Forums/Bulletin Boards vs FB Groups/Social Media

Oh!

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I get very upset, when I look at my froum which gives people everything you say above
The ability to make a post and look forward to getting some comments.
Yet on Blogs and Facebook Groups any such comments get hidden uner a swathe of off topic comments and memes.
I get this too. I don't know if I have ever let the disruption caused to my forum upset me, but then again, I've never commercialized the space (for various reasons). I think I too would be upset if my hard work had been undermined by the likes of FB and/or ads simply not paying like they used to. [I am assuming you have commercialized your forum(s)]. Still, membership and activity has been somewhat hampered at my forum too - that's not a good thing for my members who reply upon it (or potential members who are having a relatively poor experience at FB or similar).
 

Nev_Dull

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I think (some) users expect easier access to comment and feedback than is offered by a traditional, moderately-sized forum (where they must join, independently).
I agree with this, at least in part. Users still have to register with the large social media sites (and most people are now aware that comes with a much higher cost in terms of loss of privacy) but they do it only once. On the other hand, because security is something most users are somewhat aware of, more are using password managers or password management in browsers, which makes logging into individual forum sites much simpler.
Facebook also has huge visibility. (Many) people will go with what they know and join a FB group over searching for an independent forum.
This is the most salient point and, I think, the crux of the issue. Unless they've been in a coma for several years, everyone is aware of facebook. Indeed, for some segments of users, it IS the internet. There is no arguing with the convenience of facebook for those users. In the same way that some people shop only at Walmart or Tesco, even though better quality and better prices can be found elsewhere, those dedicated facebook users are unlikely to seek out better content offerings on forums.

I'm not interested in trying to attract those users. There are plenty of other people who are actively searching for independent content sources and communities. This is why I think niche forums will continue to survive. We don't need to be huge or try to be all things to all users. If we create inviting, inclusive communities, we can attract members. They aren't likely to come as quickly or in the numbers they once did, but those that do come will tend to be the active ones we want.
 

DigNap15

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This is the most salient point and, I think, the crux of the issue. Unless they've been in a coma for several years, everyone is aware of facebook. Indeed, for some segments of users, it IS the internet. There is no arguing with the convenience of facebook for those users. In the same way that some people shop only at Walmart or Tesco, even though better quality and better prices can be found elsewhere, those dedicated facebook users are unlikely to seek out better content offerings on forums.

"For some Facebok IS the internet."
You are correct (but maybe Youtube as well, or TikTok for the younger ones)

But years ago Ebay WAS the internet, walk in on the office lady, and their screen was on ebay, checking listings or on their forums!
Now Ebay is on a downhill slide.

Things go in phases
 

totaltutankoll

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I couldn't agree more. There's nothing inherently wrong with the way forums work, beyond the issues with categorization, search, etc. that have been mentioned before. More effort needs to be put into the content and ensuring it provides the value people need and want. We should embrace the differences between forums and those other platforms, not try to emulate or incorporate them.

If the internet was your local pub or coffeehouse, the social media sites would be the large tables of people all sitting back, staring at their phones and occasionally sharing a tidbit with each other. Forums would be the small tables of animated people getting loud while they argue about the state of things and how to solve them. There is plenty of room for both camps.

When I said earlier that forums need to be enjoyable, I wasn't referring to the need for games or silly banter. What I meant was we need to ensure we've created an environment in our forums that is open, friendly, and accepting. We need to keep on top of cliques and member-moderators and anything else that prevents people from having their say and enjoying their time on the forum.
Content is key!
 

RocketFoot

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I have been saying this for a few years now! Facebook is trying to kill traditional forums! They keep upping the ante with Facebook group upgrades, but the fact still remains that FB Groups pretty much suck! They are generally run by armature admins that have no vested interest in the software and a large percent of the users are trolls! Traditional forums are typically better managed and moderated to keep spam and trolls out. Plus info is easier to search for and find in a forum vs. the FB post it and forget it thread model! I do run several big FB groups and pages, mainly to support my forums but I also ventured in the community spotlight with a couple local city groups and I can barely stand them anymore! The people are rude, they cry censorship anytime you ban someone or close a thread...it's just ridiculous!

My advise to forum admins is to stay the course...continue adding good, relative content to your forum and be sure to keep up with the latest upgrades and features to keep you members interested and entertained. I feel like FB and Reddit will run the gauntlet after a while and start to fade out just like Ebay and some other online fads! Forums have more to offer but just sometimes get over shadowed by the glitz of social media!
 

MikeTF

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I have been saying this for a few years now! Facebook is trying to kill traditional forums!
And unfortunately, forums have been giving them content and traffic for years.

For years now, I have watched forum owners get together and try to find ways to uAs se Facebook to build a better following on their forum, when they were in fact doing the option. They were merely providing thousands of more doors to access Facebook.

I think the thing for Forum owners to do right now is to try to be the opposite of Facebook. Work harder on keeping threads on topic, rather than filled with nothing but memes and personal attacks like you see on far too many Facebook groups.

I see far too many forum owners try to duplicate what Facebook is doing, rather than focus on doing their own thing to the best of their ability.

Social Media is constantly evolving. The social media giants have grown to a dangerous size, and could possibly cause major changes in how social media works and what we can get away with in the future. Throughout this time, though, forums have remained consistent, and could likely see an emergence in the near future as changes are sent down from the Government on these social media giants who have become publishers and influencers.

As far as the forum world goes, I would like to see forum software come out that transcends what we have grown used to. Someone or some group out there needs to come forward with a vision that provides forum software that is truly modernized and can carry us into the next few years. Something different. Software that doesn't require us to use multiple add-ons. Software that includes the purchase of optional apps that we can have in the app stores (apps that we can feel comfortable will be updated with each forum software update). Seriously, in 20 years, forum software really hasn't evolved much at all.

I remember Zoints trying to connect forums together, I think they were on to something. Tapatalk introduced that again at a more advanced level before creating a mess (as far as I am concerned). Why can a forum software provider include a similar option where we can bounce from one forum to another via that optional app?

Are we limited because most don't want to spend the money needed for truly advanced software?
 
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DigNap15

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I think the thing for Forum owners to do right now is to try to be the opposite of Facebook. Work harder on keeping threads on topic, rather than filled with nothing but memes and personal attacks like you see on far too many Facebook groups.
That is one of the best posts I have seen on this topic
I have a general and politicat forum with lof of oppsitoon FB and Reddit Groups
I try to keep threads on topic, but like all dinner or pub conversations they go off topic following just one post
My members love posting memes and they love personal attacks
Personal attacks I have banned
But I think If I banned memes and general banter I would loose a lot of members
Its a balance between serious content and fun
 
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Oh!

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And unfortunately, forums have been giving them content and traffic for years.

For years now, I have watched forum owners get together and try to find ways to uAs se Facebook to build a better following on their forum, when they were in fact doing the option. They were merely providing thousands of more doors to access Facebook.
Personally, I never bothered. But that's partly because I walked away from the day to day stuff long, long ago; the admins never felt that motivated about it (and why should they if I wasn't); and my hobby forum is very niche (with no real forum competitors), so members tend to seek us out. However, for a forum in a more competitive field, and/or (to be fully) commercialized, that's a different story - they need to take a more hard-nosed view about it.

I think, actually, for a forum like mine, using Facebook and Twitter would make some sense. It is undoubtedly true that many people use FB groups instead of our forum - some of them out of convenience, others out of ignorance. So, marketing at such platforms would make some sense.

How, exactly, do you see forums driving traffic to Facebook? Having lots of links to your Facebook pages might increase FB Google rankings, but in the grand scheme of things, it probably makes little difference (Facebook being enormous anyway). Or, are you talking about having an actual FB group? If so, yeah, that does not strike me as a good idea. What else? The only way I'd use FB is tell people about my forum.

I think the thing for Forum owners to do right now is to try to be the opposite of Facebook. Work harder on keeping threads on topic, rather than filled with nothing but memes and personal attacks like you see on far too many Facebook groups.
Of course forums should continue to maintain their inerrant (and specific) advantages over FB and other social media sites. Forums are different and have their own appeal. But this does not mean forums should remain static - there are lessons to be learned, especially around how we might improve engagement. But please note, this does mean we should try to emulate FBs shallowness.

I see far too many forum owners try to duplicate what Facebook is doing, rather than focus on doing their own thing to the best of their ability.
If you mean by turning the content of their forum more general - yes, it is a difficult proposition. Forums should be niche and cater for more in-depth discussion; or of sufficient scale where very broad discussion does not mean participation becomes too diluted on any given board or thread.

I propose that the solution is somewhere in between, with a platform of integrated forums, operating semi-autonomously (a single click to join a new forum group). With some sensible, but limited restrictions on content, and then the individual forum operators can build from there (adding further restrictions/rules if they so wish to fit the flavor of their forum membership). This should provide diversity of content (across the platform), with a focus on individual forums with their own cultures, and retain a unifying feeling of belonging to a larger community (there are other things we are doing to encourage this too).

Social Media is constantly evolving. The social media giants have grown to a dangerous size, and could possibly cause major changes in how social media works and what we can get away with in the future. Throughout this time, though, forums have remained consistent, and could likely see an emergence in the near future as changes are sent down from the Government on these social media giants who have become publishers and influencers.
I tend to agree. But it is not just the size of the near monopolies, it is how FB (in particular) uses user-data. Regulation is catching up of course, but there remains a long way to go. All things considered, I find it difficult to imagine FB being the giant it is now in ten years time. Or, I seriously hope not. Twitter does not seem to have the same problems as FB (privacy, in particular), or not to the same scale - or, at least, I don't think so. Twitter has other serious problems though - I don't know how those problems will pan out. I do feel, though, Twitter is the much superior concept over FB (which feels dated by comparison). So, it is not just forums which need to evolve, but the big social media sites too. But that business; that's life.

As far as the forum world goes, I would like to see forum software come out that transcends what we have grown used to. Someone or some group out there needs to come forward with a vision that provides forum software that is truly modernized and can carry us into the next few years. Something different. Software that doesn't require us to use multiple add-ons. Software that includes the purchase of optional apps that we can have in the app stores (apps that we can feel comfortable will be updated with each forum software update). Seriously, in 20 years, forum software really hasn't evolved much at all.
The project with which I am involved is trying to solve some of this. Of course it will not resolve everything; partly because some of the things which irk me and you (and many others here) about the demise of forums is probably unsolvable, requiring a fanciful solution. But some things could be made to work better for the user. Or, at the very least, something distinctly new can be offered.

We are concentrating on what will work for the user. Yes, keeping an eye on forum operators too. But the key is to make sure users are happy, enthused, and engaged. If we do this, then forum operators will be happy too.

As a single platform, there are no problems for forum operators integrating software, patching, or maintaining/adapting outdated odd-ons, etc. Nor are there any fees for operators (except for some edge cases where forums are created but remain undeveloped - the fee is to prevent pointless clutter and incentivize development). On the contrary, there is a revenue sharing system. Revenues are derived from valuable add-on services for members. But core functionality is free (as is access to content and participation).

I remember Zoints trying to connect forums together, I think they were on to something. Tapatalk introduced that again at a more advanced level before creating a mess (as far as I am concerned). Why can a forum software provider include a similar option where we can bounce from one forum to another via that optional app?
I do not recall Zoints. Such complicated integrations always seem doomed to failure. It is difficult to capture the imagination of your average user in such schemes. The attempts at federated communities are interesting, but I think they fail because they feel disjointed.

Are we limited because most don't want to spend the money needed for truly advanced software?
Do mean forum owners are unwilling to spend enough on licensing? If so, I don't think this is true. I do not not how much revenue is generated by the likes of Xenforo, but given the number of communities using such software, their income/profit is probably very healthy. Conversely, if you mean users, that's been changing. We have only to look at the pay-walling of news sites in particular. And some forums are doing this too. Or if you mean investors putting in capitol into forum software or something rather like forums - well, it is expensive and risky, with difficult to calculate potential profit if the product/site is markedly different to what's already out there. On the other hand, why try to reinvent the wheel - it is also risky going up against similar products which are already fully developed and popular.
 

Jeremy8

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Why be worried about Facebook in 2020 at all? In my opinion, they have not been a big threat for multiple years and their userbase is increasingly aging. I guess it depends on your niche though. Some niches may do better on Facebook than others, especially if it appeals more to older people. From my experience though, Reddit has been bigger competition than Facebook in recent years. Discord is also a huge platform and relatively new, but perhaps it caters more to gaming and entertainment niches, so that won't affect all forums.
 

DigNap15

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I agree that sites like FB and Twitter and Reddit will have problems re censorship for their owners and moderators and problems with regulators.
FB is also becoming more and more for the older demographic.
While we are waiting 30 years for all of their users to drop off we need to think of a way of marketing our forums
 

Oh!

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Why be worried about Facebook in 2020 at all? In my opinion, they have not been a big threat for multiple years and their userbase is increasingly aging. I guess it depends on your niche though. Some niches may do better on Facebook than others, especially if it appeals more to older people. From my experience though, Reddit has been bigger competition than Facebook in recent years. Discord is also a huge platform and relatively new, but perhaps it caters more to gaming and entertainment niches, so that won't affect all forums.
I rather agree with you. At least to the extent that FB is not the threat it once was and has lost its appeal. This is why I am skeptical that it will be any like the force it is now in ten years time. And yes, Reddit seems the more obvious competitor forum in general. FB is a potential competitor (if for no other reason than its scale and reach), but its groups have never been well received. And if membership/participation on the platform dwindles, well, that's that for the direct 'forum' element of what they offer.

I do not wish harm towards Reddit or Discourse or most other platforms (even most of the very large) - they each offer something and are mostly good or OK. As for Twitter, however, I have to disagree with you. Despite it being a far superior platform to FB in concept, and although I understand why they went with the editorial line they did (basically, nearly anything is allowed), it was always going to be an unsustainable position for a mass-consumer platform. And I think they have failed to keep ahead of the (largely) justified complaints about content and its effects upon wider society. It really should have led instead of being reactive to every problem. And then, often, poorly reactive at that.
 
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Oh!

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I agree that sites like FB and Twitter and Reddit will have problems re censorship for their owners and moderators and problems with regulators.
FB is also becoming more and more for the older demographic.
While we are waiting 30 years for all of their users to drop off we need to think of a way of marketing our forums
I have a feeling we will be surprised by the rapid decline of FB in the years to come. They will operate in different areas - I do not mean that the entity will go bust. But, the platform could soon lose its shine and become (relatively) little used. It is already happening of course.
 

feldon30

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#1 We are a visual species!

Facebook is very good at providing a stream of random interesting chit that the only action required to enjoy it is scrolling. There's a reason they pay the behavioral psychologists big bucks -- they figured out how to make tight dopamine-producing reward loops.

If your forum greets me with a textual list of categories and subforums with no icons, and then browsing through the forums is a textual list of topics with no graphics, then you've lost the Facebook crowd already.

I recommend graphical icons, user albums, and floating up the 5 most recently attached images from public subforums. Maybe even a scrolling list of recent topics with a 150 word preview. I know some folks view large avatars as a distraction and an overemphasis on the author rather than their viewpoint, but these graphics subconsciously provide visual punctuation.
 
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DigNap15

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#1 We are a visual species!

Facebook is very good at providing a stream of random interesting chit that the only action required to enjoy it is scrolling. There's a reason they pay the behavioral psychologists big bucks -- they figured out how to make tight dopamine-producing reward loops.

If your forum greets me with a textual list of categories and subforums with no icons, and then browsing through the forums is a textual list of topics with no graphics, then you've lost the Facebook crowd already.

I recommend graphical icons, user albums, and floating up the 5 most recently attached images from public subforums. Maybe even a scrolling list of recent topics. I know some folks view large avatars as a distraction and an overemphasis on the author rather than their viewpoint, but these graphics subconsciously provide visual punctuation.
Very interesting.
Can you point us to a forum that does this?
 

feldon30

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Very interesting.
Can you point us to a forum that does this?
I don't have a good example that adopts all of my ideas. I've seen some of what I suggested on different forums, but not all on one.

Unfortunately now when you google "top 10 forums", the top Google search results return a list that includes Reddit, Quora and Stack Overflow. WTF? These are not forums!
 

Nev_Dull

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I recommend graphical icons, user albums, and floating up the 5 most recently attached images from public subforums. Maybe even a scrolling list of recent topics with a 150 word preview. I know some folks view large avatars as a distraction and an overemphasis on the author rather than their viewpoint, but these graphics subconsciously provide visual punctuation.
I'm somewhat sceptical. Will these measures improve the quantity and quality of the discussion? Are there some findings that point to this?

Certainly meaningful graphical icons can help users find the forum sections they want more easily, and avatars provide a quicker visual way to identify other members. However, when the avatars get too large or the icons are confusing, they distract from the actual content. This has been shown repeatedly in eye-tracking studies.

User albums may have a use for certain forums but for most, they are external to the purpose of the forum. Pictures of my dog are not going to add much value on a computer forum. The same goes for tossing up recently attached images. On the right forum, that can be a good strategy (e.g., a wood-working forum) to entice users to check out the thread. For others, it's just more visual noise.

I don't think these measures should be adopted as a general rule, though they all have merit, given the right circumstance. Forums are not facebook. We have different goals. Those behavioural psychologists on FB are there to find ways to keep eyes on the site to view ads. The content, it's topic, quality, or veracity are secondary to that goal. Images and visual elements are there to support that goal and even confuse users enough that they inadvertently click the ads. Our forums, on the other hand are (or should be) vehicles for communication among a group with a shared interest. Any visual elements we use should be there to further our goal of providing the right information to the right users in the right way.
 

DigNap15

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I don't have a good example that adopts all of my ideas. I've seen some of what I suggested on different forums, but not all on one.

Unfortunately now when you google "top 10 forums", the top Google search results return a list that includes Reddit, Quora and Stack Overflow. WTF? These are not forums!
I have said many times that "Forums" is a bad word
A "Forum" can also be a meeting like a conference.
So that when you search for Forums they also get thrown up
Also I notice vastly different results if you google Forum v Forums

Google puts Blogs ahead of my forum!!
So for that reason I defund them
I use DuckDuckGo as my search engine

Now the US Justice dept is on to them!
 

zappaDPJ

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On the right forum, that can be a good strategy (e.g., a wood-working forum) to entice users to check out the thread. For others, it's just more visual noise.

My experience says the same, it has to be the right site. If the promoted image has relevance to the niche and the written content that goes with it is rich then it can leverage a lot of page views. I found this to be the case on a guitar related site.
 

Pete

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So here's my take on it: Facebook offers all things to all people at a breakneck pace - it's the Netflix of human consumption. Whatever you want, it's there a search away. In fact there's so much that you can only ever possibly keep up with the 'current things' and accept that you'll miss some things. If you want the constant dopamine hit, sure, it can satiate for a while.

Forums in their many guises are the antithesis of this. They're not 'everything to all people at once', they're not 2 clicks away from literally everything else, they're also not as frictionless to create, manage and disband.

If what you want isn't deep human interaction, FB groups can absolutely be the style of community you participate in and even oversee - but there are plenty of people who don't want this, whose interests can't be facilitated with rapid feedback cycles, and who want more depth than the average FB group (or posters) tend to have. Longer-form content is absolutely discouraged on Facebook, given increasing levels of friction as a barrier to entry.

If you want a constant stream of vague interactions that you can dip in and out of with limited depth, FB absolutely works.

Does it work for anything slower, where days or weeks can go by? Not really; it's designed to not be there. It's designed to promote what's "relevant" now as though the only content model is what you're looking at right now and it doesn't matter if it's not there a day later. It is the ultimate tool of the ephemeral now.

But like this place, I've been slowly catching up since I went on hiatus, reading old threads - I can find them, choose to participate at my pace, especially for something like this topic where the topic very much hasn't gone away and has really mostly accelerated with the ongoing debates over censorship and moderation of large sites. Only today I saw an article on the rise of QAnon and how people have tuned in and essentially become cult members over it, to the detriment of their friends and family - because they don't have a community to be part of.

And that's the key point: Facebook isn't a community. It's not even a meta-community. It's loose groups of people who mean more or less to each other than whatever they choose to put in, and the nature of the ephemeral now means that you can scroll down a timeline and have no actual human interaction as part of it.

THAT is what forums do that social media doesn't. It allows for a level of engagement social media could only dream of - and would eschew as it doesn't monetise well.
 

DigNap15

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Well said Pete
Your first four paragraphs were very perceptive and inspring.

As you say if people want long term, serious engagegment Forums are the way to go.

But as I have said on here many times, how can we find new members, or tell people that forums exist and offer many good features.
 
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