Everything that I read suggests that acknowledging positive comments on an organization’s Facebook page is considered best practice. Guy Kawasaki made this a major theme in his recent book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, and Beth Kanter has spent the last couple of weeks echoing the importance of the ABC’s (always be commenting).
Why commenting makes sense
Facebook is a social medium, not a bulletin board. If you say something nice to a friend, you at least expect a smile or a nod. Maybe they’ll eventually figure out a button that Facebook administrators can use that winks as if to say “back at ya.” But for now, commenting back is the only way to have a brief exchange. (Responding to negative comments is a subject for another post. Most advise responding to negative comments as well, but of course the execution is different.)
Nonprofits need to encourage comments by others because that’s how they’re going to gain exposure to people who aren’t already fans. Even people who are fans generally don’t seek out your Facebook page to see what you have to say. They read your posts when they are published automatically to their wall. What you really want is to get people so excited about your mission and their relationship with you that they spontaneously post to your organization’s Facebook page. That shows a lot of engagement, but it also means that their post publishes to all of their friends, even if they haven’t “liked” you. (One hitch: depending on your EdgeRank score, which is determined by Facebook’s black box algorithm, your posts may not make it into “top news” feed, requiring people to click on “most recent” to see your posts.)
Do as I say, not as I do?
It’s hard to go to a conference where someone isn’t extolling the importance of actively commenting back on organization pages. But when I recently checked some of the organizations I thought would be most active, I was surprised they don’t comment back as often as I expected.
American Red Cross, for example, has a huge Facebook presence, with over 300,000 fans. Posts generate not only “likes” but comments by the dozen. Looking at posts by the organization for the last couple of weeks, however, I didn’t see any comments in response to posts by fans. They didn’t remove a comment that was anti-semitic, or acknowledge one guy who went so far as to outright solicit his friends on Facebook: Please give to the American Red Cross. They help during disasters when no one will. Donate by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW. Your $$ monetary cash donation will help the American people better than donated supplies. Thank You!
If you’re in a growth mode, you had better be commenting back!
It’s possible that when an organization becomes really successful on Facebook, it is no longer practical to try to acknowledge all comments – even positive ones. How do you “smile” back at one comment and not acknowledge others?
Most organizations in this town, however, are still trying to grow their Facebook presence. They may have a goal of achieving 1,000 friends on Facebook, for example. They need to grow the number of fans a steady 5-10% each month. And one of the most practical ways to do that is to recognize Super Fans, as suggested by Aliza Sherman (hat tip Beth Kanter).