How Facebook Might Conquer Comments

It’s no secret that Facebook is trying to conquer the internet and bring it all in behind its registration wall. Whether or not they ultimately succeed will probably depend on a number of variables, such as whether Facebook can launch an Android killer. But for the meantime it looks like the latest part of the internet to come under siege from Facebook is user generated comments.

What’s Changed

Just last month, Facebook launched some changes to the Like button that pretty much rendered the Share button obsolete:

When a Facebook user clicks the Like or Recommend button on a third-party site, a full feed story with headline, blurb, and thumbnail is generated on the user’s wall. Users will also have the option of commenting on it.

Previously, unless third-party publishers chose the Like with Comment version of the button for their site, users got only a link to the story in their recent activity section on their wall. Now the Like, Share, and Recommend buttons will all generate the full story with headline, blurb, and thumbnail.

On the one hand, this change has the potential to drive more traffic to third-party sites by featuring Likes more prominently. On the other hand, third-parties might have to worry about “Like blindness” — i.e. if your News Feed turns into some kind of Like-spam-feed, you might stop paying attention and even stop liking things yourself (personally, I don’t buy that).

Comment on My Like

But really, who cares? I mean, Facebook is just avoiding confusion by merging two features that were largely coterminous, right?

Well, yes, but not exactly either. You see, when you consider how Facebook comments now work, the implications of this might mean that Facebook is trying to usurp third-party conversations altogether.

Forcing the Facebook Comment Box: Costs vs Benefits

Now don’t get me wrong. When it comes to usurping users comments, Facebook is making sure that there’s something in it for you. And it’s for that reason, they’ll probably be so successful at conquering the majority of comments online.

Facebook Comment Box from TechCrunch

You see, through Facebook Connect, third-party sites can allow users to use their Facebook credentials to leave comments. This is advantageous because it reduces spam, the third-party content is automatically promoted to commenters’ Activity Feeds, and third-parties can subsequently access user demographic data via Facebook Insights, and better understand who their Facebook audience is.

The interesting thing about these changes to the Like/Share functions is how they incentivize third-parties to use Facebook Comment Box.

The Facebook Comment Box goes far beyond allowing users to comment with their Facebook credentials. It also shows users comments that are most relevant to them, and more importantly, it syncs comments across Facebook and your site. This means that if someone Likes a page on your site, and their friend comments on their like, that comment will appear on your site (in the comment box, of course).

By using the Facebook Comment Box third-parties get some added viral bang for their buck. And given the recent changes to Facebook Likes, that viral potential is considerable.

There are 2 major problems with this. First, those comments exist in Facebook’s database, not yours, so you lose conversations you started. Secondly, there are SEO drawbacks because Google can’t index what’s in the Facebook Comment Box. So whereas comment activity often helps a page/post rank better, because it is more frequently “updated”, the comment box precludes that advantage.

Of course, Bing can index that data, but Google is still nearly 3 times the size in the US, meaning that third-parties are trading Google traffic for Facebook traffic. Granted, a Google user can’t refer someone as easily as a Facebook user, so the trade-off might be a worthwhile one.

About CT Moore

A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over 8 years experience leveraging search and social media to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to both SMBs and enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed. CT has worked with both start-ups and multinational brands alike, including Acquisio, Microsoft Canada, and Luxury Retreats. He is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.

Twitter: gypsybandito