When we discuss forums and the causes of the declining popularity of them, one popular reason that always comes up is social media. With the likes of Twitter, Instagram and even WhatsApp proving popular amongst the younger generation, it’s not surprising to see them being linked to the slow decline of discussion boards but are they really to blame?

What is social media? Well, the Google definition is “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” If you use that definition then it’s easy to see why social media may have been the cause of the slow decline in the popularity of forums since they are essentially the same thing. Forums were created for users to discuss content and to participate in “social networking”. But ultimately, they are two different things. They were not created for the same purposes and the many differences that they have over the other mean that it will be very hard for social media to replace forums.

Forums can be compared to a club or group where people join up and then become invested in the community. Because of this, whilst you may consider forums as being smaller (in terms of users), the quality of the content and discussions will be more in-depth and go on for longer. Social media could be compared to a party where you will most likely encounter family, friends and the odd mutual friend. It’s more personal, and with most people using their real identities, much less anonymous which results in less involved discussions.

The anonymity of forums is a great aspect that many users long for as it offers you a blank slate to start from. No one knows you from other forums, no one will judge you for previous discussions on other forums, no one knows who you are (unless you use the same details across various forums of course). Whilst some social media sites (Reddit especially) can offer this, your still not going to get the same experience as you would with a forum. Simply looking at a user’s recent replies on Reddit can give you a clear indication of what they link, who they support etc.

Anonymous Forum User

And that is exactly why social media isn’t killing your forum. It’s different. It can’t replace forums because they are essentially two different things. Users are able to be more relaxed and laidback in a forum community where they won’t be judged by friends and family. And being able to hide behind a username and avatar that isn’t a picture of you can help some to be more comfortable when discussing certain topics.

So why is your forum not doing well? It’s the many mistakes that are made by administrators daily. Simple things like not being patient with your forum, not advertising on various media platforms and not diversifying to make yourself unique from other forums can lead a forums downfall. Make sure to read my article on the 5 Mistakes I Made When Running A Forum to learn more.

And if you have any questions or discussions regarding social media and forums, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with us by sending us an email.