Discussion in 'Forum Software' started by fixer, Jul 15, 2018.
if anyone missed this post you need to read this
Almost every Facebook group I've been part of has died. If it's a big group, posts move too fast and most of them end up being hyper-stupid stuff. There is no way to organise content really. I am in two local FB groups for local stuff and those are active, but the niche ones are all dead despite having 1000s of members. On certain topics, people are more interested in proper discussion than memes and other garbage. That's why those groups died.
It depends on the niche, but for certain topics, forums are most definitely better.
The main FB groups I admin are theoretically support groups but both state in the rules which is required reading:
We also limit memes to specific threads, personal photos to specific events. People breaking those rules are asked to edit their post as deleting a post is a banning offense there. Those that don't comply are banned and then blocked from rejoining.
The admins (3) on that forum have been called all kinds of names (and I am the "nice" admin but not a pushover) but it's amazing how many also play BY the rules with no complaints.
We don't WANT to be huge...we are over 2,000 members with a very active user base. In fact we had over 6K comments/posts in just the last 28 days.
southernlady Sounds like you've found a nice balance. I've never been an admin of any of those groups that I mentioned. I just prefer being a member when it comes to those. I dunno, for some reason, I think admins have a more difficult job than even forum admins have. At least from what I've witnessed. The only group I actually own is one relating to our forum. It was a transition group to begin with, a place for members to meet when the site was down for months at a time. From there we made SC at their request. Had we acted sooner and made a new site at the beginning, we might have saved a much larger portion of the community. But then, some people might have thought of it as a power play. Was hard to know what was the right thing to do. My only experience actually admining FB groups is that. XD.
Back in the day, you didn't need to bring content. Just having a forum was enough, the users created the content by themselves. It was the common culture of being a member of a forum.
Now all those people shifted towards Social Media. Now they deliver their content on there. Twitter, Facebook, etc. don't have to move a finger. Users create the content for themselves.
What does it say about us? Well, the users moved along. Now we must provide content. So people can come back and consume the content.
That is the biggest problem of forums right now.
It takes you what, 1-2 days to setup a forum, setup your categories and forum sections. And then what? Wait for some people stumble across your forum accidently by Google mostly. And then what? Once they stumble, what keeps them their? Nothing.
Of course my saying is the same old "content is king".
And this is the problem. Forum software can't just rely on being a forum software. It must develop to a system where the system creates content for you or makes it easy for you to create content.
And right now, Facebook groups have it easy. They have the members. You just need to create the place for it, just like 15 years ago when we could just open forums and people joined and started talking. Stand alone forums have no chance against that, except you deliver content, which is the problem as tried to explain.
I got very lucky with my forum. My first 100 or so members were waiting impatiently for me to get up and running and had joined by the end of the first week.
I bought the domain on Dec 30, 2013 and was live Jan 1st 2014. Those 100 got more on board. I passed the 500 mark quickly before slowing down. But content was easy. We all had posts elsewhere on two other forums so we all copied our own posts and reposted. Our board is health based and the medical community keep us supplied with relevant content.
The forum we had bailed from the last week of Dec 2013 is no longer there...about a year after we were live, they were dead in the water. But it took quite a bit longer for it to disappear. Our major competitor was created in 1998, LONG before social media was a major player. I've tried to figure out what software that one uses but I suspect it was created just for them and isn't using a known forum software.
Obviously, in very niche topics 100 or 500 users are nice, in the big world wide web, it is nothing.
And you got your content by copying from elswhere for the start. Good move, but you need much more than that for the time being. But you say it is no longer there. Sorry to hear that. It just isn't enough anymore to deliver a platform to talk. People use Social Media for that, you need to deliver something else than that. So they come and talk there and not on Social Media.
No, the forum we left is no longer there. All the information we copied was our own work so no issue with copying.
Current stats as of just a min ago.
Yes, we are still small but very niche compared to the one that started in 1998 before social media. That one is on social media now but only as a page. There is a third one that isn't even truly a competitor of us OR the one started in 1998. When you are a niche within a niche, it's hard to grow fast. Kinda like being a forum for just gala apples when there are so many varieties out there.
Ah, well, in that case, I'm happy for you and those are pretty good nice numbers for a niche topic. I misunderstood you, sorry.
Your numbers look pretty okay to me. Hopefully you keep it strong like this.
One issue I have a problem with when it comes to groups and social media in general. You put in the work, and you're stuck there. You can't export it to move on somewhere else if things change (and they do eventually). If you move on... you're not taking the content with you. You can do this with blogs and forums.
Someone made a post a few years ago that I think describes Facebook perfectly. They likened it to Tom Sawyer getting his friends to paint the picket fence.
Zuckerberg owns it but relies on everyone else's hard work.
The same could be said for all forums, obviously on a much smaller scale
Maybe. But I would guess most forum owners participate in the discussions and create a substantial amount of content. A more appropriate analogy for a forum would be a fence painting party where the owner painted the fence with his friends and provided music, food, and beer.
One aspect of this debate which seems to be getting overlooked is anyone can set up and run a Facebook Group with a minimal learning curve. I've seen a number of forum users run successful Groups that have been active for years.
Forums take a lot of work from the owner to get going, maintain and continue growing. It's a full time job for many.
Applying that metaphor to forums, it's more like building a fence, then inviting your friends over to help paint it. While they paint, you make sure they have all the paint, brushes, and other supplies they need.
Plus you make sure they benefit from painting the fence. You serve them drinks & pizza, you all laugh, joke, share stories, and have fun, and invite them into the fenced area as a place to hang out with their friends.
As an admin you don't have to concern yourself the possibility of your members accounts getting hacked, that's between them and facebook.
Maybe, but for those that use it, the functionality of a native app is magnitudes more powerful and fluid than a mobile browser interface. And at least they have the option of using one or the other.
It kind of does, I've had a couple of brand new groups grow to 500 members within a matter of weeks, without posting any links to it after the first few days of creating it, and cross posting it to a few existing groups and pages. Nearly all the members found us through facebook search and 1 click joined.
Some users like that, I don't join open groups on facebook, only closed or secret ones for that very reason. Groups are still easily discoverable if you're already in the system. Obviously that his it's own pros and cons, but in a system with over a billion users it's still a pretty big pool of users to pull from.
I agree and have experienced this, but I don't think they can apply the exact same tactic to groups. Fan pages and business pages have always often started out with the intent to draw traffic purely for the purpose of making money for the page admin by selling a product or service in some way or another off site. Generally this isn't the case with groups and communities.
The other thing to think about is how often a single user may have visited a companies facebook page, once after initially liking it? After that they will only see the odd post created by the business owner in their feed. There's no real incentive for a user to see all business related posts jamming up their feed and blocking content from their real friends. So once they reached a critical mass, and a user likes a certain number of pages it kind of made sense to reduce reach in this way anyway (obviously it worked out great for facebook as they could now charge for this reach)
With groups however, users do want to see that content and feed quite regularly. The number of post and ad impressions from one user frequently visiting a facebook group vs a business page can be massive in comparison. So I imagine facebook is making a fair bit of ad revenue from these groups already. As a result, they also have an incentive to get users coming back to the site and re-engaging with those groups, kind of the opposite of business pages, whose purpose was to get users off facebook and buying that companies product. With groups, facebook has control and is raking in the ad revenue as a user browsers through the massive amounts of content posted to groups. So much so that facebook send users algorithmically generated notifications to users when their friends have posted to that group so they keep coming back. This has the added benefit of getting really fast feedback responses to your posts for the content creators.
I'm not saying that facebook won't make a move to screw over group admins, like they did facebook page admins, but I don't think it will be a similar move. Facebook wants those groups and visible as possible and users visiting and posting to them as often as possible.
There's been talk even since the cambridge analytica scandal about the possibility of facebook changing it's business model to offer a paid tier. They reckon they could pretty easily get a single digit percentage conversion for a small monthly fee in exchange for removing advertising/some tracking. The problem with that though is the users who could pay for this are the prime targets and converters on ads that can follow through and buy those products. So it doesn't look like that will happen.
I see groups as a viable option for facebook to try and monetize in some way instead. How that works, I'm not sure. They've made it clear in blog posts and by their groups conference that groups are a priority. They continue to roll out features to make it easier to categorise and organise content by allowing the linking various groups. They will keep improving them until they have the best current selling points of dedicated forums, it's just a matter of time. At which point, the main selling point of forums will simply be that they're not in the facebook ecosystem and SEO. The truth is most users simply don't care about the tracking on facebook or are oblivious, or are aware but willing to put up with it to get the benefits groups offer (such as myself).
Perhaps they'll roll out a premium groups feature that will have a ton more features than a basic group.
Better category system for organisation
More powerful user groups
Priority visibility in search results
They're not going to invest all these engineering hours into groups if they're not going to make their money back, either through ads or some other way.
Facebook would be delighted if they could figure out a way to get users to pay money to them for extra features and still have the ability to show ads and track users. Groups might be that way.
They could have some kind of revenue share with the group admins, either from ad revenue or donations/group membership fees. Giving the admin an incentive to continue to invest their time into the group, to grow and moderate it. If the group is making enough money for facebook, it could be worth it for them to ensure that community stays on the platform.
If an admin is happy with the features facebook offers and can make money from their group, it removes the incentive for them to ever want to migrate away to another platform in the first place. If they can achieve this, it means the massive number of small grass roots groups communities that have formed on facebook the last few years, the big boards of the future, may never leave.
It's seems pretty clear that groups are where a huge amount of facebook traffic is these days, it will be interesting to see where it goes.
Until then, forums do need to get their asses into gear and start implementing more of the features that facebook offers in order to compete.
It's not just us providing content, it's making things easier for the users to provide content. Roughly 50% of all traffic is on mobile these days and forums are not well optimised for posting content from mobile. Facebook et al make this million times easier.
I created a suggestion on XF a while back to help try and address this.
Yeah, agree. I was saying somewhere else that "for years the enemy nr.1 for forums was social media, until smartphones took over". Now smartphones are the enemies nr.1 as displaying forums on them is pretty much bad in any way. So you lose your visitors to smartphones.
The progression rate of forums right now is pretty slow, so I wouldn't hold my breath. I expect in maybe 8 years or something we will have polished mobile experience on forums. Right now I gave up all hope and just focus on that what we have compared to what we can have in the future.