After first being spotted by users in February, then acknowledged by Facebook News Feed chief Adam Mosseri in an interview earlier this month, more users are now seeing Facebook’s up and downvote options for comments, along with further explanations as to what the new options are intended to be used for.
As you can see here, the up and downvote options are intended to help weed out spam and offensive comments, which is slightly different to how they’re used on Reddit.
In the description for upvotes, Facebook explains that:
“Press the up arrow if you think the comment is helpful or insightful”
While the downvote option is for:
“…if a comment has bad intentions or is disrespectful. It’s still okay to disagree in a respectful way”
This aligns with the explanation Facebook initially provided to TechCrunch on the test, in which they noted that the intention is to provide an easier way to report “inappropriate, uncivil or misleading” comments. So rather than a popularity contest, which would help float the best comments to the top, the aim of the tool is to essentially crowdsource comment editing, and make post discussion a more civil and engaging space.
But it’s hard to imagine it won’t be used in this way – even based on these new descriptions, the tool will lend itself to peer voting. On Reddit, this is a key element of their process, with users able to up and downvote both posts and comments. In many ways, this, along with human editors overseeing posts, has made Reddit a much better platform for content discovery, while also adding a competitive push to each aspect, with users actively trying to get the most upvotes.
That’s likely what we’ll end up seeing on Facebook. Definitely, the process should work for the intended purpose of weeding out junk, but it may also add a level of gamification to comments, with users competing to get to the top.
That might not be such a bad thing – as you'll recall, Facebook’s major News Feed re-focus, announced earlier this year, aims to better promote “posts that generate conversation between people” – i.e. those that inspire comments. Upvoting and downvoting will likely add to this, with the best, most engaging, comments rising, thereby further increasing engagement, and giving users more inspiration to interact and participate.
From a brand perspective, this can only help increase reach, as more engagement equals more reach potential. Uncovering the best comments will help to further promote this, without any extra effort on your part.
But it could also have negative considerations for businesses. A critical comment could gain momentum and show up higher as a result. People will also no doubt seek to game the system and downvote positive responses to reduce reach.
That said, Facebook has also confirmed that up and downvoting itself currently has no impact on the News Feed ranking of the post or Page, which they don’t have any plans to change. But as noted, comments themselves do have a ranking impact, and if a highly upvoted comment inspires more response, you can bet that will be a significant factor – it just depends on whether the option inspires lesser interaction, in the form of voting itself, or more comments, responding to the initial notes.
Either way, it’s an interesting consideration to keep in mind, one which will require experimentation and testing to assess the full impact.
The comment voting text was initially rolled out to just 5% of Android users in the US, but it now being seen by more users (reportedly all users in Australia and New Zealand). There’s no official word from Facebook as to a full rollout just yet.