Facebook vs forums – platform needs analysis

(Michael Johnson) #1

Thanks Sarah… we are a group of leaders beginning to plan for building an online community among those we have trained worldwide (we have an ongoing base of a few thousand people on our mailing list). Considering starting a Facebook Group because of 1) reach, 2) natural daily conversational environment of just about everyone, and 3) ease of sharing, making referrals. We like to have sub-topical groups soon to facilitate focused conversations that we know will be an almost immediate desire of joiners. Maybe there are work-arounds in FB. But what platforms do most large communities migrate to…is it good to point people to a buddypress powered community we could install on our website?

Thanks foe the welcome, I’ll look around, and join some conversations.

Introduce yourself (or at least just say hi)
Introduce yourself (or at least just say hi)
Member Spotlight: Suzi Barnes talks Facebook Based Communities
(Nick Emmett) #2

Hey @Michael_Johnson, welcome to the Community, it’s great to hear from you.
What do you see as being the principle aim of your community, why would people join and post?
I have mixed feeling about Facebook Groups being used for Community, I think they’re fairly limited in general but am a member of a few, only one of which I guess really provides any value (CMX).
My community has circa 1500 members and we use Salesforce’s Community, largely because Salesforce is integral to both us and our customers’ working lives.

BuddyPress is definitely an option with more to go at than Facebook, in my opinion anyway.
Have you looked at any other platforms yet?

(Sarah Hawk) #3

Great to hear from you @Michael_Johnson.
I also have mixed feelings about Facebook. The benefits are huge (as you note) but you don’t own your data and are effectively at their mercy. I wrote more on that here: Can forums compete with Facebook?

BuddyPress is certainly a cheap and easy option, as is Discourse (which we use here). There are plenty of other open source options, many of which I’ve listed here.

If you’d like to talk more about your specific requirements we’d be happy to help. It would pay to start a new topic here so that the responses don’t get lost in this welcome topic.

(Richard Millington) #4

Hey @Michael_Johnson, could you share a little more about your budget, experience, and in-house expertise? I think it would help us a lot to provide guidance here.

A little more about the audience would be really useful as well. Some demographic info could be interesting.

Facebook groups can work REALLY well for some types of people. I think we’ve broadly found that the more ‘professional’ the nature of the group is (or serious, perhaps?), the less likely they want to participate on Facebook. However, for groups in a very specific demographic (usually 25 to 40, it can be a great tool to get things started). CMX do a really awesome job of managing theirs. I recommend checking it out first.

The other thing to think about is where people come from. If you build it out on Facebook, that means no search traffic which comprises the bulk of new members in most types of communities. So that’s very worth considering.

I’m not a huge fan of BuddyPress. I can’t think of that many successful examples on it really. Discourse I love, but it depends largely on the audience.

(Michael Johnson) #5

Thanks Richard (I’ll try to respond to Nick And Sarah in this post as well).

I have 35+ years background in for-profit and nonprofit marketing, media, creative development, and business building, but very little in developing online communities. I just read your whitepaper (The Proven Path) …wow, great guide!

The present target audience profile is a professional or semi-professional life coach applying their training to multiple areas of focus: personal and organizational coaching, different fields (such as education, nonprofit, church and ministry, business, family, etc.). Though we also want the initial community to be open (or open to be invited in) to non-coaches who wish to engage and learn alongside coaches (typically, teachers, homeschool moms, pastors, counselors, CEO’s, managers, etc.).

The host organization has a 25-year history, strong reputation. We have a good international database (numbering in the thousands) at different levels of current engagement. These are folks that are very focused on helping people, being agents of change, love meaningful conversation… almost all have gone through some level of coach training, and wish to apply the practice of inside-out coaching to their areas of focus.

We’d like to create a self-organizing international “mastermind” of sorts to share experiences, goals, ideas, and practices, and connect those with likeminded dreams. I tend to think of organizing a marketing system like an engagement funnel, but I realize an online community becomes more like a place, a destination. But I wonder how a system can be designed to reach an international audience at the widest level of interest, but give opportunity to self-organize and spin off into niche areas interest, while still maintaining a coherent identity.

Has there ever been a discussion along the line of creating a community as part of a wider support system (using other tools)? Is there a discussion about the pros and cons of Facebook integration?

We have a Team with good, complimentary skills. We were in the process of setting up private Facebook Group. The pluses we see with FB is international familiarity, part of “most” people’s established daily routine, ease of use, target marketing, media posting, etc. One big drawback is no subgroups as well as the others you all mention (search, ownership, data-mining, etc.).

Is there any stats available on the difference between the member size of successful Facebook Group communities versus other platforms?

As a newbie question, if it is best to take this to a new discussion thread, how do it do that and connect you who have been so kind to offer advice?

(Nick Emmett) #6

Hi @Michael_Johnson, thanks for the reply.

There’s been a few discussions here in the past around using Facebook.
There’s this one around using it as a Community Hub.
And this one that looks to explore the Facebook conundrum.

This is a great post from @HAWK following a talk from the brilliant @catykobe on support communities .

thanks for a bit more clarity on the purpose of your proposed community - I’m assuming that this is g0ing to be specific to your organisation? Is there anything out there at the minute that does something similar? What’s going to be the hook to get people to come and take a look, hopefully register and then ultimately post and engage with each other, sharing all that awesome content?

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Done. :slight_smile:

I guess the bottom line is this. If you want to trial the concept at little to no cost, then Facebook is an excellent option. If it’s a success and you want to introduce functionality, then you’ll need to migrate off, which is no harder than starting from scratch really.

@hlinno went through this process last year and decided to test the waters with a Facebook group. How is that working out Heather?

@mjbill would also be a good person to hear from on this.

(Richard Millington) #8

This is a really interesting comment. Facebook groups are fantastic at reaching people you don’t already have access to. You benefit from the network effects.

But if you already have that huge audience, do you really need it? I’m not so sure that you do actually. I’d be tempted to go with something like we have here which I gives you the seo benefits and gives you a lot of flexibility.

Aside, someone wrote the other day that keeping Facebook groups to 250 members max resulted in higher levels of activity. Not sure if that’s the right number, but it’s definitely a number to work with.

(Michael Johnson) #9

Maybe a really smart plan is emerging out of our conversation. What if we used FB for international reach, ease of use, daily habit, etc. to initially enlist people in our database at whatever level of engagement they may be at the time (active, passive) and limit to 250 (I also like the referral potential of FB). Then as folks engage deeper, wish to form sub-groups, etc. we migrate them to a site-based forum? We could have a selection process in which members partially self-select, maybe make the move with others as new subgroups, which also makes room for more in the Facebook 250. Both would be private groups maintaining incentives on both sides of the fence. But then the large group would build on our site (which we will own, data-mine, SEO, etc.). What do you think?

(Nick Emmett) #10

My personal take on this is… I don’t feel as inclined to participate and engage in a Facebook Group as I do in something like this. There’s a barrier there for me around usage, I can’t put my finger on it. I’m a member of several groups in varied interests, and only engage sporadically there. what if someone wants to bypass the Facebook group and jump straight to the site-based forum, perhaps for similar reasons to mine? In fairness I consume there, but don’t really participate. From a referral perspective, I’m less likely to refer people to FB groups as I don’t necessarily have the relevant contacts, for example people I might refer here probably exist either on Twitter, LinkedIn or just in my contact list. Facebook is primarily family and close(ish) friends - in general, and not shutting the gates to people completely :slight_smile:

(Sarah Hawk) #11

Right, so this is something that I’m noticing also. I belong to 2 very successful Facebook groups (CMX and Aus/NZ CMs) and I feel the same way. I don’t engage there. I see the notifications everyday and if something really relevant leaps out I’ll jump in, but I don’t feel like I have a ‘relationship’ with Facebook groups in the same way that I do with forums.

I’m really keen to hear how others feel about this.

I’d also be really interested to hear from @David_Spinks. I imagine the barrier to making that first post is low (in part due to platform familiarity and in part due to the amazing sense of community that CMX have established), which would be a huge benefit, but I’m curious about retention.

(Kath Reuben) #12

Hey Sarah @HAWK - is there any way I can link to read the post that @Nick_Emmett is referencing here. re: Support Communities - I’d be interested. Thanks!

(Michael Johnson) #13

I assume FB Groups emails notifications to posts you replied to, so I’m wondering why there might be any less tendency to continually engage… especially with an environment you are quite familiar with. With regard to the social environment and it’s appeal to a new joiner, I guess there are three to consider:

  1. new Facebook Group
  2. a new social platform
  3. an internal community set up on your website

…each have varying degrees of familiarity, ease of onramp, ease of use, image, and features (both to user and admin), right?

(Sarah Hawk) #14

No problems, I’ve made it public, you should be able to see it now.

I get push notifications on my Mac and phone. I’ve turned off badges because I was having addiction problems.

Agreed. That’s what we probably need to crack here. It’s the same issue that @Mjbill refers to in this amazing topic.

[quote=“Michael_Johnson, post:13, topic:2885”]
[/quote] Right. Facebook trumps them all for familiarity (although there will always be people that refuse to use Facebook and you won’t change them) and use. When you come to features and admin it drops well down the list, but that doesn’t really affect your audience (assuming the community is about discussions, rather than image or resource sharing).

(Jaycee Sabapathy) #15

Hello, I am wondering if anyone has ever captured a list of all the various FB groups out there that are focused on a specific disease condition (i.e. diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer etc). If so, it would be great to see.


(Mark Baldwin) #16

@jsabapathy Facebook itself has a very robust search facility. You can easily filter your search just for groups. For example, here is a search I did for heart disease.