Alistair Croll & Sean Power blog on watchingwebsites.com about web technology, startups and analytics. They are the co-authors of Complete Web Monitoring (O’Reilly, 2009) and contributors to Web Operations (O’Reilly, 2010). If you like this post, you’ll probably like the one we wrote about analytics & the TechCrunch bump.
Facebook recently introduced embedded commenting within websites, under the name Facebook Comments. Does this new model for commenting on posts help, or hurt, site engagement? To find out, we compared two weeks’ worth of TechCrunch posts; 7 days before and 7 days after the site implemented the Facebook Comments feature. Data geeks, you can find the source data here.
In order to reduce the outlier effect of posts with very high, or very small, levels of comment —the massively successful, or truly abysmal, ones—we trimmed the lowest and highest 5 percent of results. In this analysis, “All posts” refers to sums and averages on all posts published, whereas “average posts” refers to sums and averages on all posts with the 95th and 5th percentile values removed. By trimming the results in this way, we hope to get a better representation of the effect of Facebook Comments on a typical post.
- For all posts, implementing FB Comments caused a 42% reduction in the total amount of comments, and a 38% reduction in comments per post.
- For the average post, implementing FB Comments cause a 58% reduction in the total amount of comments and a 56% reduction in the average amount of comments per post.
In other words, TechCrunch saw almost 50% less comments when they implemented Facebook comments.
But it’s not all doom & gloom.
People liked content more often. This probably led to a greater number of incoming visits from FB.com, but I don’t have the analytics to prove it. Both Erick and MG have stated that FB referrals have skyrocketed.
- For all posts, implementing FB comments caused a 27% increase in the total amount of likes, and a 36% increase in likes per post.
- For the average post, implementing FB comments caused a 14% increase in the total amount of likes, and a 16% increase in likes per post.
In all cases (with and without outliers), “google buzzing” increased by 30% in both the total amount of buzzes and the amount of buzzes per post.
However, it’s notable to see the impact this had on Tweets
- For all posts, implementing FB comments cause a 4% decrease in the total amount of retweets, and a 2% increase in the amount of retweets per post.
- For the average post, implementing FB comments cause a 1% decrease in the total amount of retweets, and a 7% decrease in the amount of retweets per post.
To be able to fully understand the scope of Facebook Comments, we’re missing a few critical factors which are only available to the owner of the site itself:
- Visits / post
- Referrers / post
- Revenue / post
- Time Spent on Site / Referrer
- New vs Returning Visitors / Post
In other words, it’s important to measure the amount of interest visitors showed by the channels that brought them there.
What this means if you’re …
… A High Volume Media Site / Blog
If spam or trolling is a big problem for you (it probably is), the Facebook Comments platform is a viable method to solve this issue. You may encounter backlash from the community. Expect numbers to initially dip before stabilizing. Make sure you track the above numbers diligently, and give yourself at least 2 weeks (preferably 4) to fully understand what you gained and lost.
A Medium to Low Volume Media Site / Blog
Chances are that you’re still in reader acquisition mode. Facebook commenting is not a viable solution as it stands today, until it implements the ability to authenticate via other platforms (yahoo, twitter, etc). Consider implementing if you’re having issues related to abuse, trolling or spam where anonymity is not a requirement. Otherwise, stick with Echo, Disqus, etc.
Your strong value proposition comes in two forms: your ability to drive users from your own platform to publishers, and your ability to prevent spam and trolling by forcing identity on all comments. If you can claim the largest publishers, you have a chance at usurping Twitter’s position as the leading means of spreading awareness about a piece of news.
A FB Comments Competitor (Echo, Disqus, Etc)
With Facebook entering your market (and Google not far behind), you need to concentrate on providing excellent user experience for your commenter. Your greatest asset is a community of users demanding that your system be kept / implemented over those of your competitors. Consider creating ACLs that allow publishers to force users to authenticate via certain ways if you don’t already have them in place.
With the implementation of comments, Facebook has the chance to significantly increase their ability to socially propagate publisher content, and consequently, their stake in the social media landscape.