Facebook’s play at peer-to-peer discussion – what does it mean for community managers?

by Alison Michalk December 19, 2012

The recent news that Facebook is rolling out nested comments is a long-awaited step towards ‘community’. What does this mean for peer-to-peer relationships and how will it impact community managers?

I’ll start by explaining that nested (or threaded) comments will allow users to reply specifically to another user – rather than using “@user” at the bottom of the discussion. Each comment will have its own reply option.

It’s no secret that facebook is a restrictive platform for building community. It’s stretch even to apply most definitions of community to a facebook page:  “A specific group of people who form relationships over time around a strong common interest.”

Up until now it’s been very difficult to build relationships with strangers on a page (groups function differently). The fundamental premise of facebook after all, is adding your existing network, not bonding with strangers around a “strong common interest”. Which is what the vast majority of successful online communities do extremely well.

Up until now facebook has provided a broadcast medium – with the ability to “comment” (see: semantics). Nested comments – however – could be a big step towards fostering peer-to-peer dialogue. They are also much more conducive to lengthy, focused and intelligent discussion. Why it took facebook six years of iteration I can’t say, but perhaps finally they looked to traditional community platforms for inspiration.

How does this impact us as Community Managers? Nested comments have the potential to greatly improve our communities because creating and sustaining peer-to-peer relationships are vital for establishing and maintaining a sense of community. Read up on McMillan & Chavis’ (1986) acclaimed research on the four elements of sense of community for more on this topic.

Clever Community and/or Social Media Managers are going to shift their focus to fostering peer relationships and creating content that is worthy of discussion, not just content aimed to provoke a “like”. Here’s a great blog post by Mike Watkins on facebook content and “density pockets”.

If you’re interested in learning more about community fundamentals – get your hands on Rich Millington’s latest book Buzzing Communities. For a full list of books take a look at Quiip’s post on 27 Books for Community Managers.

You can also sign up for Rich’s Australian Pillar Summit Community Management course, which runs for 10 weeks online and takes place in March 2013*.

What do you think about nested comments? Do you think it’s likely to impact your facebook community?

* Quiip Director Alison Michalk is the Australian Instructor for the Pillar Summit, but has no affiliation with book sales. We do think it’s a must read for Community Managers though!