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Wednesday
Mar162011

Facebook Comments - Boon or Bane to Nonprofits?

It’s been two weeks since Facebook launched a refresh to it’s blog Comments Box Plugin and the reviews have been mixed. It seems that Facebook can’t sneeze about a new feature without the people declaring the feature change to be either heroic or catastrophic. The new Facebook Comments are no exception and nonprofits should think carefully before jumping to implement the system on their blog or website.

TechCrunch and Dave Fleet have both done a great job outlining the pros and cons to Facebook’s new commenting system, but what does it all mean for nonprofits?

Advantages

Traffic and Exposure - The thing that has so many nonprofits thinking seriously about using the commenting system on their blogs is the potential for increased traffic. By default comments in the new system are posted to commenters Facebook profiles. That means that by commenting on your site, your supporters thoughts about something on your organization’s blog can appear in the Facebook streams of their peers. You benefit from this exposure as supporters’ friends get a glimpse of the passion their friends have for your cause in the conversation in your blog comments without ever having subscribed on their own.

Organizational Presence - The system also let’s you comment as a page so you can comment as your organization’s official Facebook Page and post your comment as an update to supporters who “Like” your Page on Facebook. There’s a lot to be said for this and nonprofits can actually take advantage of this possibility even if you don’t implement the new Facebook Comments on your own site. Imagine that through your listening practice you find a post criticising your organization or spreading misinformation on a detractor’s blog. If the detractor’s blog has implemented Facebook Comments, when you comment to set the record straight, you can cross post your comment to your Facebook Page with a simple check-box to highlight it for your supporters on your page. When your own supporters see your comment, they can pile on their support and chime in with additional facts and evidence. Of course, this potential cuts both ways so don’t be surprised if a swarm of detractors show up in the comments on your own site in this way.

Silencing Trolls - If your organization does work on controversial issues, the new Facebook Comments may appeal to you for the way it removes anonymity from comments. The tone of comments on TechCrunch used to be highly negative and the new commenting system has apparently improved things. Angry commenters can no longer hide behind their anonymity so easily. Facebook Comments might actually reduce the level of conversation on your blog, but the tradeoff may be worth it for you if you think limiting anonymity will significantly raise the tenor of the discussion.

On the Other Hand

Single point of failure - If you put Facebook Comments in place and Facebook goes down, comments go down on your site as well. This is the risk of Facebook becoming such a key single point of failure. Another issue is the lack of data portability in Facebook Comments. Nonprofits are so often encouraged to experiment with technology, but unlike Disqus and some of the other commenting systems, Facebook Comments offers no obvious way to get get your data if what you learn from the experiment is that the system isn’t for you. Also, how much power and data do nonprofits want to continue to put in Facebook’s hands? At the end of the day, do we really want Facebook owning all of this data and controlling content on our websites?

Over to You

Will you be shifting your blog to Facebook Comments? Is the increased social relevance and potential traffic worth the trade off for your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments.

*Avi Kaplan is the Online Coordinator, AKA Coordinator of Awesomeness, at Rad Campaign, a firm that provides web design, web development and online marketing and strategy to nonprofit organizations and political campaigns.

Reader Comments (2)

I've mentioned on other blogs, like TechCrunch, that for most business blogs I'm against implementation of Facebook comments. That's largely due to my personal preference. I try to keep my business and my personal life relatively separate.

For non-profits that have blogs and want to encourage comments, Facebook comments would be a good option. You're not requiring a web visitor to login with a special account or provide information that they're not ready to provide and you get the added benefit that most people will not uncheck the "share with Facebook" box. The only downside would be if they're leaving comments that are negative about your non-profit and those would get spread on Facebook.
March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue Anne Reed
Well, this is related and involves the new comment adding process <i>per se</i>. It must be an outcome of the changes mentioned in the article, and has implications for Linux users of Facebook. I use SeaMonkey (off Puppy Linux) to access Facebook. Their new comment "system" (took away the add comment button, and now just press "enter") does not work when I try! Is this something about their not accommodating Linux browsers. Are other Linux users experiencing problems relating to the changes? It's awful. tx
March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNeil B.

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