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Forum vs. Social Media

Continuing the discussion from Google+ Hangouts on Air Experts?:

Splitting this into a new topic.

I think this is an interesting question, @randulo. I tend to see the differences between forums and social media as the unit of discussion and the audience.

Forums are much better suited for richer, longer form discussions. If you look at a typical forum thread it will include a number of participants, often incorporates rich media (e.g. videos, pictures, polls, and more), and has tools better suited for responding and replying to people. Social media great for discussion, but the unit of conversation is typically smaller and often replies to that specific post. As such, I feel forums are better for longer more involved discussions and social is better for smaller more informal discussions.

In terms of the audience, I have always found social media audiences to be a little less sticky and people are instead pulled into the content when it stands out. Forums are more of a clubhouse where people join up and become invested in the community. Thus, while forums may be smaller, I suspect the quality of the content is more in-depth and longer-running.

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I agree with all of that, your experience matches mine, @jonobacon However, the difference was more significant in the 1990’s when Usenet and forums “ruled”, whether they were free-standing or on Compuserve and the like. There’s a lot of fragmentation now. I used to be involved in a wine forum that was very busy and had long discussions. Most of those people have moved on. What remains will usually be a wealth of evergreen info: tasting notes and such on the wine forum, reviews and tips on the guitar synth one.

People have a limited time to spend online, even retired or shut-ins only have so much energy. The ultra penetration of Facebook and its ilk attract the “lighter weight” participants – I mean those who are not super invested and will lurk a lot more than they’ll post.

In short, I joined this one a couple of years ago, looked around, and probably never came back until your email! As I said in my intro two years ago, our own (very niche) community is very successful in what it does for a small number of highly invested individuals and companies.


I agree, and I think it makes sense to tune the type of participation to the different types of media. So, for example, I would prefer to have longer, more involved discussions on a forum, but lighter-weight announcements on social media.

Glad to have you back! :slight_smile:

The other big advantage of fora over social media is the ability to find evergreen content months or years later. Social (particularly Twitter) is better for near-real-time communication, but not so great at preserving discussion for later reference.


In my previous job, we had a Q&A (like Stackoverflow) instead of a forum. It was better in my opinion, because our community was very technical.

However, when a regular topic, or a topic became very hot, we always wrote a blog post on the same topic. The blog post was a way to share best practices, eventually could be a tutorial. And of course, we include when possible some links to other ressources and to the original question(s) on the community Q&A. We also added comments with the link to the blog post on the Q&A.

This way, we created reference content with high value on the blog. It solved topics and helped the users to use the solftware. And then the community to go ahead and ask questions on new topics.

Having this kind of interaction with the Community users was also very good to push feedback from the Community inside the company (support, roadmap, developers…).

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Yeah, I think it is always handy to build a content pipeline where content in one medium can become popular and inspire the creation of content in another medium that is more attuned to consumption. :slight_smile:

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I think part of the answer to this question depends on your definitions:
“social media” (to me, and maybe this is only because I’m old and have been doing this A Long Time) = forums, discussion boards, wikis, Facebook, twitter, instagram … etc. If you have a login (you are a person) and you can share content in response to other people’s content, it’s social media

What is not social media are traditional websites, with no commenting or user-generated content.

If you look at the issue through that lens, then I think it becomes a series of questions:

  • where do people go to find out background info (about your issue, your cause, how to use your thing)?
  • where do people go to get “official” info (news, updates) – where do they see the info, then where are they sent for the longer version of the info?
  • where do people go to get help, ask questions, find others like them?

That (to me) leads you to a construct where you have:

  • a website (with info about background - what it is, who you are, why you exist)
  • news output (to twitter, FB, G+ – Whereever your audience is anyway)
  • discussions that happen in whatever medium your audience is most comfortable with (whether that’s email or a forum or FB). It’s also good practice to ''surface" the most relevant/helpful useful of those discussions back to both the “news output” and the website

My $.02, YMMV.


One thing that has become popular in recent years using the Facebook Group function has been using hyperlinks and archiving threads for reference. It allows for great information to be easily accessed, and conversations to go on long-term, even after they’re buried.

I love forums and social media for different reasons, though I think “app” access to a forum is essential for growth and activity these days. So many of us use our phones for most things, and having to use the browser to go through a forum just isn’t easy or fun most of the time.

Forum and Social media is the best way to communicate with relevant groups and community.

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