Keeping abreast of comments on your Facebook Page

Ever since Facebook opened up every Facebook Page to comments (and not just from people who like the page) keeping tabs on your Page’s comments can be a tricky thing to do.

There are how-to guides online that suggest you can get alerts directly from Facebook when someone posts on your Page. The interface to do that seems to have been dropped in one of Facebook’s many re-imaginings of how we should be able to administer our pages.

Why would you want to?

Customers now expect companies to treat Facebook (and Twitter) like the telephone. It rings, you answer, simple right? Except posting on a company’s Facebook Page is more like driving up to their head office and yelling at them in the hope that someone will hear you. Aside from that, you don’t want any graffiti on your Facebook Page!

What does Facebook provide?

Facebook provide summaries of your Page’s activity every week, or you can get notifications as an RSS Feed. You could subscribe to that in a reader, and manually monitor that, or send it through a service that emails you any time there’s something new, but that tends to a paid-for option with most services (such as Feed My Inbox) with the free version only providing once daily summaries.

There must be a better way?

There’s a Facebook app called PageNotifier. I tried it and it didn’t work as I wanted and aesthetically it’s not too pleasing (fussy aren’t I?) and I’d rather keep the number of apps on my Facebook account to a minimum, not least because of how much information they require you to disclose. Next I found a few third party services but the ‘as soon as it happens’ option was again not part of the free offering. Finally, thanks to a post by Social Media expert and author, Mari Smith, I was turned on to Hyper Alerts, easily the best Facebook Page Notifications service. It looks great and works perfectly – set it to as soon as possible and literally within seconds of a new post or comment on your Page, you get an email. The best part, it’s free, at least for now.

Here’s a screenshot:

Hyper Alerts screenshot

Getting an RSS Feed to post to your Facebook Page’s wall

Sounds so easy doesn’t it?

Here’s what I learnt in trying to get a custom-created RSS feed (not one generated by blog software) to appear as posts/status updates on the wall of a Facebook Page. This information applies to all kinds of RSS feeds though. If you’re using WordPress, there are several plugins that purport to offer this functionality. In my experience they can be unreliable, usually through no fault of the plugin author or WordPress, rather Facebook changing something that breaks the plugin.

The purpose of the exercise was to get the latest special offers on an e-commerce site appearing on the company’s Facebook Page wall.

Facebook Notes – not quite what we’re looking for

The most straightforward option should be the one provided by Facebook, right? Notes offers the ability to import a blog/RSS feed into the Notes tab of your Facebook page and in so doing post an announcement for each ‘note’ to the Wall. Sounds great but what you get in practice is a link from the Wall to the individual note, which appears in it’s entirety. The objective was to take a user from the Facebook Wall post straight to product page on the e-commerce site, so this clumsy and unnecessary intermediate step means Notes doesn’t do it for us.

RSS Tab for Pages – does what it says on the tin, but no more

This application, which creates an RSS tab on the Facebook Page imports the feed just fine, and if that’s all you need then it’s all gravy. It is supposed to also post items to the Wall, but that feature doesn’t work.

Social RSS – Fell at the first hurdle

With a score of 2.3 out of 5, and the latest post referring to the fact that things are broken, this one didn’t merit a try.

RSS for Pages – Disappointing

I’d expected more from Involver, “the web’s most trusted social marketing platform”. RSS for Pages doesn’t deliver, or at least, it didn’t work how I’d hoped. It created a ‘News’ tab with my RSS feed on, but there wasn’t anywhere to specify that items should be posted to the Wall (and none of the items were), even though automatic posting to the wall is mentioned as a feature (though that may be in the paid for version only) and the suggestion that I upgrade to get a refresh time of better than once a day, with zero information on cost, had me searching for an alternative.

RSS Graffiti – We have a winner!

RSS Graffiti works almost exactly how I want (I wouldn’t mind being able to remove the ‘via RSS Grafitti’ annotation, but that’s probably a compulsory thing, and the Source and Published lines seem like overkill). The main thing is the user clicks the link and goes to the page you want, not some interstitial page. There’s no unnecessary tab added to the page, the settings for how it works all make sense, and you have a fair degree of control, including the ability to post to the Wall items dated in the past – handy if you need to get some older items posted.

If you’ve found any other solutions that work well, please share them in the comments.

image credit: jovike via Creative Commons on Flickr