Can forums compete with social networks?


(Sarah Hawk) #1

Rich asked this question in this thread back in 2013.

Are we about to enter a new golden age of forums or will they instead be incorporated into more popular social platforms? 

It is something that I've been thinking a lot about lately. Personally, I think that forums will always be competitive, but CMs need to be smart and flexible when it comes to platform and feature choices. We're seeing huge growth in the plugin development industry, which is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to flexible software options.

I wrote this article about it recently and I'd be interested in your thoughts.


So, what are you working on?
So, what are you working on?
(Colleen Young) #2

 

This remains a great question that we need to constantly ask ourselves and calibrate as required. Your article is a great read Hawk. I've been thinking about this a lot lately too.

The biggest challenge for community strategists, as you point out, is the habit forming challenge. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and more are for many indelible habits that dominate the time people allot to social web use. I appreciate the nudge to not reject such popular platforms, but to learn from them.

Most of my work in online health communities relies on forum communities, however the surge in communities on Fb and Twitter cannot be ignored. Ironically I founded a successful community on Twitter around a hashtag #hcsmca (Health Care Social Media Canada) back when I was asking this same question. I had a couple of successful forum communities under my belt at that time and wanted to check out this Twitter thing... Little did I know or expect what would develop. Now I've got a Twitter community of practice that wants to go long form. Essentially, your question in reverse.

I should start a new thread about moving a community from Twitter to a forum. I watch the plugin developments with interest.


(Colleen Young) #3

Looking at this question from a slightly different angle, see this 2011 blog post Community manager vs. social media manager framing thoughts from Rachel Happe and Rich. Rachel's comment about fans vs members still rings true of course, and we here on CG all know this. But would love to hear your thoughts on how have things changed since 2011.


(mark david mcCreary) #4

Sarah

Congratulations on your new job (managing Community Geeks) and thanks for the link to your new article.

I agree that forums will always be useful for certain needs. I grew up with listserves, and they are still useful for slightly different needs.

To me, one key distinction is whether the online community has a commercial intent to it or not. Is some company sponsoring it for their bottom line purposes. Or is it a group of hobbyists or independent professionals that are both the sole participants and beneficiaries.

Another key distinction is how often do people want to participate? Every day, all day long, or just once a month. Is this topic their main focus in work or life, or a causal side interest.

I think mobile devices are going to heavily influence the "forum" of the future. The small screens and awkward keyboards are going to impact what works. Maybe audios or videos will be the currency of the future, as opposed to text.

And maybe the successful online communities of the future are built upon several platforms at the same time. With different types of messages upon each. And people will pick and choose the platform based upon factors like what device they are using at that moment, or how much time they have to devote to the task. Whether they want to graze on new information or dig deep into researching a topic.

There are lots of levels and angles to online communities, and different tools to meet people where they are. For the most part, Community Managers should not really care what the platform is, just that it's the best platform, considering all the trade offs that need to be made.

mark david mcCreary
Mail-List.com

 


(Sarah Hawk) #5

I should start a new thread about moving a community from Twitter to a forum.

Please do Colleen, it would be an interesting conversation to have.

And maybe the successful online communities of the future are built upon several platforms at the same time. With different types of messages upon each. And people will pick and choose the platform based upon factors like what device they are using at that moment, or how much time they have to devote to the task. 

Interesting idea Mark. The logistics make my head hurt, but it certainly has merit from a 'the way we live our lives these days' perspective.

 


(Steve Bridger) #6

Something we can't escape from is that if all your stuff is on FB, LinkedIn, etc. - you can never be sure of what those guys might decide to do in the future. LinkedIn are always fiddling with their group discussion functionality (e.g. removing 'search')... not to mention FB. The possibility of losing conversations and valuable insight is always there.


(Sarah Hawk) #7

Agreed, Steve. And further on the control issue is the fact that it's not just data – we have no control over the platform, how the data is served, reach, TOS etc.


(Robert Strick) #8

Really going to depend on the sector in which your community is a part of.

I’m a huge fan of forums, and frankly have been putting less stock into social as of late. There’s just too many factors at play to make it a large worthwhile investment in my eyes. That’s not to say you shouldn’t dip into that pool of people at times, but from my perspective I would much rather invest time in something that is company owned.

Social media will continue to evolve with new platforms (which you obviously need to keep an eye out for), tricks, and what not, however forums in my eyes are the much more consistent option.


(Darren McKay) #9

Social networks, as they stand today, should be built around your community and not the other way round.

The fact is a lot of people spend a lot of time on those networks, Facebook particularly, and if you ignore that you are denying yourself the opportunity to point people in your general direction.

A consequence of this is that some conversation may take place away from the platform that you exert full control over, but with careful management (i.e. use a FB page and not a group) you can minimise that factor and use those networks to drive both new and existing community members to interact in your chosen place.


(Gear Buzz) #10

We are scheming on how to make our special interest forum more engaging.

A lot of it will focus on “my stuff”

Thank god the historical / legacy post search functionality of social media is so poor. That where the granular search capabilities of forums come out on top IMHO. Just try finding old content on Facebook. It’s terrible. (Great!!!)


(Bo McGuffee) #11

I want to second this. I’ve been influenced by Joseph Myers’ The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups. Using his language, I see social media as a “front porch” to a community–a place where people can come by and check out the group, without actually going inside. It allows them to connect briefly, but also provides enough emotional distance that they feel safe doing so.