It’s time for publishers to engage, the Facebook way

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I hear similar sentences from bloggers and publishers all the time – “that was a great story but no-one saw it” or “you’ll a write somewhat decent post and bang… no-one comments”. No-one adds or pushes things further unless you really make it a ‘thing’ and then they begrudgingly put finger to keyboard. Not the way it should be. Whether it’s bible-fodder or twaddle you, as a writer/publisher, expect a reaction and an engaged “audience” for what you write.

We, as a species, aren’t that bad at letting others know when they are annoying, hurting or pleasing us. Yet when it comes to the internet we’re mainly leaving these activities (i.e. comments) to the oversharers and the overcarers (I’ll leave trolls for another time). Why? Technological understanding, lack of time and general laziness aside, publishers have been missing out on simple commenting systems for a while now. They don’t make it easy enough for people to comment, whine or offer an alternative opinion, let alone share with friends.

Now I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say I too don’t comment enough on others’ work – it’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions. Still, I am failing pretty well which is why the recent updates to the comments social plug-in from Facebook caught my eye. The plug-in allows users login with their Facebook or Yahoo! credentials, and comments are published to a user’s wall by default, driving traffic to the website.

This is what the Publishing world has been waiting for – a simple, easily understood and fast procedure for people to comment and share content. Yet it’s been met with a decidedly quiet fanfare and of course, it seems the negatives outweigh the positives for publishers.

Damn right they do! Facebook isn’t a charity! They aren’t here for you, they don’t need you, people can fill Facebook themselves, but they are trying to help. Take the olive branch! I beg/urge the publishers of the world to implement the plug-in, and then tell people you’ve implemented it, then re-tell them a week later. Monkey see, monkey do.

Early signs from TechCrunch and pals are good so I feel pretty confident about guaranteeing that implementing the system will show you positive engagement results – it’s time to lose the ownership of comments argument from publishing’s playbooks. People want to engage with others and you – you’ve never had such powerful tools at your disposal – so use them.

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  • http://www.kristiancarter.com Kristian Carter

    I think UX is an issue. When you make it difficult for users to even find the comment box, its little wonder people don’t comment!

    Look at how difficult the comment box is to find on this article, for example. Its hidden under a huge amount of UX detritus and link spam.

    I’ve worked with sites which have received relatively few comments, and helped them receive orders of magnitude more through UX tweaks. If commenting is treated as an afterthought in the UX, why should users bother?

  • Anonymous

    The 90:9:1 rule of online participation suggests that no matter what the technology you won’t change the engagement level of a community or audience. 90% will still remain silent observers. Why? I don’t know, it’s just human behaviour and people smarter than I have gone and worked out this pattern online – which I suspect could even apply offline.

    You’re absolutely right though that publishers should be aiming to lower the barriers to contributing. They can do this in 2 ways:
    1) Make it easier for the 1% to comment. By growing your numbers of regular contributors you could grow your audience exponentially
    2) Find halfway options to appeal to the 9% who are some time contributors. Amazon got this years ago with their review rating system, users didn’t have to go to the effort of writing a whole review themselves but could easily rate and promote another’s contribution, thereby participating to some extent

    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html

    I’m working on a blog post about this very subject!

  • http://ciarannorris.co.uk Ciaran

    I think that in many ways this is a good thing for publishers and one that they, as you say, should be jumping on. Making it easy for people to comment in a way that publicises the content is pretty much a good thing. That said, I happen to hate the implementation on Techcrunch – I have no wish for my thoughts on Quora, or Uber, or the latest bit of bubble-fodder they’re flogging, to be broadcast to my entire network, nor for the other commenters on TC to have any access, whatsoever, to my FB profile.

    Many of us still like to be able to separate work from pleasure (something that even Mark Zuckerberg is slowly starting to accept), and only allowing FB comments deprives us of that right. It also of course closes off the largest internet market in the world, not to mention other countries where Facebook isn”t yet the norm, or even allowed.

  • http://twitter.com/carleisenstein Carl Eisenstein

    Well, I would certainly be worried if I were Disqus – a purely Facebook based system which automatically logs in would certainly be easier for most people. There’s nothing worse than having something to say and then getting told you need to log in or register. Plus a Facebook-based system might make comment spam harder. From a user POV though I hope that there are plenty of options to opt out from Facebook automatically spamming your wall every time you comment on something.

  • http://twitter.com/munkyfonkey Paul Armstrong

    Great stuff all – I think it’s a step in the right direction but as Darika points out – people are people – I definitely want to see if we can get that 90:9:1 up a bit!

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