March 2, 2011, 3:46 PM

New features from Facebook

Facebook revamps its Comments Box to drive engagement outside of the social network.

Lead Photo

Facebook is no longer content just to have consumers click that they Like a particular e-retailer, product or news article. It now wants the items that consumers share to spur conversations. 

The social network announced yesterday an update to its Comments Box plug-in, which allows retailers and other web sites to add Facebook’s comment boards to their pages via a single line of code. A retailer could, for instance, place a comments box on product pages where a consumer could comment that she likes the fit of the particular pair of pants. 

The feature now uses what it calls “social signals” to increase the relevancy of the comments that a consumer sees by more prominently displaying comments posted by the consumer’s Facebook friends or friends of friends, as well as the most popular or active discussion threads. Facebook says it also will hide comments marked as spam.

Moreover, to boost consumers’ engagement with those comments, Facebook’s default setting will simultaneously post online discussions started on web sites using its Comments Box plug-in on the commenter's Facebook wall as long as the consumer is logged in to Facebook. The commenter’s friends will see a post on their news feeds that shows the comment, and the post will include a link to the site where the original consumer posted the comment.

That means that if a consumer named Suzie posts a comment in the comments box on a retailer’s web site, those comments would appear in the news feed of her friends’ Facebook pages. Moreover, when one of Suzie’s friends goes to the retailer’s web site, Suzie’s comment would appear higher than other shopper’s comments because of their connection. 

Consumers don't have to be logged into Facebook to post in the Comments Box because the social network is allowing sites to offer visitors the option of logging in with other non-Facebook account credentials. However, if the consumer is logged in to Facebook, her comments may be accompanied by her name, the friends she shares with the consumer viewing the comment, work title, age or current city, depending on her privacy settings in Facebook.

“Liking an article was a way for you to signal to your friends that this is something they might be interested in and reading,” says Dan Rose, Facebook vice president of partnerships and platform marketing, in a video posted on Mashable.com. “Now you can comment on the article and have that same effect of sharing the information with your friends and creating a conversation that builds both ways.”

Along with the more social comments feature, Facebook says it has improved its moderator tools based on developers’ feedback. Now retailers can choose to blacklist particular words and ban certain users.

The announcement comes a day after Facebook began adding information to the news feed summary of an item that was Liked, such as a thumbnail image and product summary. The effort, Facebook says, is to give items that consumers Like more visual prominence.

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