Facebook made two recent changes that affect Pages and is considering another. The two recent changes are the addition of threaded replies in comments and a change to the cover photo policy. The anticipated change is the use of Twitter-style hashtags.
1. Replies and Threaded Comments
People who visit your Page now have the option to reply to comments on posts, provided you have the reply option turned on.
To turn on replies for your Page:
- Click “Edit Page” located in the Admin Panel;
- Go to “Manage Permissions”;
- Select “Turn On Replies.”
Conversely, you may also see a banner like the following inserted at the top of your Page.
This is currently an opt-in feature, but Facebook will enable it for all Pages on July 10. It is also limited to the desktop version; a mobile version will be launched in the near future.
A Facebook blog post on the topic indicated the reason for the new addition is to “improve the quality of conversations on Pages.” Facebook will rank conversations according to their level of activity with the most active conversations appearing at the top and comments marked as spam moved to the bottom.
Benefits to Merchants
Replies and threaded conversations offer several benefits to merchants.
It will be easier to interact with people individually and keep relevant conversations connected.
The ranking mechanism will ensure that Page visitors see the best conversations first.
The feature could also lead to increased time spent on your Page due to the fact people can interact individually spawning more lengthy conversations.
Ways to Use Replies
There are a number of ways merchants can leverage the feature to their advantage.
Customer service. The ability to respond to individual commenters means you can provide more personalized service.
Q&A. Encourage visitors to submit questions, to which you can reply directly.
Polls. Submit a poll question and ask for responses.
Contests. Create a contest that requires visitors to respond with a comment.
Aside from merchant interaction with visitors, individual commenters will likely converse with each other more frequently, too.
The Facebook post said conversation threads are re-ordered by relevance to viewers, which means they may appear differently to each person based on their connections.
Visit Facebook’s help center for more information about the new feature.
2. Change to Cover Photos Policy
In the past, Facebook has maintained a very restrictive cover photo policy that forbid inclusion of these four items:
Price or purchase information, such as “40 percent off” or “Download it at our website.”
Contact information of any sort, like a website address or email address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section.
References to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share,” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features.
Calls-to-action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”
The policy has been loosened somewhat and replaced with the following single paragraph:
“All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20 percent text.”
As you can see, the restriction on calls to action has been removed, and that is good news to merchants. Now, instead of just posting a product photo, you can include a link to it on your website, as well as information about the product – just as long as you don’t violate the 20 percent text guideline.
You can also do things like include the URL of your website along with other types of contact information, encourage people to Like your Page, or point to specific Page applications if you prefer.
Thanks to this policy change, what was once intended primarily for branding can now be used as a promotional tool.
3. Use of Hashtags
It’s not uncommon to see Twitter hashtags included in Facebook status updates. That’s due to the fact that people will post to both networks using a tool like HootSuite.
What many consider to be a useless annoyance could be about to change. According to The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed insider sources, Facebook is toying with the idea of employing hashtags to group conversations around a particular topic in much the same way Twitter does.
“Facebook is working on incorporating the hashtag, one of Twitter’s most iconic markers, into its service by using the symbol as a way to group conversations,” stated the Journal. “It is unclear how far along Facebook’s work on the hashtag is and the feature isn’t likely to be introduced imminently.”
This feature, if and when it is launched, could be a boon for advertisers who could promote them in a manner similar to the way promoted posts and sponsored stories are done.
This could also change the nature of conversations on Facebook. Rather than comment on posts from friends and Pages — our “social graph” — we converse around topics of interest, which is referred to as the “interest graph.”
Merchants could use hashtags to: (a) view conversations on relevant topics for the purpose of marketing research, (b) set up live chats at designated dates and times, (c) monitor trending topics, and (d) find new prospective customers.
Other social networks such as Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, and Path (a mobile social network) already support the use of hashtags, and more are likely to follow suit. Why should Facebook be an exception?
Facebook is an ever-changing landscape of new and updated features, many of which go unnoticed. A good place to stay informed is Facebook’s marketing Page. Any major announcements regarding changes that affect Pages can usually be found there.