your comments.

      I especially like how you said “We act differently in different environments…”. Well, hallelujah!
      We have different types of relationships with different people in real life. The way we interact with each of these groups is different and as much as we have embraced transparency and cross pollination of information and opinions; we still have the added responsibility (and sometimes fear) of bombarding people with “too much information” or information that is not relevant to them.

      Facebook Comments would only worsen this issue and further de-value our comments, status updates etc. This would make, what we have to say, more insignificant and irrelevant.

  3. Stroller says:

    I think that people will start to hold at least two Facebook accounts. One for the original purpose of Facebook and one to use with all of these extra social functions which are proliferating the net. I have done this for some time now as i have my small infrequently visited facebook account for friends as I didn’t want to subject them all to my internet buisiness activities.

    One idea is to set up a page according to your personal interests and then you can choose to comment as that page – the page actually being your identity – rather than your own personal profile.

  4. Ian says:

    HI Amrita, hope you are keeping well.

    I have yet to realize any business value from Facebook let alone want to use anonymous comments from them. But, hey I didn’t get the iPad when it first launched … but I do now. A couple of points that I wanted to comment on.

    First, Facebook as you suggest is a personal medium rather than professional. Like you I have a limited number of friends on Facebook. Just don’t use it that much. Tried it for my business and for the most part it has proven to be of extremely limited value. It may work, however, I have neither the time or inclination to figure it out although we did try. Twitter on the other hand ROCKS!

    The Ottawa Business Journal used anonymous comments on their forum at one time and frankly many people use that identity cloak to be well .. down right nasty. Personally I favour comments that use peoples real identity. You tend not to get as many comments but they are more respectful.

    My 2C.

    • amrita says:

      Ian, you hit the nail on the head!

      Of course comments with real identity, with at the very least, a real email address associated with it makes sense. However, if businesses and blogs are trying to solve that very problem by using Facebook comments – that I am sorry to say – it doesn’t really serve a purpose. I don’t know many people that are comfortable with using their Facebook account to participate in professional/ official discussions.

      Heck, most of my friends don’t even use their real names on Facebook. Some are teachers and don’t want students to find them, some are hiding from ex-boyfriends and some don’t want their aunts and uncles adding them on… whatever the reason may be. I don’t believe Facebook is people’s #1 choice of online identity. And hence those businesses and blogs subscribing to FB comments only will tend to suffer.

  5. amrita says:

    Ha! Sean Power recently wrote a post about TechCrunch’s massive loss of comments after their implementation of Facebook comments. Full post: http://bit.ly/hxBY5w

    Some highlights of his analysis –

    •For all posts, implementing FB Comments caused a 42% reduction in the total amount of comments, and a 38% reduction in comments per post.
    •For the average post, implementing FB Comments cause a 58% reduction in the total amount of comments and a 56% reduction in the average amount of comments per post.

    In other words, TechCrunch saw almost 50% less comments when they implemented Facebook comments.

    ‘Nuff said :)

  6. Steve Shoe says:

    Hi Amrita. I followed the link you posted under Sean Power’s piece. Interesting points in your post and in the discussion that follows.

    I have to politely disagree with your assertion “that negative comments by trolls or otherwise is part of the business and if you can’t take people – anonymous or otherwise – disagreeing with you, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business. Alternatively, you could just put better moderation in place!”

    As a former web editor for a small newspaper, the issue with comments was never about people disagreeing with us or other commenters, or taking us to task for our work. It was about crude, vulgar, base comments that hijacked any legitimate conversation and turned the comments under any article into an ongoing pissing match between local factions that thought they could hide behind their online monikers.

    I used to be a strong proponent of not having to register to leave a comment on a site, but during my time at the paper, we were forced to clamp down more and more in an attempt to curb the ridiculousness. Of course, it was a lousy system to begin with and there were plenty of easy workarounds for the really dedicated trolls.

    I should point out that I have no issue with offensive, course language, and pepper my spoken words with it quite frequently. However, in overseeing a website, which represents a community newspaper, with a large audience with diverse standards of conduct, the goal is to try our best to represent the overall community expectation. If we won’t allow racist, vulgar, crude language in the printed pages, why should we tolerate it online? More importantly, if our readers wouldn’t stand for it in print, why should we subject them to it in our online iteration?

    I don’t think the fact that TechCrunch saw an almost 50 percent drop in comments since implementing Facebook comments tells the whole story, and indeed Power’s piece indicates as such. I’m not on Facebook, so I fully agree with the points you raise above about using that platform exclusively, but I do think the time for purely anonymous comments is coming to an end. If you’re interested in some expanded thoughts on why, here’s a few recent posts at my blog:

    http://tangled-in-wires.blogspot.com/2011/03/scrub-dub-dub-slate-writer-wants.html

    http://tangled-in-wires.blogspot.com/2011/03/hater-tracking-lesson-in-non-anonymity.html

  7. StatSpotting says:

    I think the one point you are missing is probably the most important one:

    TC must have done solid analysis on the number of “valuable” comments that would still arrive if they moved totally to Facebook based commenting. the percentage shd have been in the 80s or 90s. So they took the leap. any analysis on total number of comments would miss this point.

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