Facebook comments: Friend or foe for pubs?
This slick idea could be one of the best things anyone ever did for newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, bloggers or anyone else who thinks he has something to say on the web. Or, it could be a dangerously beguiling trap.
First, I’ll tell you how it works. Next, we’ll look at the pros and cons. Then, you can be the judge.
Announced earlier this week, the Facebook comment plug-in lets a publisher put a bit of code on her website so readers can use their Facebook log-ins to make comments on the site in the same way they can leave a comment today. The system, which has been deployed under this article at GigaOm.Com, allows publishers to moderate comments to filter out spam and other objectionable content.
The difference between conventional commenting and the Facebook system is that the comments don’t just sit on the publisher’s site but are immediately propagated across the Facebook network. That means they show up on the Facebook pages of the commenter and all her friends. When an individual logs in as a Facebook member at the publisher’s page, the plug-in cleverly elevates comments from her Facebook friends to the top of the comment stack.
This could be a boon for publishers for the following reasons:
:: Publishers can increase the number of comments on their site, since it’s a snap for any of the more then 500 million global Facebook users to log in and dash off a few lines. While some backwards-thinking publishers limit or prohibit comments on their sites, feedback actually is a valuable way to build ongoing interest and traffic on a website. The more comments, the busier a site will be. What publisher wouldn’t love that?
:: Because comments are shared across the burgeoning Facebook platform, publishers will enjoy increased exposure for their sites. By some measures, Facebook has surpassed Google as the top referrer of traffic on web. When a comment appears on Facebook, it contains a link not only to the comment but also the article that inspired it. As everyone knows, there is nothing more potent than word-of-mouth in marketing. What publisher wouldn’t love more traffic?
So, what’s the downside?
:: The known knowns: If this plug-in is adopted widely, the already formidable power of Facebook will be enhanced to the potential detriment of other digital media companies. By aggregating the likes (and dislikes) of its users through the comments they make, Facebook will gain deeper and more granular insight into each participating individual than it now possesses. Facebook without doubt will leverage this information to sell ever-better-targeted advertising at ever-higher prices. Publishers, on the other hand, will get bupkus for generously creating the content that generates the comments that Facebook spins into gold.
:: The known unknowns: In addition to selling advertising with the information gained by aggregating and cataloging user comments across a broad spectrum of sites, Facebook will know a lot more about its users than any of the individual publishers who kindly helped them build this splendid, one-of-a-kind database. How will Facebook use this information? Can’t say. But you know this savvy company won’t let this valuable asset go to waste.
:: The unknown unknowns: While the comment plug-in could prove in the long run to be more beneficial to Facebook than to publishers, can publishers afford to forgo this rare chance to knit themselves deeper than ever in the growing Facebook ecosystem? Feel free to comment.