Facebook rolls out threaded comments & replies

Heads up, community managers. Our jobs are about to get a lot more intense (but also, maybe, a bit easier and a whole lot more rewarding).

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it would be rolling out two new features: threaded comments and the ability to reply to individual comments on brand pages. This was a feature I first noticed on the Huffington Post Facebook page during the Oscars broadcast, prompting so much excitement that I emailed my boss immediately. He, naturally, thought I wanted to chat about KStew + JLaw until he realized the awesomeness of what was actually going on.

Facebook Threaded Replies

For the first time, brands will be able to respond to each comment on a Facebook post individually and all comments will be threaded, allowing users to follow a conversation and jump in easily. The most active comments and conversations will float to the top.

For brands, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. While being able to respond to each and every comment individually is ideal, it also requires higher levels of moderation and increases the risk of crisis. With comments as they were, negative commentary was more easily buried and it was harder for users to track conversation (increasing the barrier for trolling). Now that comments threaded and the option to reply to each individual comment available, the door is open for both brands and participants of all stripes to play out a conversation in full.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a really positive thing. Brands and community managers, self included, have been clamouring for a way to reach individual consumers on a Facebook page for years. This change will make it easier both to build relationships with fans and surprise & delight those who participate on the page.  The individual replies and threaded comments make it possible to gather information and easily reach out to customers who may not have privately messaged a brand, previously a barrier to contact. However, it also increases the propensity for trolling and for negativity to overtake a post.

Pros & Cons of Threaded Comments & Individual Replies on Facebook

  • Improved engagement: brands can easily respond to customer queries
  • Surprise & delight is simplified
  • Most important conversations float to top; easier to monitor
  • Builds community and relationships among fans
  • Helps to identify and interact with influencers
  • Trolls & irate customers given more of a voice
  • Increases moderation investment: conversations can snowball without effective moderation
  • Opportunity for personal attacks between community members
  • Makes moderation more difficult – does every comment require a response?

Threaded comments and individual replies are available for most brand pages and for pages with more than 10,000 subscribers effective immediately. The reply + threading functionality will only be available for posts made after the page activates the feature – don’t worry about having to backtrack. The features will become the default for all brand pages and for those with over 10,000 subscribers effective July 2013.

Are you excited for threaded comments + replies? 

 

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  • I’m excited for this change as we’re starting to see an uptick on the number of comments on our posts (it seems we’re winning the battle against Edgerank, albeit slowly). Here’s a few upsides/downsides/unknowns:
     
    Upsides
    – Easier to manage posts where there are an abundance of comments by providing more personalized attention (being helpful vs just posting a templated response)
    – Eliminates the need for tagging fans in replies.
     
    Downsides
    – Fan replies to comments might get missed once the thread starts to pick up steam; a constant state of vigil and a watchful eye is needed (to your point of moderation investment)
    – Doesn’t yet work on mobile devices (Pages Manager, for example).
    – Also doesn’t work with third party management tools (Hootsuite, SproutSocial, etc) – at least not yet.
     
    Unknowns
    – Are Facebook users notified when someone has replied to their comment? I can’t see why this wouldn’t be the case, but good to have a definitive answer either way.
    – No indication if replies will also apply to the comments plugin on the Hailo blog.
     
    Does every comment require a response? Yes and no. This might work well on a page with a small audience, but it doesn’t scale well when you have tens of thousands of fans and an active community that is posting on a frequent basis. An FAQ on the page itself might help answer those questions before they’re posted, freeing up resources to deal with other customer queries.