Why do we discourage blog comments on Facebook?

All the Offbeat Empire blogs have corresponding Facebook Fan Pages. Each Page has a feed of posts links that are syndicated from each blog. It's not the entire post, it's just a link to the post on the main blog. This means that if you like reading Offbeat Bride's blog and fan us on Facebook, you'll see a link to new Offbeat Bride posts from your Facebook newsfeed.

This is all awesome.

However, what's LESS awesome is that we can't turn comments off for these syndicated blog posts.

Wait, you're saying. Aren't comments a good thing? Why aren't you thankful for the comments people are posting on Facebook? Why would you want less comments? OMG SO MANY REASONS, and most of them are in the commenters' best interests!

1. Facebook comments don't last

Let's say we do a post on Offbeat Mama like "How did you find a baby-sitter you can trust?" The comments thread on that blog post are a treasure trove of useful feedback, full of great suggestions and links and ideas. A year from now, someone can search Google or Offbeat Mama for babysitting advice, and find that post and all its comments. The advice you left on Facebook? Gone after a day or so. It's not going to show up in Google, nor is it going to show up on our site. It basically exists for a few hours, and then gets buried in Facebook's newsfeed, never to be seen again. If you're saying something valuable that you want other people to see, comment on the blog where people can see it.

2. Facebook comments are not part of the conversation

The comments on the blog post and the Facebook link are totally separate. This means that comments can overlap (people give the same suggestions on both Facebook and the blog) or discussions split (people give totally different feedback on Facebook that never gets seen by the person who wrote the blog post or 95% of the people reading it). Again, if you're saying something valuable that you want other people to see, comment on the blog where people can actually see it, and engage in one awesome discussion.

3. Facebook comments create more moderation work

I know from consistent reader feedback that part of what makes the Empire special is our commitment to civil, low-drama comments — and this commitment takes WORK. My editors are already working their tails off to moderate comments on the blogs — when separate threads get going on the Facebook pages, it means my editors have to be moderating in two places at once. I don't expect readers to care, but this does create additional work for my editors.

4. Confusion frustrates everyone!

Our typical response to a Facebook syndicated post that starts getting a bunch of comments is to remind folks to comment on the main blog, where there comments will be seen by the post author and will stick around for readers to benefit from. This does NOT go over well with some Facebookers, and I fully recognize that it's frustrating and confusing for people to be told they should comment somewhere else.

Here's a typical exchange that happens all the fucking time on Facebook:

I don't like your policy about where we comment. It's easier to comment on fb. Be glad people are commenting!

Our response:

The policy isn't about controlling where people comment. If you comment on Facebook your comment gets lost quickly, but if you comment on the actual post, it's on there forever. If someone searches for something on the site and your comment is on the topic, it can continue to help people find info or be inspired by what you said and so on for… forever. Post authors can easily respond, and you can engage in much more meaningful dialogue with fellow readers.

Basically, this is a shitty exchange for everyone. Reader is like SHUT UP AND BE THANKFUL. Publisher is like SHUT UP AND BE USEFUL. No one wins.

In closing

I've been dealing with this problem for ages (you can find other people's unresolved questions about the issue going back YEARS), and I just haven't found a good solution that feels useful for readers but also allows us to maintain commenting cohesion. This is not a new problem, but as the number of people using Facebook as their portal to the internet keeps growing, it's getting increasingly frustrating for users that we ask them to keep their comments where our readers can actually see and benefit from them. If I could turn comments off on syndicated feeds, I TOTALLY WOULD in a second. But I can't, so we just keep reminding people, and they keep getting frustrated. But it's frustrating for me as a publisher, too — if you become a fan of a blog, isn't because, well, you enjoy reading the blog?

Until Facebook provides a technical solution to this issue, shit ain't gonna get any easier. At this point, despite the fact that 10% of our traffic comes from Facebook, I'm pretty close to just killing post syndication over there. Alternately, anyone heard of a Facebook page RSS syndication tool that does NOT allow comments?

UPDATE: I've somewhat reconsidered my stance in this post. I now encourage people to comment TWICE: both on Facebook and the blogs. :)

  1. Further complicating the issues is that there's a difference between comments on SYNDICATED BLOG POSTS (bad) and comments on status updates (awesome!). Trying to explain the difference is agonizing.

    2 agree
  2. **shrug** I prefer commenting here because here is hopefully MY business, my space and not going to be appearing on the FB ticker or anywhere else that people I know will come across it. Same for google picking up OBE comments. Not under my name. Happy! (Wish the same could happen with a bunch of other sites I enjoy who really only have commenting available on FB! I could live a long, happy life and never have to suffer the opinions of my family/friends when it comes to my choices in lingerie and corsetry or tattoos and piercing and other assorted interests. There are some things I'd just prefer not to share with my Dad or my sister-in-law or that random gaming lady from the deep South I play FV with.)

    3 agree
  3. PS: Sorry I'm a luddite and can offer you no solution! I was just wanted to say Go Team!

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  4. I'm a moderate to heavy Facebook user (no games or whatever, but lots of checking and updating) and I say ditch it! I agree that it's not appealing to me to comment under my real name, and I could never be so free with my comments or stories if I knew my in-laws could see, for example. The extra feed is nice, but I applaud sites such as the OBE that encourage on-site commenting ONLY – it's a method of making a forum without a forum, and I totally get it. And if that extra feed is causing lost comments and more headache, not worth it.

    Also, in my opinion, the concept of being grateful that people are commenting is silly. The amount of people that comment on something isn't as important as the traffic, the sharing, or anything else that actually spreads the word. The ONLY purpose the comments serve is to enrich our community – how can you do that when they don't even make it to the community? It's not as if the editors get a cookie every time someone comments on something. The comments are only as good as the community they're shared with. Or something.

    I have OPINIONS in all caps tonight, apparently. Sorry. :P

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    • "Also, in my opinion, the concept of being grateful that people are commenting is silly."

      Agree with this 100%, but I also understand the motivating emotion behind people saying we should be thankful. Basically, "I'm taking my time to interact with your brand and business — shouldn't that be a good thing?"

      And it should, but the way Facebook has it set up means it's not.

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      • Absolutely valid point – for many, interacting via comment is logically the best way to support a site. (Though as others have mentioned, it's really all about the ad clicks!) I just hate seeing people use it as a weapon of sorts, or a justification. I know it's likely a knee-jerk reaction, but it's still a bit too petulant.

        If the Facebook update feed in question was actually a discussion group, this would be a very different situation. And perhaps for many, it really is just too easy to view the feed as a Facebook group, and to be honest, it's only serving Facebook to keep it ambiguous – when they're there, they're clicking on their ads, not OBEs. Harrumph, I say!

        2 agree
        • Petulant: YOU SAID IT, I DIDN'T.

          ;)

          1 agrees
          • Hahaha! I WILL BE THAT PERSON. FOR YOU. Because I have to be the face and voice of, well, nothing! And diplomacy was never my strong suit. :P

            2 agree
  5. there must be a way to post an update on fb that there is a new post, with a link to that post, without allowing comments? mustn't there? I've seen it with tumblr blogs, I think. Perhaps I'm mistaken.

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    • You would think, wouldn't you? In three years of researching the issue, I haven't found one. I would LOVE to be proven wrong here. SERIOUSLY.

      0 agree
  6. I don't know if this would be helpful or not, but what if you put a "gentle reminder" in the description of the link saying something like "There's quite a discussion over father-daughter dance songs going on! Read what others have to say and take part in the discussion!" (I picked the first post I could think of off-hand that had a lot of comments on it).

    It probably wouldn't work for every post, or for every person. But I think in general, the idea that a discussion is already taking place coupled with no comments on Facebook would imply I should comment somewhere else, while still being positive. Also, it's telling people BEFORE they post in the less ideal place, instead of deleting their comment after.

    0 agree
    • We've tried varying levels of this, with a links embedded in syndicated posts that say CLICK HERE TO COMMENT! Ultimately, if the comment field is there, it doesn't matter how you instruct people to behave: folks see the field, they WILL comment.

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    • This was my initial reaction, too: tell people that there's a discussion happening over HERE.
      However, I know our Facebook syndication thingie is pretty automated–make the post, and it goes up on our Facebook page within two hours with the original article title.
      If you're creating new headlines for FB, that's how I'd frame it. But if you're not… well… I'm stumped, too. :)

      1 agrees
  7. Where I work, we've currently just embraced the different conversations that happen on Twitter, FB, and NPR.org. There didn't seem to be a way around it.

    However, there is technology out there that different companies use to at least syndicate the FB comments back to your site (same with twitter replies to tweets with your link). I'm not sure that it would lead to a cohesive conversation, but it would at least allow the comments to be pushed back here.

    Since companies are selling the technology, it must be technically possible, so it is hopefully only a matter of time until someone gets it right and it becomes widely adopted… or the paradigm shifts and we're all talking about the challenges of Shoe Phones.

    2 agree
  8. I just want to remind OBE fans that advertising is what keeps our beloved Trio afloat. If you are active only on the OBE Facebook pages, your clicks are going to Zuckerberg. If you come on over to the actual blogs, you support the community on a monetary level. Offbeat Mama in particular relies on that activity. Keep your clicks at Home [pages]! (Confidential to the Facebook addicts: this applies to ALL websites you love! Go spread the clicky love or FB hoards all the advertising dollars!)

    2 agree
    • Thank you for bringing up this point! It's true, but it's certainly not something I expect readers to care about. Ultimately, folks fan Empire blogs cuz they like reading our posts — not because they like supporting my business.

      (Although that's nice too. :) )

      1 agrees
    • THIS!!!

      I want my "money" & support going to Ariel's Empire, not Zuckerberg's Regime.

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    • I'm so weird about how I read things that if any of the blogs I read post something on FB about a new post, I'll sign out of FB and go click on my bookmark for that blog. I just don't like clicking on the links in my news feed because I feel like it interrupts my FB time.

      Knowing that my direct clicks are helping and not padding Z's pocket? Priceless.

      0 agree
  9. Holy fuckballs I love it when you give it straight. Not that you ever don't, but srsly. When you really just lay it down? Yup. My faves.

    1 agrees
  10. I wish I had a solution for you guys… instead I just have to say that it was REALLY difficult for me to resist the urge to troll by commenting on Facebook. ;)

    1 agrees
    • As I said on Facebook (HA!), if anyone has a great solution to this never-ending pain in my ass, I welcome you to comment it ANYWHERE YOU LIKE!! :P

      1 agrees
    • I'm sorry, I was that troll who commented ON facebook, the urge was too great to resist!

      1 agrees
  11. I think this policy makes perfect sense, and ultimately is in everyone's best interest – and I totally support it. Thanks for explaining it for all.

    0 agree
  12. Amen. I actually have made numerous comments expressing my gratitude for OBB/OBE! I can't share my frustrations on FB, because I am "friends" with the family members who cause the drama and I need somewhere private to sort out and get support from anyone-but-them on an issue.

    0 agree
  13. DON'T KILL THE FEED!!! I'm on facebook pretty much all day long via my laptop or phone and when I new post pops up I can easily click over to read it. Sometimes I forget to check the blog itself for days at a time and by the time I read a post all of the important stuff has already been discussed!

    3 agree
    • One solution would be to set up an RSS reader, like Google Reader,so you are alerted to updates for all of your favorite websites as soon as they happen. It's more immediate, reliable, and permanent than Facebook notifications as well.
      http://www.google.com/reader

      1 agrees
    • Not that I'm planning to kill the Facebook feeds, but I do want to point out that there are a TON of ways to keep up with us: RSS, email, and Twitter are the most popular.

      0 agree
  14. Could you incorporate the Facebook Commenting plug-in on your site, where everyones comments are done via Facebook, and stay with the post?

    0 agree
    • I've tried several Facebook Commenting plugins over the years, and unfortunately all of them have been pretty seriously lacking. The technology to import FB comments onto your site exists, but the solutions are pretty lackluster. If you have suggestions for specific plugins I should investigate, please let me know!

      0 agree
    • Sites that only allow me to comment through Facebook are sites that I do not comment on.

      13 agree
  15. I can understand where you're coming from on this, but if your main issue is the comments getting lost, couldn't you post a comment on the blog with a link back to the fb post? I know it's not ideal, but at least you can go back & forth between the two conversations. (I don't think I've ever commented or noticed comments on a fb post though… I always click on the link to read the post before I have any reason to comment.) *shrug* GL either way.

    2 agree
  16. I love Facebook, but I also love Offbeat Empire. If Facebook is that big a pain, I say ditch it!

    One possible cause of confusion – you sometimes post links on Facebook that are not on the Offbeat Empire website, so there's no where to comment about it (to the Offbeat community, that is) EXCEPT on Facebook. I have no idea what a good solution would be.

    0 agree
    • Yeah, I mentioned that up-thread — commenting on status updates = fine! commenting on syndicated posts = not fine! It's totally confusing (seriously: I get it!), and I SO wish we could just syndicate links WITHOUT COMMENTS.

      0 agree
  17. I just worry that you're shooting yourself in the foot. Part of how I judge whether or not to read an article (not just on OBE) is by the comments on the FB post–especially if I'm not an active member of the sites commenting community. Plus comments on a post are part of the algorithm FB uses to determine how often you pop up in people's newsfeeds. If you eliminate comments, people aren't going to see the posts in their feeds, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that uses FB to see when new things are posted.

    2 agree
    • Yeah, part of this is a "where I'm at with my business" thing. If I was in the "traffic growth" phase of my publications, I'd be doing everything I could to get traffic from Facebook.

      As it stands, however, I'm at 3,000,000 pageviews across the network. Traffic is steady and strong and solid, and acquiescing to Facebook's weirdness for a few tens of thousands of clicks a month doesn't always feel worth it.

      0 agree
      • Wow, uh, I'm guessing your comment wasn't intended this way, but I'm a little taken aback by how insulting your response came across. I'm thinking I wasn't as clear–my hope is that you continue allowing facebook comments because that means you'll keep showing up on my feed (and the feeds of others who just track through fb) so I keep seeing the new posts, so I keep clicking through. I mean, I appreciate that I'm just a couple of your millions of page views, but seriously? As a social media/marketing director I get where you're coming from, but you also just told a reader and community member you don't care if they see your stuff.

        2 agree
        • I really wouldn't interpret what she said this way. This blog is about the internal workings of the blogs and her business, and she was just giving an honest bottom line about what Facebook does or doesn't do for a business. It's definitely honest and fair, and she's just saying that putting so much labor and resources into Facebook isn't necessarily paying off.

          0 agree
        • My intention wasn't to come off as rude, but I'm in business mode, so I can see how it might feel that way. Sorry about that.

          My point in talking numbers was to point out that web properties move through different phases:

          • In the first couple years, there's a traffic growth phase, where the top priority is building awareness and traffic.
          • Then, once traffic stabilizes, priorities can shift.

          Not that traffic generation ever stops being important, but after publishing Offbeat Bride for 5+ years, it's got pretty solid traffic and now I have balance the editorial work that goes into maintaining the Facebook pages vs. other priorities like content dev, monetization, etc. My point in mentioning pageviews is just to give a concrete delineation of what phase of development I'm in. It's an issue of context.

          The Empire's posts are broadcast a LOT of different ways (websites, email newsletters, RSS, Twitter, Facebook, etc) and as JPT noted, this discussion is me trying to figure out if Facebook is worth the resources to maintain. Again, I'm not meaning for Facebook users to take this as some sort of personal affront, but in the context of a publishing business, I think of users in the clusters of tens of thousands. It's just an issue of where I'm at in this phase of this business.

          Also, it's worth acknowledging that sometimes I'm just a stone cold bitch when talking business. That's totally a fair criticism.

          1 agrees
  18. I moderate a Facebook page and blog for a university office, and when I started here there was an interesting conversation going about allowing comments on Facebook. They had blocked their page so that no one could comment on the wall or in response to posts. Then I came to realize that this was no longer possible–on Pages you can only block them from posting directly to the wall/timeline, not commenting on items you post. They did not want this available, but in our case it isn't a huge deal because we don't get a lot of comments anyway.

    In a previous position I ran a Facebook page that was open to comments (for an academic department) and I would say about 60% of the comments were spam, maybe 1% were actually the target audience, and the rest were department employees who were on Facebook when they should have been working.

    In both these cases, the point of the Facebook aspect is providing content and directing readers to the website and our physical space, so it's very different. We also don't allow comments on our WordPress blog, because again it's more about the content/information and not the conversation, and as an 8-5 office there isn't staff to monitor without paying overtime. (That problem exists on Facebook, but again, few people actually comment; they're more likely to just hit the "like" button.) So in that respect I agree–it wouldn't be good for us if we had to monitor two different places every time we post something.

    As it's not possible to actually control where people comment, unfortunately, I can see the dilemma! Many readers are not going to understand the use of Facebook as a tool to drive traffic to your real website. You might also consider that if you use something like HootSuite to post to Facebook, you can control how the post shows up and how many lines are included, what the thumbnail is, and what the title is. (Not sure if you're using something like this, but I've found it a huge help!)So you could just put the post title or something to pull them in, then instead of the beginning of the post, something like visit offbeatbride.com to learn more. Of course, there will still be readers who click the link, go to the actual blog, then go BACK to Facebook to comment. I find it annoying that you can't schedule posts on Facebook, because I schedule our blog content throughout the week. I then match the time the blog post is going up with a Tweet/Facebook post via Hootsuite (and unlike Tweetdeck or other third party twitterthingies, the posts don't all pile up as tweets, they actually look like Facebook posts). It saves a lot of time to actually be able to do all the social media work in advance, then just keep an eye on Facebook for comments (of course, social media is like 1/5 of my job in this case).

    Also, double agree: "Also, in my opinion, the concept of being grateful that people are commenting is silly." Um, no.

    0 agree
    • Our syndications tools (was Networked Blogs, now Feedblitz) only syndicate the title and a link — and yet still, people click to read the blog, and then click back to post on Facebook. "…Because commenting on Facebook is easier," people keep telling me. BUH?!

      I'm starting to suspect that part of the issue is that people aren't actually clicking through from Facebook to read the post — they're essentially responding to the headline.

      1 agrees
      • Agreed… or they are just responding to other people's reactions who have already commented. By "easier" they might mean because it automatically gives then a Facebook notification when there are other commenters, so they can stay more involved in the conversation? But HEY I just did that here cause it e-mailed me! MAN that was hard!

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      • Also… what about people sharing your posts and then others commenting on their share? COMMENTS EVERYWHERE and you can never find them all!!

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        • Yeah, ultimately this challenges of decentralized commenting/online discussions is WAY bigger than the my frustrations with our fan pages. It's been an issue for a decade — anyone remember trackbacks?!

          0 agree
      • People definitely respond to the headline/other comments. I've seen this clearly on our local news station's Facebook page. The comments will keep getting further and further away from the "truthiness" of the article until invariably, someone gets offended and someone else posts, "Seriously, have any of you even read the article?!"

        0 agree
      • Commenting through Facebook is technically easier though. It's one less step to comment because you're already signed in. You don't have to leave your name and email address. Admittedly, it's a small step, but that's how these things go, right?

        0 agree
        • Yeah, but to leave that comment you have to to go BACK to Facebook to post.

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          • Not if you're like a lot of people and open the link in a separate tab. Facebook is already open, right there and ready to go.

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          • Haha. No, not those people. But a new tab does seem to be the default way a link opens in Facebook for me. So they don't even have to try!

            Anyway, totally with you on this. Just thought I'd offer a possible answer to your confusion.

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          • If you are a regular commenter, your name and e-mail address are already filled in. Admittedly, that depends on your browser settings, but I think the standard is that the browser remembers it.

            0 agree
        • It has never even occurred to me to post on FB and 90% of my click throughs go into a new tab, but aside, I'm really only interested in FB/twitter following OB blogs (or any other blog) if there is content I can get there that I can't get on the blogs. And since I've commented once on the blog, my info always shows up now. No extra step for me! Easier just to comment here.
          Also, OBE is what got me to use RSS and I'll never go back!

          0 agree
  19. This is also frustrating in a NON-business capacity as well.

    When I post links to my personal blog, I want people to continue to the discussion on the actual post itself. I mean, I can't tell you how many adorable comments my grandmother has left me re: a particular blog post, but on FACEBOOK instead of the blog post, that are now lost in the sands of a Facebook wall time.

    I also don't understand this whole thing in the sense that, you have to click over to read the actual post yes? So you're already there, on the actual post, where you can easily comment. One actually has to then do an extra step to click back and then comment on the Facebook alert instead of the actual post.

    This is why I also suspect, as Ariel previously mentioned, that perhaps people aren't clicking through and, instead, are just quickly responding to the headline. Which actually, has caused some confusion in the past.

    Either way — Facebook, y u no let us block comments!???

    0 agree
    • Agreed… I never get comments on my blog, only Facebook. I guess some people are more likely to comment in a place where they can just log in to a pre-existing account, like Facebook or Twitter, or Google for blogger. I think the answer is, everyone in the world just needs to read their blogs via Google Reader.

      0 agree
    • I click the FB link and a new tab opens with OBE where the article/post is available to read AND my name and email addy are sitting there in the reply field just waiting for me to say something profound. ;)

      I agree, why go back or click back to the fb tab to comment there? It's too easy peasy to do it here.

      0 agree
  20. I comment on Facebook when I accept or even prefer my comment being as forgettable as the Internet allows, within a day or two. I like opting into lose-ability. I understand the frustration, though.

    0 agree
  21. I just want to chime in and say I enjoy the facebook feed and I don't want to see it killed! Since I'm already married I'm not hopping on OBB like I was =) but when I see an interesting snippet on facebook I always hop over here to see what it is (You can't not look at a post about cute shoes!). So I would say through facebook I still come over here a few times a week. But I remember post wedding I didn't visit very often. I do however KNOW to comment on the blog itself – for anything! I always try to find the original source for cool photos I find, a fun invitation design… to give credit where it is due, and to engage in conversation where it is most helpful in the future.

    The easy access of facebook commenting is the number one reason why I don't post my artwork there. It's just not productive or professional for the artist, in my opinion.

    0 agree
  22. A benefit of facebook based commenting that I haven't seen mentioned yet is that comments on facebook turn up in our friends feeds there. Your logic for preferring comments here is completely sound: it makes your pages richer. However if a readers main online community is on facebook and not here, by commenting on the post on facebook, they contribute to the network they participate in more heavily, and their community is more likely to read the comment. For whatever reason, they may prefer a conversation with their community than this community.

    0 agree
  23. I hear ya! I'm tech staff for a convention — I have the site set up to crosspost everything to FB because approximately 50% of our audience get their news about the convention through FB, as a result of which many vendors and and attendees ask questions there instead of e-mailng us (e-mail gets to us faster and gets seen to more quickly than FB comments).

    But another twist is dealing with staff members who don't fully understand that FB and the website have different audiences so post updates on FB and not the site, and staff who don't realize that other people judge us by our reaction or non-reaction to FB comments, so when we get a question on our public FB feed, reply to the person privately and don't publicly post that we've taken care of the issue (or deleted the question), so it looks like we're not listening when we truly are.

    At least we're a small, niche community. I don't envy the social media manager of another convention I staff, which is exponentially larger and whose FB postings can get hundreds of comments if they're popular.

    0 agree
  24. I'm a pretty heavy Facebook user, though I'm trying to reduce my usage. I don't, however, read OBE posts on Facebook, the only thing I use the Facebook OBE pages for is re-posting on my feed. I think it just looks better when it comes from inside Facebook instead of copying a link and posting that. That being said it certainly wouldn't stop me from sharing OBE posts on Facebook if you eliminated the fan pages. I would just go back to copy and pasting the urls into my status and while it won't look quite as pretty, it's still just as effective.

    0 agree
  25. Just a note– I'm pretty sure that the visibility of posts varies in part based on how many comments previous posts like it have gotten. So, for Facebook to keep showing your posts in the feed, your users need to interact with you. The algorithm has a number of factors– on a quick Google, I turned up http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/22/facebook-edgerank/ and http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/12/27/edgerank-and-graph-rank-defined/ that talk about the algorithm, but not in depth– and comments aren't all of it, but it's a factor, and one that isn't mentioned above. I think it's salient information both for publishers and commenters– if you want to see all the posts, and you're a lurker on Facebook, consider using one of the billion other methods of consolidating your online world.

    0 agree

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