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.


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:


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.


Facebook Timeline for Pages: how are we all doing, then?

We left ours until just the day before – giving us  just enough time to make sure there were no problems with our cover photo etc.  And, with a little predictable and understandably grumbling from the community, we’ve adjusted pretty quickly.

But, of course, I’m curious to see how other people are taking to it. If being a community manager has taught me anything, it’s to embrace change on social channels, because it’s coming whether you like it or not and after a while you won’t even remember what it was like before. Below are my thoughts as they come to me – what are yours?

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by the way Timeline for Pages bundles ‘Others’* into a little box on one side; after four years of painstaking efforts at establishing and nurturing conversation between members of the community, they’ve been shunted off to the side overnight. Still, I suspect those who are keen on engaging will continue to engage, and while the message box is still mostly full of messages that could just as easily have been asked publicly I suspect it’s helping people who might not feel comfortable sharing out loud to speak to us, which is definitely a win for the organisation and our relationship with our supporters.

It’s a slight annoyance to me – given how image-heavy rehoming appeals are – that when comments are spammed you can only check them on the actual Timeline, not when viewing the image itself. When you put up a lot of pictures and encourage lots of people to say ‘awwwwwww’, you get a lot of accidentally spammed posts. But it’s a minor hindrance that I’m sure will be rectified in time.

The admin panel I do like; somehow, although it’s just the notifications tarted up, I like it better that way. I suspect I’m getting through the posts much faster and I’m certainly responding to comments on older posts more promptly; where I might have missed these things before, particularly with photos, it’s a lot more obvious now. And it means it’s that much easier to see where an update is needed and contact the relevant centres to get those updates.

I was a bit flummoxed by the cover photo restrictions, which are very negative about any kind of promotion – even a URL! I think a lot of organisations are going to ignore the regulations that insist on basically zero calls to action  – I know lots already have – and they’re undoubtedly going to get away with it, but is it worth doing so if the bulk of the activity on the page is in the News Feed anyway?

Are you sold on the new layout? Reluctantly compliant? Feverishly dreaming of developing an app that will allow you to view it as if it were an old style Page?

I’m pretty sure it’s ultimately going to make life easier for me; I’ll just have to examine Insights and wait and see if I can say the same for our community.

*I think labelling anyone as ‘Other’, no matter how technically accurate, makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t like feeling like a community is Them and Us, even I am the one in charge of making trolls go away and answering questions.

Fundraising on Facebook, the ad hoc way

This week, we broke our own rules. We asked for money on a social network, and we did it without a particular goal in mind, because it seemed like a good idea.

The full story is on the Dogs Trust blog, but essentially it came down to trying to give our Facebook supporters a common goal, and a reason to engage with the page beyond getting answers to their questions and reading the odd blog post. Obviously, long term we have to offer more than that, and we plan to, but being just after Christmas – January is our busiest time of year – it seemed serendipity was on our side.

There are a few things I would do differently in hindsight (we had plans for a special Facebook thank you certificate that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, which I think is a shame; wondering if there’s still time to do it), but for an unplanned ask, it really showed how very generous people can be if they feel they’re being appreciated.

“It’s more personal than an standing order from your bank”, commented on supporter, and she’s right. It is. Several people wanted us to remind them to give every month! But we are aware that just under 1% of the page ‘fans’ took part – that’s 99% who want to be engaged differently. Another suggested doing this every January, in the spirit of our slogan, “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. I thought that was a lovely idea.

I found myself very personally touched by each and every person who took part, and by the way they egged each other on and kept the message going. In the end, it was not about the total or the ask, but about watching the force of the community in action; something that does even the most jaded community manager’s heart good.

People will tell you how they would like to be approached, be it for fundraising, volunteering or just to spread the message. Sometimes you’ll be able to use their ideas and sometimes you won’t; either way it’s nice to have them, and easy to show appreciation for the time they’ve taken to share. The beauty of the social web – and this is no way unique to the tools we happened to use this time, Facebook and PayPal – is that it allows for quick assessment of ideas and, if they work, a quick turnaround. It took ten minutes from my musing on the community to Jacqui’s idea to the first fundraising message. If it had failed, it would have cost us nothing but an hour of our time, and given us untold valuable information about how our community likes to be spoken with (not to. Never to).

We’re not suddenly going to become fundraisers. We are still, primarily, a community-building digital marketing team. But digital is at its best when it can integrate itself across different areas, and it doesn’t hurt to have another metric by which to assess your objectives.

Our community placed their trust in us, and we have to make sure we keep earning it.

Facebook’s redesign makes it the overbearing parent of social networks

Seriously, Facebook; we need to talk.

The suggestions. The news feed vs live feed. The nonsensical Events blocking… it’s got to stop. There’s got to be a way out. I’m a regular user, logging in every day like clockwork. I am an admin for a page with over 57,000 members, on which I post at least five times a week.  But you’re treating me like I’m disinterested at best and a spammer at worst. Not so pleasant for someone who has both personal and professional reasons to use the site.

Let’s look at the last week.

The Suggestions

In the last week, you’ve suggested I reconnect with someone who passed away barely ten days ago, and my own husband. While I can understand that you can’t tell from an active profile if the person is actually still running it or not, the relationship status should be an easy one to read. I’m sure I’ve heard tell of possible memorial pages, too…?

My mother doesn’t even tell me which of my friends I should be getting in touch with again. It’s creepy, and completely unnecessary.

The Events

I’m very spam-aware. When I was creating the Christmas events for the Dogs Trust Facebook Page, I even stated to the members on the page that I would be as careful as I could not to spam them and could they please bear with me. I was happy to see it was not a required step to publish the events to the news feed; neither was it necessary to invite anyone. So I deliberately didn’t publish them and didn’t invite anyone. Ergo, no spamming.

You sent a big, rude, red message up on the screen saying I was spamming and risked having my account blocked. Please rework your algorhythms to take into account that you cannot spam people if they can’t see what you’re adding in their updates or invites.

Live Feed vs News Feed

Seriously, are you kidding me? My friends have to like something and I have to start ‘liking’ and commenting just to be considered to be engaging? I can’t read something anymore? Sometimes I don’t comment etc because I don’t want the updates coming to my phone’s Facebook app and the emails clogging up my inbox. I genuinely want those notifications when I am bothered enough to comment, and I understand you want more site stickiness and engagement, but assuming you know what I’m interested in is a step too far.

My friends like lots of stuff I don’t. I like lots of stuff they don’t. Don’t force me into fiddling with settings etc to get the people I want included. At best, the news feed ought to be an optional setting that you can arrange for yourself, including a select group – a bit like Lists on Twitter. Facebook just isn’t as clever as Google at working out what I’m interested in, and while the other options are there it still smacks of telling instead of offering.

I’m not going to lie; like most people change can annoy me just by its nature. But I’ve watched one thing after another change for the worse and it’s really getting irritating now. I can but hope that I will start to get used to Facebook’s overbearing parenting, but – fairly or not – I find myself increasingly comparing it to Twitter. Twitter doesn’t always get it right (I’m still baffled by the enforced blocking of replies to people you’re not following) but it does seem to be more led by by user choice. Facebook instead chucks auto-customisation at you and forces you to tweak it.

The problem is, many don’t bother. As a charity page admin, I now worry people who are genuinely interested but just not auto-clickers and commenters will be missing out on news. We are careful to post in a non-spammy way, but now that hardly makes any difference.

Ah, well.

Media Trust – Managing Social Media

I’ve been a wee bit cheeky and broken a rule of social media – being topical and timely – by only blogging about this even three days after it happened, but in my defence I did tweet throughout! We were unable to attend the whole event, which featured the following line-up:

Chair – Daren Forsyth, former Director of Innovation and New Media, Media Trust / BBC

Michael Waugaman (Consultant) – Seeding, growing and managing a community

Jasmine McGarr (Tempero) – Voice of moderation: safety and reputation management

Dean Russell (Precedent) – An overview of third sector social networking

As well as a case study from us, and the chance to be in the second Q&A session. J presented, overcoming her nerves, and I piped up in the Q&A since many of the questions were from people wanting to know about the everyday nuts and bolts. We were lucky enough to see Dean Russell’s presentation; lucky because he speaks an awful lot of common sense about how to start, which websites to consider, how to gain internal buy in and the ‘voice’ you should be trying to project. Luckily, he likes Dogs Trust – I beamed when he said he really enjoyed following us on Twitter because of our good professional / personal balance of tweets.

As is often the case with these events, the Q&A gets to the heart of the issues much more than the presentations, no matter how good they are. It is where the meat of the problem is finally chewed on, and I was asked one of the best questions I had been so far: “If you had to choose only two sites to focus on, which would they be?”. The woman in question had very little time or resource. I said Twitter and Facebook because you can achieve the most on these two with the least amount of time; we’ve just rehomed a second dog thanks to Twitter conversations, and in a year 40,000 people have amassed on Facebook, which makes it easy to send out updates to a lot of people quickly. But it was definitely an interesting question, and one that I hadn’t been asked before.

Then I was asked the other question – “do you think your job will be the same in 3-6 months time?”. The way it was asked, it was very clear that what was meant was “isn’t your job just a bit made up and a fad?”. Perhaps it would be if all I did was specialise in very specific community moderation, but I am involved in all aspects of digital marketing. Right now we’re looking into integrated online and offline campaigns, for example. I replied “probably not, but I’m alright with that,” and went on to explain how to me, social media is just another form of traditional, good old-fashioned customer service and marketing. I have found that my particular skills lend themselves to the online world more than the offline, but the end result is still the same.

I’m just a writer who has a knack for online customer service, and forming relationships. Nothing strange, shortlived or particularly new about that, is there?