Yes we do. It is about finding people’s different level of engagement and then utilising that to drive them to the most suitable channel for communication. My forum is about car stuff (modified old cars to be precise) it is a combination of picture sharing, progress on builds, deep technical discussion, parts and car sales, events and meetup organising as well as a few other bits, forums as a structure make complete sense for this kind of discussion and content sharing. However there is an audience for it that won’t visit a forum every day, or even once a week, so I looked for different ways to reach them as their expertise could be important or their view point interesting. The facebook page and group offer the chance to connect with them (chance being the operative term with the vagueness of the facebook newsfeed algorithm), so I’ll highlight interesting threads occasionally or if we are organising events as links to the forum within the page and group. The group has its own thing going on with a few people consistently posting to it, mainly ebay adverts, which I can then (if they are interesting) post into the forum, so there is kind of a two way communication there.
Here is the thing, online communication hasn’t really changed fundamentally since the days of BBS systems, I should know I have the £400 phone bills to prove it . We’ve added layers of technology but it is still comment, reply, reply reply. Some of the most popular online communities in the world work off what people would consider antiquated technology, gaiaonline, 4chan, mumsnet. Even if you look at Discourse the latest and greatest forum discussion tool is not a paradigm shift in communication, it is the same basic structure as old BBS discussion groups. The reason is this, at the heart of discussion forums is the need to communicate in a full, rounded way and form community. Facebook doesn’t offer this. Facebook is a subject centered community, that subject is you, outside of you facebook as medium for community building breaks down, the ‘best’ groups and pages are either on message broadcast media “here look at this” style, or reflections of existing social groups. Twitter isn’t community forming, Instagram is slightly more successful but lacks the tools for doing more than that, WhatsApp is great for private pre-existing social groups. Forums still off the best community homes.
Just because 1.5Bn people are using facebook doesn’t really mean anything. If your discussion is so light that it can be replaced with the vapid tools that facebook give you then your community was never going to live for long.Anecdotally I’ve found the next generation are less enamored with facebook.
The problem forums have is that more recently they have tried to ape social networks, which they are not. It is why the newer generation of forum software is more a forum and less social media light. Ultimately the main thing of value is the content, if you have good compelling content then people will come, you can’t just magic that up though. The best of breed of forums gets out of the way and lets the content shine, then encourages people to interact with it.