I ‘ve been advocating using Facebook’s comments system on public sites for a while (I didn’t realize how long – 2+ years?? ). It’s been surprising that so few publishers (both traditional and startup) have stuck with the usual systems. Mostly the argument seems to come down to either (1) we want to own our own system, not use someone else’s or (2) anonymous comments are an important part of the dialog.
Now the LA Times has done an A-B experiment, running the same story with two commenting approaches: Facebook Comments and the paper’s existing commenting system. Poynter examines the outcomes.
I see two very important takeaways: First, Facebook isn’t just a powerful technology, it’s a powerful viral marketing system. LA Times has seen significant increases in engagement (measured in traffic) in the Facebook experiment. Second, it reduces vitriol in comments not just because people’s names are attached, but because the comment shows up on your Facebook wall! I believe the latter point is key. It’s one thing to make some idiotic comment on a site where a friend may or may not see it. It’s something else when that idiotic comment is broadcast to all 899 of your friends.
In the past couple of years as Facebook has become embedded in the culture, there’s an even bigger reason to use Facebook if you’re a publisher. Remember Willie Sutton’s response when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” Why use Facebook? Because that’s where your audience is.