Another week, another set of Facebook changes… this time:
Facebook has begun notifying Page admins (via messages on the Page) that it will be removing the Discussions tab application from all Pages on October 31, 2011 and it appears that Pages can no longer install the app.
The in-house app, also known as Discussion Boards, allows Pages to host simple forums. However, Facebook says “The best way to encourage conversation and feedback is through posts and comments on your wall”. It will therefore eliminate the Discussions app, despite AppData showing that it has 22 million monthly active users.
What is a little more confusing is that it also says: “We’ve removed these tabs for now as we work on tools to help you moderate and filter content. Our goal is to help you can manage everything from one powerful place. Stay tuned.” So it’s not entirely clear whether the Discussions tab will resurface in another, more manageable guise, or whether they will disappear completely.
As those who use a third-part tool to moderate Facebook Pages will know, the API from discussions doesn’t get pulled into any tools and therefore has to be moderated from the front end. It may be this problem – or simply inattention – which has led to the many instances we’ve seen of otherwise well-run brand/celebrity pages having a Discussion Tab full of slanging matches or customer complaints.
Discussion tabs – if they are moderated properly – do have a function, and it would be a shame for Facebook to pull them completely.
- They are far more easily archived than the wall, and provide a good place for discussion about, for example product issues and developments
- They can also help to get difficult discussions off the Wall, if the community managers steers it: i.e “…. we can help you but please move the conversation here… “
However, they were, as I’ve said, hard to moderate, and much of the time ignored or abused by fans. One awkward little snag was that banning a fan from the wall didn’t stop him or her publishing on your Discussion Tab, so they often the tab became a moderation resource-suck or had to be closed down temporarily. And it’s true that brands weren’t signposting them or alerting visitors to their use, so perhaps they were just a the ‘appendix’ of the Facebook Page – not really used for much, prone to flaring up, and we may be better off without them?
I see a real need though, for an area devoted to customer service issues, which should be kept away from the engaging conversation of the wall. This would benefit both brands and users. Users would know exactly where to go with their issues, and brands can easily find and respond to them, leaving the more positive conversations to go on elsewhere. And PLEASE make it easy to moderate, with the API available to third party tools and banning functions! This area would need to be clearly and regularly signposted through from Page walls, but I think it could work well. You?