What does the new Facebook @ reply feature mean for brands and PR?

You may have read that Facebook recently added a new feature which allows you to ‘tag’ other users in updates, which works in the same way as Twitter’s @ reply feature. We think this will have a significant impact on brands which are active on Facebook.

How does the new feature work?

When writing a wall post, users can now easily link directly to the profile of other another Facebook user, fanpage, or group. This can (and will) be used by consumers to specifically direct comments at brands on Facebook.

What does this mean for PR?

If you have a fanpage or group on Facebook, users can now address comments directly to you from their wall. The comments they address at you will be displayed on your wall as well as their own.

This means that Facebook now allows users to engage in public and highly visible conversations with brands, in exactly the same way as Twitter. As with all conversations that take place in a public arena, there are opportunities and risks: negative comments will be seen by large numbers of people, and brands which either fail to respond, or provide an inadequate response, are likely to suffer.

Conversely, actively engaging with consumers who direct comments at your brand can have real benefits. A recent survey by Trendstream found that 30% of people say their opinion of a brand improves as a result of it listening to people’s comments on social networks.

What action should be taken?

Assuming you are already regularly checking your Facebook page, you probably don’t need to carry out any additional monitoring and we expect that in the short term most brands won’t notice much difference.

However, as Facebook users become more familiar with this new feature we expect that it will be used in a similar fashion to the equivalent Twitter feature, and brands will begin to notice an increasing volume of comments directed at them. As this becomes the case, you may need to allocate resources to responding to these comments – ignoring them is not an option!

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