Facebook, give a Community Manager a break, huh?

Facebook threaded comments have been a long time coming, and as both user and CM I’m glad they’re here. It is ridiculous to be unable to have a clear discussion with people without tagging them – formally, often with their full name as people still don’t realise they can lop off the surname, or don’t want to – and it’s definitely, definitely a bonus to brand pages.

Except.

Oh, the irksome ranking. It actually doesn’t make sense for the most apparently engaging comments to go to the top.

No, not because it makes your life difficult if someone makes a criticism that lots of other people agree with (that’s just something you’re going to have to live with). But – and these are all examples I’ve seen that have been irritating –  sometimes a later engaging comment spins out of one made earlier, but perhaps the second person didn’t add their comment as a reply to the first, so now they’re out of sync. Sometimes a single critical person rises to the top simply because the community manager has done their job and followed best practice to respond with a clarification or apology – and the criticism might not even be relevant to the original post because people on Facebook do often occasionally rant wherever they may be, as is their prerogative. Sometimes it just screws with your ability to follow what the hell’s going on – the very issue threaded comments are meant to resolve.

I’d seen it already for some time on pages I’m a fan of; in the Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies community, which got threaded comments in the beta phase months ago, practically every other lively thread had complaints and eye-rolling from users about not being able to follow the conversation. So I know it’s not just an irritation to community managers.

For community managers, however, there is the further annoyance that it’s now incredibly easy to miss a comment. The double whammy of changing the notifications so it’s harder to see which are unread and reordering the comments means that once a thread hits as little as 20 comments it’s more difficult; when really successful threads take off it’s a mind-melt. You rally because it’s your job to and we’re not talking back-breaking labour here, but it leaves you with a slightly bitter flavour in your mouth because it should have been so good.

I have quite a lot of confidence that it will change and re-ordered comments will either be refined or removed (though one would have thought that would have happened during the lengthy beta stage). But in the meantime, both as a normal Facebook user and a brand page manager I will keep making this face:

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So there.

Update 04.04: Facebook has now launched new APIs “so developers can build tools that make it easier for brands to monitor and respond to comment replies”. Which is handy if you use a tool to manage your page, but seems to be a roundabout admission that the ranking system is flawed. Let’s assume the convoluted solution is a temporary fix while the real problem is resolved.

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