Why do we discourage blog comments on Facebook?

By on Mar 18th

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. :)