While I love blog comments for the conversations and the potential SEO benefit they provide, I hate the spam and moderation that goes along with it. Another issue I have with comments is that they don’t provide much exposure to the blog post (with rare exceptions). I was looking for a way to solve these problems, and found my answer through the Facebook Comments social plugin.
Blogs need exposure
Services like AddThis, ShareThis and TweetMeme helped pave the way for easy content sharing. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter also created official buttons and badges to help users share entries they like. Social sharing eventually led to many blogs either replacing or supplementing their comments with social mentions, like tweets. For example, there are now plugins and services like DISQUS that can replace or add tweets for your blog comments.
Exposure to blog entries can come from mentions on Twitter and Facebook, and also through content networks created by DISQUS and other data aggregators like BackType. The problem with this type of exposure, especially as it pertains to displaying mentions as comments, is that it’s low quality.
Comments created by tweets are particularly low quality, because the comments are a simple aggregation of non-threaded tweets. DISQUS has attempted to solve this problem by allowing you to reply to tweets in the comment thread, but that still doesn’t mean the author of the tweet will be aware of the reply.
Why Raven uses Facebook Comments
Facebook Comments provides what I think is the perfect social commenting ecosystem. Facebook Comments provide all of the elements that are important to us:
Powerful and simple commenting
Easy team-based comment moderation
Significantly reduced spam
Higher quality and more relevant comments
Automated sharing of the blog entry on Facebook
The last item is a significant one. Unlike a Like, a comment created with Facebook’s social plugin creates a more compelling shared item on their network and on our blog. When a person writes a comment it engages other readers, and engaged readers are more likely to reply to a comment than a Like. Not only that, if someone replies to a comment on the blog, it’s instantly included on the Facebook mention in the user’s profile and News Feed, and vice-versa.
When we launched our new website on April 29, we replaced WordPress’ commenting system with Facebook’s. Since that time, we have seen a sharp increase in traffic from Facebook. We attribute this to our use of their social plugin. I’m now looking forward to seeing if this switch will also increase our conversion rate from Facebook traffic.
How to install Facebook Comments on WordPress
There are some excellent Facebook Comments plugins for WordPress, but my preference is to add it manually to the theme.
1. Create a Facebook App
The first step is to create a Facebook App at http://developers.facebook.com/setup/.
After you enter some basic information, the app will be created and you’ll be assigned an App ID. The next step is to update your theme.
2. Add META and script elements/attributes
Open the header.php file in your theme (or the file that contains the HEAD information). Add the following meta elements and attributes inside the HEAD. Replace “yourappidgoeshere” with your App ID, and “yoursitename” with your actual site name.
<meta property="fb:app_id" content="yourappidgoeshere">
<meta property="og:title" content="<?php wp_title('', true); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:type" content="article"/>
<meta property="og:site_name" content="yoursitename"/>
You will also need to include the following script element and attributes inside the HEAD.
3. Replace comments template
Next, open the single.php (or the template file you use to display blog entries with). Replace this:
<?php comments_template(); ?>
<div id="fb-root"></div><fb:comments href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>" num_posts="10" width="702"></fb:comments>
You will want to modify the width and num_posts to fit your preferences.
Facebook Comments are now installed! See, it wasn’t that painful.
If you want an easy way to moderate comments, go to http://developers.facebook.com/tools/comments.
Facebook Comments caveats
Since the social plugin displays comments dynamically (they’re not locally hosted or stored in the HTML), they are not indexed. If you do SEO, you may have just gasped. While that’s fine with us, it may not be fine with you. So if you require your comments to be stored locally for indexing purposes, Facebook’s social plugin for comments probably isn’t for you.
Facebook hosts your comments. That means to some extent they aren’t your comments, they’re Facebook’s. Fortunately, Facebook responded positively to this concern, and they’ve made it possible to export all of your comments if you ever want to quit using their social plugin.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there currently isn’t a way to get notified when a new comment is posted. If you participate in the comment thread, you’ll be notified the same way Facebook notifies you when someone likes or comments on a wall post. Otherwise, the only way you’ll know if someone comments is by either checking the blog entry or visiting the Facebook comment moderation tool.
We have now switched to Disqus. So there you have it!