You’ll have heard by now that the Facebook threaded comments feature recently started rolling out, allowing users to reply to specific comments in a thread. However, we would advise caution before deciding to opt in.
How does ‘Facebook threaded comments’ work?
Each comment on an original story or post will contain a “reply” button beneath it, beside the usual “like” button. If a user replies to a comment, their reply will appear beneath the comment, indented slightly. Or, if someone has already replied to the comment, beneath the previous reply. Comments will also be ranked, based on the amount of interaction they receive.
When will it be available?
Although threaded and ranked comments are not yet available on mobile, on 25 March the option to adopt this system rolled out to page owners with over 10,000 followers. Facebook plans to turn it on for all pages and 10,000+ follower Profiles by default by 10 July 2013
What’s the problem?
We blogged on this when it was in test back in November last year, and (while lauding the beneficial effect this will have on engagement, quality and intelligent conversation), were even at that point wondering what impact this may have on those who use third party tools to manage their pages. The majority of larger Facebook pages will be using third party tools to monitor and manage their pages, and this change will have a significant impact.
If you use a tool, don’t start threaded comments yet
It has now been confirmed that Facebook has not yet released the API to its trusted third party tool developers, and the advice from the company is that you should NOT take up the offer until Facebook has had a chance to integrate it into its systems.
UPDATE 5 APRIL 2013: Conversocial has now integrated threaded comments into its tool (see their blog post here). Good news! Updates from other third party tool developers welcome
While some tool providers are concerned about the changes rendering their services inoperable, others are more relaxed and say that the biggest issue would be that any replies by the page made via third party tools would potentially result in comments not being threaded – which may be perceived negatively by fans who won’t appreciate why you can’t/aren’t responding in-line.
From Conversocial: “We’re keen to implement this feature as soon as we can, but currently Facebook has not given any developer access to this feature through the API and as such we are unable to implement this feature right now. Facebook is however working to release this to developers ASAP and we are keen to build in this feature very quickly. In the meantime, we recommend you do not enable this feature on your page as replies will not be threaded just yet!”
In an email from Saleforce Marketing Cloud to its clients: “Facebook developers have not yet released the API for this feature, which is necessary for ConversationBuddy™ to interoperate with this new feature. For this reason, Facebook Account Representatives are recommending that customers of third party partners (such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud) do not enable this feature at this time because it may render ConversationBuddy inoperable or may have other adverse impacts on such services. As a strategic Facebook partner, we at Salesforce Marketing Cloud echo this recommendation, and advise that you delay enabling this feature until we have completed and deployed the Replies integration into ConversationBuddy.”
Facebook is due to release the API to third party tool developers within the next six weeks, so we would recommend that you don’t take up the offer until you have had confirmation from your tool provider that it has integrated the changes.
What if my page is managed directly, without a tool?
If you have a large enough fanbase to receive the offer from Facebook, using threaded comments should help to improve the conversation quality and relationship you have with users on your page (see our previous post for more details, and this good analysis by Lauren Friedman from Adobe Social).
However, we’re beginning to receive reports that the experience of trying to manage threaded comments using only Facebook’s native tools is proving frustrating as new content (good, bad or spam) is very hard to find. No longer do posts appear in the order they were posted. As the comments are now sorted by popularity, moderators have to review every single comments on every post every time they look at the page. This is obviously not workable. Additionally – as we predicted in November – some community managers are already seeing evidence of on-page bullying as users are able to respond directly to each other and pile into a popular discussion: the Facebook equivalent of a rugby scrum.
Are you using threaded comments? How are you finding it? We’re looking forward to finding out more about the nitty-gritty of moderating threaded comments – what happens when you delete a comment at the top of a thread, for example? Let us know what you think of the new system in comments below (threaded, of course!).