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.
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.
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.
It can be quite good to have that more anonymous platform through forums, as you may be able to open up more around certain topics. I feel that we live in a very judgemental world and although we have our friends and family as such, it can be difficult to publicly confront certain topic areas. Whereas you don’t always know people online on a personal level and you won’t see them in your day to day life.
I agree with your points about site management and such, is key to the success and activeness of a forum. But I also think social media does partially influence the wellbeing of a forum, as people just have easier access to apps like Facebook and Instagram. They may already be signed in and connected to a host of people for informal chat, where replies may come back much quicker than that of a message board.
Honestly, this is one of my favourite articles from Admin Loop. The title alone is a pill many need to hear to shake off the victim mentality and realize it has never stopped being our responsibility. While it is true that there’s been a shifting with the way the internet used to be 20 years and how it is today, ultimately it falls on us as forum administrators to make our community as compelling as possible so more people come around and give it a go, and then when they do that we give them a unique experience that can make them want to stay and keep visiting.
Everything is a challenge and things like Social Media are tools we can use to our favour if we understand them better rather than just fear them, blame them for our forum lack of success and resign to it.
Also, this article is a good start if you are having trouble explaining the advantage of being in a forum versus other social networks.
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A lot of that fear comes from the point that people who are building pages, groups on social media are successful. And those who are keeping their own involvement away from social media to retain the form get the perception that forums, reddit and tapatalk killing their forums. In reality that is not the case. Because you have to use other social media sites to drive traffic to your own forum and sites. That’s the purpose of those places. I completely agree with the fact that social media is not killing your forum.