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17.5.12

Online Forums as a Social Media Platform

I’m currently setting up a forum for a client’s website and a thought came to mind so I decided to take a break and write this peace.
Notice how the good ol’ forums have taken the backseat as new media platforms emerge one after the other.  Apart from doing the link building task where people do forum commenting to get back links, I rarely see setting up forums as a part of the social media strategies.
on forums
Blogs and micro-blogging sites such as Facebook and Twitter play a big role as to why forum posting is on a decline, if not dying.  Though these platforms are more popular these days than forums, we can’t deny the fact forums still have features that are uniquely its own.
Things you’ll appreciate in forums
1.  Forums are client-driven
While blogs and other micro blogging platforms are great ways to interact with your clients and customers, these platforms still require that conversations be initiated by the owner.  Forums, with proper moderation, have a more hands-off approach and can let the users mingle with one another.
2.  Categories and topics are neatly organized 
In forums, there is no sweat in trying to find a specific topic.  Though there is a search box on Facebook pages and groups, I still find myself struggling in finding a specific topic that has been buried over time in the page or group’s timeline.  Same goes with other social sites.
3.  Users can start their own topic or threadforum photo
Starting a topic or thread is one of the main features of a forum.  Though depending on the user’s access level, a posted message might need an approval from a forum moderator before it becomes visible.  This kind of moderation is very rarely used though.  Most forums publish the post as soon as the user hits ‘send’.  This promotes spontaneity in the discussion which is very good.  Some posts get deleted if proved to be inappropriate by a moderator.
4.  Users and contributors get the feeling of belongingness
As a virtual community, forums give the users and contributors the feeling of belongingness and that they are a big part of the community.  This is manifested in numbers 1 and 3.  Forum members are more engaged when they participate in the online discussion.
5.  Owners can use the forum to get into their customers’ mind  
Bright ideas usually pop up during spontaneous conversations.  It’s when the users and contributors of your forums speak their mind that you get to know what they honestly think and feel about your products and services.  Their opinions, suggestions, criticisms, concerns and complains play a big role in improving your products and services.  You can get ideas and insights even when they are just having a free-flowing spontaneous chitchat with their fellow forum members.  Companies have no need to spend that much on market research if only they’d take time to see what their consumers are talking about in their forum.
Through the sharing features of blogs and other social sites, they are able to reach more people.  I’m glad forum posts can be shared now, too.  Forums are catching up after all.
All social media platforms have their own unique features to offer.  In the end, the internet marketer has to study and determine which platforms suit his business best and not just jump into the social media bandwagon.
Forums may be left behind by the social media forerunners but I believe it’s going to re-emerge as one of the powerful tools in social media marketing.
As for me, joining forums is fun and helpful as well.  It is usually in forums where I get to find the answers when I search for some information about a particular topic.  How about you?  Do you join forums?  Tell us about your experiences in joining forums.

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