Ten reasons why forums rule the social media landscape

| August 18, 2013

business-forumsThe phenomenal increase in the popularity of Twitter as a social media tool has led some to reassess the position of online community forums, the traditional way for users to interact online and publish their opinions to the general audience. As an avid user of both mediums, I believe that rather than overtaking traditional forms of personal blogging, Twitter has enforced a re-alignment such that other mediums are now being used more effectively and appropriately in the hosting of public discussion. Twitter and message forums now clearly serve distinct purposes, both of which will continue to thrive in today’s online environment.

Twitter is a medium by which companies and individuals instantaneously disseminate information. Companies have been quick to realize this as a valuable means by which news and information is released to the public. Due to the instantaneous publishing, it is the most rapid method for breaking news and announcements. On the other hand, forums provide a platform on which topics can be vigorously debated and discussed, with detailed evidence and arguments being put forward from multiple authors. Rapid-fire bantering is discouraged by forum managers in preference to vigorous, thought-provoking debate. Both forms provide a valuable and important vehicle for publishing individual opinion in the public domain.

Here I thought I would compile a list of reasons why forums will always hold an important place in the online social media landscape. In their current format, online forums are unique for the following reasons:

  1. No size limit – For those with vocabularies exceeding more than a dozen words, forums are for you. Having no restriction on the length of your message allows the freedom to make your point in a well-substantiated and detailed manner. There’s no need to cull salient pieces of information in order to fit into the extraordinarily short 140 character constraint of Twitter.
  2. Permanency – Even the most thoroughly composed and expertly considered messages will only last a few short moments on Twitter if the reader follows more than a few dozen people. Timing of your message in Twitter is therefore critical to maximize its impact. It’s no use sending a tweet in the middle of the night when it will be gone before the audience wakes up. In contrast, forum messages are there permanently, being read for as long as the thread exists on the site.
  3. Time stamp – Forum messages are date and time-stamped, ie; the message was posted at this particular minute on this particular date. This can be critical when the timing of announcements is important or the originality of the message is called into question. On Twitter, the time-stamping is much less precise, only showing how long ago it was tweeted.
  4. Moderated – One of the most important attributes of forums is that most respectable forums are moderated. A team of people monitor messages and remove any unsavoury or potentially defamatory or damaging remarks. On the other hand, Twitter is a free-for-all with no moderation. The only way you can remove a message from your timeline is to unfollow its author.
  5. Stylized text – On forums, a vast array of text editing features is available to enhance the point you are making. Bold, colour, italics, font size, typeface are all properties that can enhance the impact of a message. None are available in Twitter.
  6. Googleability – Messages on most quality forums are searchable on Google and other popular search engines. The inclusion of keywords and phrases can result in your message appearing on the front page of Google. Because of the transient nature of Twitter, a tweet would never be found on Google.
  7. Advertising – Forums are an important medium for advertisers to reach their target audience. Not only do they have visibility at the head of the page through banners and links, advertisers can also “engage” with their customer base in a manner never before possible. The most effective form of advertising is through engaging in dialogue with the potential customer. Customers can get to know the vendor and discuss the pros and cons of their product, leading to long term customer loyalty. Advertising in this manner is not easily possible on Twitter, and banners are not currently implemented.
  8. In-message videos and pictures – videos and pictures are easily displayed on forums, directly within message content. On Twitter, an external link must be clicked that often takes forever to complete.
  9. Long conversations – Forums provide the ability to have long threads that can last over months to years. A single thread can follow a story from its very beginning to the present time, and the thread becomes even more interesting and valuable if the topic becomes relevant in mainstream media.
  10. Resource building – Forums can be used to build online resources. A category can be built by people with a common interest, contributing what they know and think about the topic. This makes it both an important and valuable resource and a learning tool for people new to the area.

Forums are an opportunity to build trust, respect and enhance both personal and corporate brand. Where Twitter may be for headlines, quips and anecdotes, message forums will always be preferred for detailed analysis and carefully considered opinion. On forums, advertisers see the advantage of not only capturing advertising real estate through banners and signatures, but also taking the plunge and immersing themselves in intense social discourse.  Those advertisers willing to engage with a sometimes tough audience, reap the rewards in terms of building customer base and corporate acceptance. In terms of public standing and reputation, the positive effects of conducting oneself in a fair and professional manner on message forums cannot be underestimated.

This treatise is not aimed to denigrate the importance of Twitter. Twitter is indeed the most revolutionary platform to enter the world of social media. However, message forums will always hold an important position on the internet because they provide many features not available through other platforms. Indeed, there is no reason why community message forums and Twitter cannot work in partnership as each provides a unique and distinct user experience. It would be nice if a forum platform could be developed that had a Twitter-like functionality ingrained within its structure. One could then see the different value propositions of each medium. In the meantime, message forums can often be the most effective format to get your message into the public domain.

Mayor, Thoroughbred Village

Please note: The above text is protected under copyright law (2013).

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