Forums/Bulletin Boards vs FB Groups/Social Media

semtal

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Apr 9, 2020
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3
There is a war going on and traditional forums are losing, with more and more shutting down all the time.

What are your top tips for keeping a forum active (e.g. things you can do or add to your forum such as incorporating Facebook login)?

There seems to be an ''Us vs Them'' mentality with forum users and Facebook groups in particular.

How do forums evolve to remain as important as they were a decade ago?
 

totaltutankoll

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Apr 4, 2016
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I feel there's not been a better time in years to go for some kind of private community/message board option. Social distancing and Facebook taking over our lives for sure have changed the game!
 
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Nev_Dull

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Forums are never going to be as "important" as they were in years past. Truth is, they weren't that important back then; they were just the only option. Now people have plenty of options for online discussion, so if you want your forum to continue, it needs to meet people's needs by being
  • relevant
  • informative
  • useful
  • enjoyable
How you define and incorporate these concepts into your forum depends on your specific audience, subject matter, goals, plans, and forum management.
 

DigNap15

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Forums are never going to be as "important" as they were in years past. Truth is, they weren't that important back then; they were just the only option. Now people have plenty of options for online discussion, so if you want your forum to continue, it needs to meet people's needs by being
  • relevant
  • informative
  • useful
  • enjoyable
How you define and incorporate these concepts into your forum depends on your specific audience, subject matter, goals, plans, and forum management.
Well said
I love fourms, but if I want some computer help I now go to Google or Youtube for instant help
My forum is holding its own, but it is hard to get new members.
We are up against huge corporations with catchy names - Facebook, Reddit, Discuss, Quora.

My advertising budget for www.nzissues.com is not quite as big
 

User37935

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Expectations are important too. You won't get as much "banter" on forums these days, as people tend to do this on FB. We've long abandoned wishing members happy birthday as an example, as those threads went from dozens of replies to almost none. People tend to post more personal stuff in their own FB circles where it will of course be "liked" by their friends, whereas in forums it can be picked apart by strangers.

Forums are great for Q&A, technical help, structured information, niches that might be outside of FB's allowable terms, and where people want to ask everyone in that niche for help.

I note my partner being an avid member of a FB group of fans of our breed of pet dog, it's very busy with lots of photos and video posted... great for instant gratification, amusement and then you move on to the next post. Things like that just would never get off the ground these days as a forum, like they used to.
 

RisingSun

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Oct 14, 2018
Messages
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Forums are much better for:
  • Discussions that last longer than a day
  • Searching for older information that is still relevant
  • Groups that have long-time members -- you can literally see whether the person commenting on your thread is a trustworthy source or a new person who may or may not be a good source of information
  • Organizing threads into sections that make sense (although admins can go too far with this)
  • Finding the "new" posts and activity since your last visit so you don't miss anything
  • Creating an archive of historical information that can be consulted in the future. We put on an annual event, and the details of the past events are all still available when needed.
  • Providing separate areas for members, new registrants, and the public.
What else?
 

Oh!

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Oct 1, 2020
Messages
139
What else?

I'd suggest and argue: a better sense of community.

But, as Nev_Dul rightly points out, forums need to be more enjoyable if there are to attract a greater breadth of involvement. Yes, that can be a double-edged sword to some degree (distracting from the main purpose of the forum), but that lack of broader participation is what has caused so many forums to close, or if not close, become less attractive.

I'd argue that one solution is in the creation of larger forum-based communities, like Reddit. I do not mean clones of Reddit. But - IMO - it is the breadth of topics and participation which makes it work. It certainly isn't because it looks nice.:rolleyes:
 
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Oh!

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Expectations are important too. You won't get as much "banter" on forums these days, as people tend to do this on FB. We've long abandoned wishing members happy birthday as an example, as those threads went from dozens of replies to almost none. People tend to post more personal stuff in their own FB circles where it will of course be "liked" by their friends, whereas in forums it can be picked apart by strangers.

Forums are great for Q&A, technical help, structured information, niches that might be outside of FB's allowable terms, and where people want to ask everyone in that niche for help.

I note my partner being an avid member of a FB group of fans of our breed of pet dog, it's very busy with lots of photos and video posted... great for instant gratification, amusement and then you move on to the next post. Things like that just would never get off the ground these days as a forum, like they used to.
Yes, banter and chitchat have largely gone. Though, it remains at the personal forum I operate. But I think that it is not just because there are better (instantly gratifying) alternatives, but it is also down to declining participation at forums. Forums will not disappear - but they will continue to dwindle until a new equilibrium is achieved. Where, the remaining forums sweep the abandoned or disaffected memberships of closed forums.

Of course, this will not work for all forum types. Those in small niches will be have nowhere to go - except, maybe, the large social media platforms, which are not the answer any of us here seek. What about them?

The solution, I think, is for the amalgamation of divergent interests into larger platforms (again, such as Reddit). But, there should be money earning potential too (like Medium). I've written in other posts here about this - I am heavily involved with the creation of new forum-based platform. And there is revenue sharing functionality built-in for individual group/forum operators. Of course, not an answer for all. But I hope/expect that such spaces will form part of the solution.
 

Uncrowned

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Messages
36
Forums lived a near monopoly for a solid lifespan of the internet and enjoyed huge amounts of users. I don't believe forums are dying as much as finding their place. Your forum is not directly competing with social media as they are offering two different forms of communication. It is however directly competing with much larger and familiar large names like DigNap15 mentioned and is in a much smaller market then before. I do not fear Facebook taking away all my users nearly as much as Reddit becoming the "Google" of forums.
 

Oh!

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Forums lived a near monopoly for a solid lifespan of the internet and enjoyed huge amounts of users. I don't believe forums are dying as much as finding their place. Your forum is not directly competing with social media as they are offering two different forms of communication. It is however directly competing with much larger and familiar large names like DigNap15 mentioned and is in a much smaller market then before. I do not fear Facebook taking away all my users nearly as much as Reddit becoming the "Google" of forums.
Yes, I agree, Reddit is the much greater threat. Or, at least, the greater competitor. But there is nothing inherently wrong with Reddit or any of the other large platforms*. Except, that is, for their near monopoly stranglehold within the target audience of their respective offerings. There is not a huge deal of overlap with any of them - they tend to attract their own types of traffic (or even personality types).

We should probably include Instagram too. Is it a discussion space (of sorts), albeit at the more fleeting, ephemeral and shallow end of the spectrum of online communities. But all that said, that type of content used to be part of most forums in the past, and I think - for the most part - it helped.

* There are often things very wrong with how some of these platforms handle personal data and the like, but that's another discussion.
 

semtal

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Apr 9, 2020
Messages
3
I see three groups (no pun intended):

1) Instant gratification crowd. Nothing stored. Just ''react'' and move on to the next thing. Rinse and repeat.

2) The old timer crowd/mentality. Surf, research, converse, learn.

3) A gray area of people that like both.

As someone with an 'old timer' mentality, growing up with forums, I prefer that. Yet, I have still tried many forms of social media, so I'm not anti-social media. I'm just not a fan of certain social sites that treat people like drones, telling them what to do etc.

What amazes me is that no-one has taken the best of what a forum has to offer, the best of what social media sites have to offer and combine them to create some hybrid.

The best I've seen are things you can just bolt on to your site, Nothing revolutionary.
 
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Oh!

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What amazes me is that no-one has taken the best of what a forum has to offer, the best of what social media sites have to offer and combine them to create some hybrid.

The best I've seen are things you can just bolt on to your site, Nothing revolutionary.
Agreed. There does seem to be a large unexplored area between traditional forum-based sites and what we typically describe as 'social media'.

I'd actually describe the not just the likes of Twitter and Facebook as social media, but forums and blogs too. But that's another discussion.
 

DigNap15

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I think this obsession of trying to make forums look like Facebook or Reddit is a red herring.
Forum's main advantage is their layout and the categories etc.

Our main challenge is to get people to find them, and join them and comment.
Do we want all the meme's and oneliners that Social media tends to have?
I dont really.

We just have to admit, that there is so much competiton for people's time
 

Oh!

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I think this obsession of trying to make forums look like Facebook or Reddit is a red herring.
Forum's main advantage is their layout and the categories etc.

Our main challenge is to get people to find them, and join them and comment.
Do we want all the meme's and oneliners that Social media tends to have?
I dont really.

We just have to admit, that there is so much competiton for people's time

I am not sure if anyone here has suggested that 'forums should mimic the appearance or layout of Facebook or Reddit'. I think, in the main, those who suggest we might learn something from social media platforms are talking about somehow incorporating strategies which will better satisfy the more instant gratification associated with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. I think there are things we can potentially learn from them with structure and organisation, but part of their advantage is their sheer scale too.

The issue of scale, for most groups, is only resolved through combining communities in some way into a cohesive whole. And, most importantly, as Nev-Dull pointed out a few posts up, they need to be enjoyable. Forums used to be more fun. But when FB and the like came along, there were better alternatives for the fun part. Forums lost out on this aspect of online interaction and this loss has redefined what forums are about. Of course we should be willing to accept the paradigm shift, but I do believe it is possible to at least partially reverse this loss. Not through some momentous effort. Rather, by willing to take some risks and rethink what constitutes 'a forum'.

I don't particularly like the layout of Facebook, nor - unless it has improved since I last looked some years ago - its horribly confusing structure (especially privacy settings). And I certainly do not like the appearance of Reddit - though how its content is organised seems relatively OK (can't say more than that as I've never held an account there).

I've searched the archives at TAZ - I am surprised by the relatively little discussion of this topic. Forums can and should innovate. But how?
 

semtal

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I think there are things we can potentially learn from them with structure and organisation, but part of their advantage is their sheer scale too.
If you throw enough money at something, for long enough, it will succeed. The small sites can't do that, so they have to be smart in using what resources they have.

The issue of scale, for most groups, is only resolved through combining communities in some way into a cohesive whole.
The aforementioned ''revolutionary idea'' / reinventing the (forum) wheel would be a big step in the right direction. Something amazingly cool that the little guys could get behind and champion.

Of course we should be willing to accept the paradigm shift, but I do believe it is possible to at least partially reverse this loss. Not through some momentous effort. Rather, by willing to take some risks and rethink what constitutes 'a forum'.
There is a lot of ''meh'' / apathy floating around these days. It only takes a handful of the 'right' people, with the right ideas and who knows what could happen?

I don't particularly like the layout of Facebook, nor - unless it has improved since I last looked some years ago - its horribly confusing structure (especially privacy settings).
Facebook has now changed its appearance in recent weeks to make it look like Twitter (including that pale blue Twitter uses), which I find rather amusing. FB, with all its power and billions, is jealous of the other ''rich kid'' down the block.

I've searched the archives at TAZ - I am surprised by the relatively little discussion of this topic. Forums can and should innovate. But how?
It's the ''meh'' factor again. Many complain. Equally many do not want to roll their sleeves up and 'do', or even 'talk' about this.

We need creatives to get behind the concept that this is a noble cause, worth fighting for, that can become something great.

Or, just appeal to the greed of people with deep pockets. After-all, whoever solves this riddle (and unifies that gray area) is going to be rich! Rich, I say! Or maybe not. Who knows?

Either way, if I were a talented coder / entrepreneur, I'd at least be trying to reinvent the forum wheel.
 
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KimmiKat

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And there are us that avoid social media like the plague. I wouldn't touch FreakBook with a 10 metre pole.
 

DigNap15

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If you throw enough money at something, for long enough, it will succeed. The small sites can't do that, so they have to be smart in using what resources they have.


The aforementioned ''revolutionary idea'' / reinventing the (forum) wheel would be a big step in the right direction. Something amazingly cool that the little guys could get behind and champion.


There is a lot of ''meh'' / apathy floating around these days. It only takes a handful of the 'right' people, with the right ideas and who knows what could happen?


Facebook has now changed its appearance in recent weeks to make it look like Twitter (including that pale blue Twitter uses), which I find rather amusing. FB, with all its power and billions, is jealous of the other ''rich kid'' down the block.


It's the ''meh'' factor again. Many complain. Equally many do not want to roll their sleeves up and 'do', or even 'talk' about this.

We need creatives to get behind the concept that this is a noble cause, worth fighting for, that can become something great.

Or, just appeal to the greed of people with deep pockets. After-all, whoever solves this riddle (and unifies that gray area) is going to be rich! Rich, I say! Or maybe not. Who knows?

Either way, if I were a talented coder / entrepreneur, I'd at least be trying to reinvent the forum wheel.

I am sure that If someone came up with a design for a forum layout that would be hugely popular some coders could make it.
Its easy to say we need change and innovation - but what and how!
 

Matt M

Director Development at Invision Community
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308
Have both a social media presence and a forum. Share the best forum content to your social media. When people post questions on your social media channels, politely direct them to your forum which is a great resource and can help them with their problem.

It doesn't have to be one or the other.
 

zappaDPJ

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I think there's a bit too much emphasis or thought being placed on the application here and not enough consideration being given to the content.

Social media attracts content that is instant and disposable. That's its attraction. Forums on the other hand are more suited to building an enduring wealth of information. The problem is that content is soon lost to pagination and very hard to retrieve.

I think forums need to develop better tools for mining information. Predictive search, image search, AI capable of displaying content that is properly related and triggers for displaying 'more like this', 'more posts by this user', 'you might like...' etc could all help dig down into the database.

I also think a native app that allows search and interaction with competing forums might actually benefit all forum owners. I believe Invision Community has taken a step in that direction Matt M?
 

Oh!

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Have both a social media presence and a forum. Share the best forum content to your social media. When people post questions on your social media channels, politely direct them to your forum which is a great resource and can help them with their problem.

It doesn't have to be one or the other.
Hi Matt,

Well, that might work in a few individual situations, but it is hardly a practical method for reinvigorating forum-based communities. We need to develop strategies to divert and drive some of the traffic which now instinctively drifts towards the large social media platforms to forums. Realistically, I think this is only can be achieved through rethinking how forums structure and operate.

I think there's a bit too much emphasis or thought being placed on the application here and not enough consideration being given to the content.

Social media attracts content that is instant and disposable. That's its attraction. Forums on the other hand are more suited to building an enduring wealth of information. The problem is that content is soon lost to pagination and very hard to retrieve.

I think forums need to develop better tools for mining information. Predictive search, image search, AI capable of displaying content that is properly related and triggers for displaying 'more like this', 'more posts by this user', 'you might like...' etc could all help dig down into the database.

I also think a native app that allows search and interaction with competing forums might actually benefit all forum owners. I believe Invision Community has taken a step in that direction Matt M?
Hi zappaDPJ,

Content always matters. But I am of the opinion that (generally speaking) a thriving forum community involves chit-chat and ephemera too. Yes, some forums can continue to operate well without (or less of) such content, but for most to thrive, they need some banter - banter is part of forming more meaningful and fulfilling relationships. Maybe that seems a little contrived for virtual spaces, but I am sure most of you have formed some real friendships (sometimes spilling over into the real-world) from your online interactions. The swapping of dry information is not so conducive to this and results in people feeling less invested in the community.

Clearly, forums offer content which are poorly served by social media. Think of Twitter threads, which are then 'unfurled' by third-parties - a clear demonstration of inadequacies of the 280 character limit. As just about all of you know, Twitter used to have a limit of just 140 characters. And, they now count all URLs at one set (short) character length (irrespective of its true length). I mention this only because it demonstrates a willingness by Twitter to adapt according to changes in technology (the practical death of SMS) and demands of their users for more space. Even if it affects a core premise of what the site is about.

I am not meaning to suggest that forums have done nothing. The bigger (enterprise) systems have made some significant strides in the integrated services added to core forum systems. But, forums still feel fragmented and remote compared to the large social media platforms - that's the problem, I think.
 
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