Facebook Reply Functionality – A Guide for Brands

This was orginally posted on The Social Practice Blog 3/4/13

Facebook rolled out threaded commenting across all brand and subscription pages last week, and this is a working guide to best practices for both brands and agencies that manage Facebook pages. Rather than a Fan replying in a single list under a post, they can now also reply directly to another readers comment. We’ve summarised the change, the effect on pages and outlined some simple action points to help co-ordinate a successful approach.

Why and what:
Historically, the commenting functionality, particularly on popular brand pages, didn’t work well from a community perspective. It was confusing, hard to follow and resulted in “fly by night” fan postings, rather than genuine conversations. Facebook has tested threaded commenting since 2012, and it’s now available on all brand and subscriber pages. But before we lose you to go check your pages or chase up your social media agency for an update – this change is currently optional and you can still turn Replies on and off in your Permissions settings (phew!).

During the past week we’ve see Facebook fan behaviour change. Interaction between users is simpler and helps fans to engage with each other rather than just the brand. Where a passing comment previously would have been lost, now with support (engagement) from fellow Friends or Fans, it will appear directly under your original post, regardless of its time stamp – this is affected by both Likes and Comments. If you’re familiar with Reddit, you’ll understand the power this gives your fans and why it can’t be ignored.
Brands that rely on the platform for customer service are now able to easily respond to individual comments left on the wall post – it’s taking a while for users to get use to this and we’re currently seeing some fans engaging on threads rather than the main comment stream. However, customer service teams aren’t the only page admins enjoying the update, community managers who have been trying to engage their fans on a deeper level for years no longer have to deal with a vertical conversation. This is beautifully described by @poetagrafico over on Mashable “now it’s like a chain with links where the links are individual group discussions”.

Top Tips when making the change:
  1. Get a budget for a moderation tool. The current Facebook notification process is a logistical nightmare. A tool should be able to solve this. As Emoderation’s Tia Fisher highlighted this week, the current Facebook API does not support this change so if you are using an existing tool, don’t turn on your replies yet. The changeover isn’t obligatory until July so you’ve got lots of time to start your research, trial a few tools and retrain your staff to use them.
  2. Revisit your House Rules to include a guideline for behaviour towards other Facebook users on the page, as well as towards the brand. We’ve always taken the stand that your page is yours, so OWN IT! Don’t be afraid to ban or hide comments that break your rules. Your page’s fans are a representation of your brand, if someone visits your page and has a bad experience due to your badly behaved fans, that is a reflection of you. For example, last month Justin Bieber was held responsible for his fan’s manic and often aggressive behaviour on Twitter towards each other.  This instance further fuels the theory that the way your fans and consumers behave on a public platform has implications for your brand. Read this and deal with it.
  3. Clearly define the purpose and Call To Action on every post. Of course everything you post has a clear Call To Action and purpose, but if you are calling for conversational engagement from your fans manage the direction. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, the most engaged post (and therefore prolific) isn’t always the most popular or intelligent (see pt. 4).
  4. Be extra vigilant with your moderation and watch out for Trolls. Bringing the content that’s most engaging to people seems like a great idea until someone decides to post inflammatory or irrelevant messages for no other reason other than to provoke an emotional response from your fans. They may even abuse Facebook’s new ranking system to get their comments to appear most prolifically on the page by Liking and Commenting on their own comments.
In summary, get ready!
Have a clear timeline, of when you want all your documentation to be completed, as well as a date in mind for when you’ll have the resource and budget to manage the change over efficiently. Finally, look over your content strategy and double check that your direction is one step ahead of your fans.
A huge thank you to the fabulous #CMGR community over at e Mint for their comments and thoughts.