Facebook or Forums?

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by Matt M, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Matt M

    Matt M Developer

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    I read a lot of angst over social media, and Facebook especially being responsible for closing down forums as user trends shift towards social media.

    However, there is a definite increase in brands and businesses looking to move FROM Facebook to independent community platforms.

    I think we're in a new era where forums absorb traffic from social media, rather than the other way around.

    I got into this on a podcast recently, here's the link (other formats) if you're interested.

    What are your thoughts?
     
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  2. TheChiro

    TheChiro Devotee

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    The mentality of individuals as well as "group think" needs to change. People use the social media platforms bc their friends and family are there, that's the start of it though. Because everyone they know is there, they use it every day. Then couple that with fb groups, why leave the platform to go elsewhere? Only when the person and people wake up to the invasion of privacy (*cough*crimes*cough*) these social media platforms are committing...only then will we start to see a move back towards private forums.

    There was a company that worked on unifying logins across forums. Honestly, that's really what is needed for us to make the above process move quicker. Need to make being apart of forums more convenient.
     
  3. Matt M

    Matt M Developer

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    If you can create compelling content that people want to read, and promote that via Facebook and Twitter then you have a way to get traffic to your site.

    Then make your site as easy to register as possible (use social media log in buttons), make sure the structure is clean and clear and you have a chance at converting a casual viewer into a permanent member.

    Your site needs to be more than just a container for discussion. You need to offer something they can't get elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  4. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

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    Facebook's focus on the consumer, and I think legacy forums should recognize that fact. (Hint: Facebook is already huge). If you're targeting consumers and retail clients (vs enterprise or business), then social platforms will continue to dominate. And that's okay. Facebook certainly offers a lot to community admins focused on social or retail conversations: you have your members there, they're already active, you can manage your own groups with very easy controls. You should of course evaluate the pros and cons of losing control over your data and membership versus the gain of an easy and frictionless platform that's free, but Facebook is definitely a platform to consider (and a platform who will continue to challenge you) for social and retail conversations. However, there will be a growing divergence between these social and retail forums versus the professional or enterprise ones who absolutely must control their own environment.

    And even if you are a social or retail-oriented forum, it's not the end of the world. I've always viewed Facebook as a frenemy. It's a friend to help me promote; it's an enemy because it's sucking away members' time and attention. But it's the competitive landscape that we have, so the question is not how much can we complain, but how much can we use Facebook to our advantage?

    I can't speak to other platforms, but I definitely believe one of the killer features of Invision Community 4 is "Social Promotion." It allows admins to queue up recommended content from community to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook Pages, and you can setup a schedule for regular posting at key times (like a simplified version of Hoostsuite). For brands and communities, it's a way of disseminating viral-worthy highlights into social media to spark interest for your community. Once again, a frenemy with Facebook: you share a little, you get a little.
     
  5. TheChiro

    TheChiro Devotee

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    Oh, we have all of that and then some. Even put it out in the open so users know they can log in via social media platforms.
    I can't speak for anyone else here, but my site offers more than just discussion. And with our upgrade to xf 2.1, it will be offering features that you won't see anywhere else, especially to the capacity of anywhere else. Only rival to what we are creating will be Reddit with their expanding community, creating subreddits, etc. But we will be offering more than just a discussion platform like Reddit.
    It's more so an enemy after they changed their algorithms to make more money from businesses to get their content in front of users eyes. Prior to that, it was fantastic. If you liked a page, you would see their posts. Now, if you are a business page, then "good friggin luck". We see about 20% of our users that actually see our posts. The rest would have to be "boosted".
    I don't see me complaining, just stating facts in regards to their invasion of privacy.
    That's great and all, but last time I looked into features like that, including Hootsuite, FB frowned upon it and would only show your posts to an even smaller fraction of people. Have you tried some A/B tests? Going on FB and posting a link vs doing it through Social Promotion? Especially if you schedule the post through Social Promotion, unless things have since changed, you will see 10% of people seeing your posts compared to going on FB and scheduling it there.
     
  6. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

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    That's actually pretty good for a page. There was research done by ad agency Ogilvy that shows reach of large and popular Facebook pages is only at 6%. Facebook even admits that the reach of pages will trend towards zero unless you start paying.
     
  7. TheChiro

    TheChiro Devotee

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    I'm not arguing if it is good or not, I'm saying they are actively adjusting their algorithms to make it so you have to pay for the reach. Prior to these changes, you were able to reach over 50% of your audience.

    Oh and to clarify, when I was saying 10% from the 3rd party scheduling, that's 10% of what you would get if you put it up through FB on their site. So if you typically reach 1000 people, the 3rd party promotion would be 100 people.
     
  8. overcast

    overcast Enthusiast

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    As a normal user we have nothing to do with how the information is presented. However as a owner, you get far more control and you are in control of your own brand. Facebook should not be more than 10% of your brand. And it should be low as it locks you in financially for promotion and reach. I'd focus on forum and keep the quality high.
     
  9. \o/

    \o/ Participant

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    Facebook is dying AFAICS. There is no "social network" that could possibly outlive your website. Sadly, many people need to fall on their face first.
     
  10. hellasteph

    hellasteph Tech Scum

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    I also feel this way.
     
  11. Checkmate

    Checkmate Aspirant

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    I think the biggest advantage that Facebook has at this point that keeps people engaged, is the native smartphone apps.

    It's hard not to check Facebook, Twitter etc. when you've got a message icon popping up on your phone and an icon blinking to remind you to visit those sites.

    I think if one of the forum software providers finds a way to close the gap on those obvious advantages the big social media platforms have, forums could make a resurgence.
     
  12. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    This is probably the single biggest disadvantage forums have compared to social network apps - at least for those communities where the majority use phones to browse and interact, which is nearly all communities. People are prompted by push notifications for most of their online interaction these days. Email is by and large, the new snail mail. Relying on email notifications for replies to a question when that user can jump on FB or into a FB group, post the same question and have their phone buzz a few minutes later with a response is one of the main reasons some people think forums are obsolete. The user will likely receive and engage with several push notifications before they even realize they have an email notification from a forum. Forum software MUST find a way to implement push notifications for both iOS and Android, somehow, someway.

    A supplemental mobile app for forums is needed - not necessarily to provide all of the usability functions in the forum, but definitely for notification alerts. The app can direct the user to a browser to view and engage with the forum content, but the notifications must use the phone's native alert system, regardless of whether the browser is open on their phone or not. There also has to be an ability for add-on developers to tie into the app for their add-on's alerts, which rules out options like Tapatalk. Forum owners shouldn't have to grant ownership of their site's content to someone like Tapatalk to be able to use the app. Some of us don't want their site to look and function like a FB group the way they are in Tapatalk, we want to retain full control over the look and feel and the user experience. Maintaining ownership over the asset we've built is very important.
     
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  13. Wes of StarArmy

    Wes of StarArmy Adherent

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    We're seeing some of this already. Xenforo supports push alerts now, right out of the box! When someone replies to my forum, I get live notifications at the top of my phone right next to the Facebook ones.
     
  14. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    There are some caveats to the XF push notifications - mainly, it's a browser based notification and it doesn't work on iPhones. And if you forcibly close your browser app you might not see a notification - for anyone who actively closes their apps to stop processes from draining their battery it could stop the alerts too.

    XF is on the right track by addressing push notifications but it's still not done in a way that other push notifications are handled, and iPhone users are still excluded which is a big deal. You're still at a disadvantage.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
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  15. xzvbnm

    xzvbnm Neophyte

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    I think that the desire of many companies to switch from Facebook to independent platforms is due to the fact that on your website you can control the content and manage the audience exactly as you need and with the needs of your business. In addition, on your site easier to manage content.
     
  16. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    Are you saying companies want to launch and grow their own forum to get away from FB? I'm not sure that's what the original poster is saying. He's suggesting companies would rather move away from FB and focus their marketing efforts in forums instead. But do they? Do companies really want to move from Facebook to independent forums? There has to be a good business case for that.

    One of the main reasons companies started adopting Facebook en masse was the fact that they could grow their own audience (through page likes) and promote themselves to that audience for free, or relatively cheap, without having to pay advertising fees to a forum owner - or in some cases, several forum owners. It allowed many companies to cut costs and streamline their efforts to reach their target audience. Instead of focusing on multiple forums they could just pour all their effort into one place - FB.

    But then FB changed their algorithm and companies were forced to pay advertising fees to achieve that same reach on FB and they had to learn how to use FB Ads, which made things more expensive and more complex for them. Their promo posts were now not being seen by the same volume of people. Now the companies aren't getting the same ROI from FB as before and they're seeing some of the other negative affects FB is having on their industry, so maybe they're seeing value in forums again - but does that mean they're embracing forums to promote themselves in or would they rather have their own forum so they can grow their own audience to market to? Because I doubt they love the idea of advertising on multiple forums to reach their audience. I doubt they really have the time needed to create and manage their own forum community - if they knew what really goes into it they'd probably choose not to try. Some of them still seem to believe that forums are dying, or are dead, even when you show them traffic numbers and participation levels that prove otherwise in some cases.

    I honestly don't know that we're going to see a big influx of companies and/or users rushing into forums and away from FB, even with the ROI going down for companies. In some cases you'll be fighting the stigma of having a forum, since some people and business owners feel like forums are outdated technology. With that said, if you can create a strong user experience for your niche that can't be found on FB or elsewhere then you'll position yourself well to attract users and companies. Just having an active forum isn't going to be a big draw in and of itself. The value you bring to the user has to keep evolving.
     
  17. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

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    Not in my experience. While it's true that forums can provide a good user to user customer support I see that as in addition to having a presence on social media.
     
  18. KimmiKat

    KimmiKat Adherent

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    Kinda hard to check on my phone - it's an old school flip phone! :D

    Probably one of 9 people on the planet that don't have a phone glued to my hands.

     
  19. Checkmate

    Checkmate Aspirant

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    Yes, I agree.

    I think what is needed is for a way for forum software to install a tile on a user's phone that shows a notification that shows their thread/message has been replied to. The tile would need to be customizable by the forum owner.

    That's what smartphone users get now with Facebook, LinkedIn etc. When that happens, I think forums make a comeback.
     
  20. southernlady

    southernlady Coder/Designer

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    Maybe, but I know quite a few people who have turned off most notifications except phone calls, software updates, etc. Some don’t allow push notification of email. They’ll get it when they are ready. I don’t need a tile reminding me to go visit something.
     
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