Optimize Social Media with Social Discussion Tools

By Ric Shreves, Michelle Krasniak

Social discussion tools are essentially commenting and discussion systems that you can add to your site. These social media systems platform‐independent, so you can include them in your website regardless of the programming language or content management system you’re using.

All discussion systems are simple to implement; you just plug them in and go. The downside of any discussion system is the uncertainty about which tools and companies will be around in the next year, the year after that, or five years from now. If you implement a tool, and support for that tool is discontinued or the company that offers it goes under, what happens to the content in all your comments?

Although these systems offer attractive, easy‐to‐implement functionality, you have to weigh the benefits against the business risk of putting your content (or, in this case, comments on your content) in someone else’s hands.

Using Facebook Comments to build audience

The most social‐media‐savvy of the social discussion tools comes from one of the leaders in the field: Facebook. Facebook Comments is a free commenting plug‐in that enables you to leverage your site visitors’ connections with Facebook. When you implement the Facebook Comments plug‐in, a comments box appears on your website. Users with Facebook accounts can post comments by using their Facebook credentials. Activity on the comments plug‐in is visible to the users’ friends through the Facebook News Feed.

Facebook Comments.

Facebook Comments.

Facebook Comments does three things for you:

  • Handles display of the comment form and comments

  • Allows people to leave comments without having to create a new account or log in to your website

  • Provides social media visibility via the posting of the comment activity on the user’s Facebook Timeline

The combination of utility and boosted visibility on a key channel makes Facebook Comments a winner for many people.

Though a lot of people seem to overlook this feature, Facebook Comments includes a moderation option. The plug‐in allows you to review comments before they’re posted, and you can also create blacklists of prohibited words and even ban users. Check here to get the code for Facebook Comments.

Exploring alternative systems

Facebook Comments isn’t the only social commenting platform in the market today. Others are Disqus, Livefyre, and Viafoura. All three platforms have a similar approach to commenting, in that they strive to give website owners access to a community of users. After a user uses one of these systems to make a comment on a site, he can easily comment on other sites that employ the same system.

Users are often able to follow other users, and some systems even provide ratings for users. Each of these platforms also integrates with the most common social media channels to enable users to share their comments on their preferred social network.

Disqus is the most mature of these solutions and the one with the largest user base. It’s the only one of the solutions mentioned here that has a free option for website owners. You can use the basic Disqus commenting system free of charge, but if you want additional features, such as single sign‐on or other enhancements, you have to pay a subscription fee. Disqus offers ready‐to‐use widgets for common content management systems such as WordPress, and you can configure it to match your site’s look and feel.

Disqus enables you to export your comments in XML format at any time, thereby giving you control of your content and allowing you to move to another system if you so desire.

Although Disqus focuses on creating a broad‐based commenting platform, Livefyre and Viafoura have more functionality. Livefyre and Viafoura offer commercial products that bring a range of functionality designed to generate user engagement and enrich your website content. Each includes commenting, social sharing, and aspects of gamification — including user ratings and rewards systems — to help motivate users to engage on your site. The products allow you to integrate a wide range of user‐generated content into your site easily and then enhance it with your own content.

If your budget is robust enough to support commercial solutions, you may want to consider a solution like Livefyre or Viafoura. They provide high‐level functionality that may help your brand create more compelling social engagement.