Forums Outperform Blogs In Social Media Use
Forums Outperform Blogs In Social Media Use
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We told you in May how important forums and message boards were in the landscape of social media in the banking industry. With 90 percent of the conversations about banks and bank products coming from message boards, even if our methodology was off a little here or there, that number is baffling.

To further explore the importance of message boards, my friends and partners in The Social Habit from Edison Research — Tom Webster, Jay Baer and Mark Schaefer — and I decided to ask more questions in a survey setting to see if there was any meat to The Conversation Report’s indications. As it turns out, forums and message boards outperform blogs in terms of usage.

YouTube, Message Board and Blog Use - Last Week

 

If our sample size correlates to the broad American population (and we are careful not to claim it does – these are survey results of just over 3,000 respondents who use social media), more Americans 12 and older read message boards each week (62 percent) than read blogs (54 percent). In fact, nearly two-thirds of our respondents said they read online message boards each week.

Let’s be clear on this: These numbers do not mean you should stop blogging and start posting your crap on forums. More than half of social media users read blogs each week. This is only to show you the use statistics of our sample and give you a comparison on the channels they say they use. If we wanted to be dramatic about it, we would say, “Shun everything! Go do YouTube videos.” But we don’t base umbrella marketing decisions on one bar graph taken out of context like many software companies using stats as blog content do.

For marketers, this poses an interesting problem. Forums have never been at the forefront of their social strategies because there are far too many of them, thus fracturing their focus. And forums are often protected by administrators and self-moderating users who shun marketing messages and toss around the “spam” accusation freely. But if these channels are hosting so many conversations — many of which are purchase decision-oriented — what are marketers to do?

That said, where is your forum strategy? What message boards are you participating on regularly to drive your business? Or are they to be used to drive your business at all?

Certainly, there are demographic and even industry differences in these responses. Many of those cross-tabulations can be made with the full data set of The Social Habit (which you can access by purchasing the Premium Consulting Edition). But these results are eye-opening for many of us. When people use social media, they use lots of various formats and channels. Facebook and Twitter not only are just the tip of the iceberg, they’re often just the tip … the majority of conversations happen elsewhere in some industries and with some demographics.

I do hope you’ll purchase The Social Habit for your business, perhaps even the Premium Consulting Edition so you can see not just these broad assertions, but cross-tabulate them to the demographics you’re focused upon. I’m combing through the research — and have been for the last week or two — and it’s mind-boggling how much smarter this data makes you as a marketer.

So what say you? Are message boards important to your industry? If so, which ones? The comments are yours.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • Interesting – You see tools such as http://Gawk.it http://engag.io and disqus that bridge the digital divide between blogs, but in my view forums are more silo specific.  

    This leads me to a simple question, how do you define the difference between a very lightweight blog post with an active commenting section and a forum – I’m not sure I could ? @wmougayer:disqus @falicon:disqus thoughts please !

    • I’ll have to ping some of the analytics tools to get specific definitions on how they delineate from sources. I think the main difference is that a blog is a publishing platform driven by the website or publisher where people react. A forum is a publishing platform hosted by the publisher, but people can post original content that isn’t a reaction. They can post “above the fold” and originate content there. Fair?

      • I think you are spot on – I had not thought about it in terms of who initiates “above the fold” as clearly commentators have rights “below the fold”.  It will be interesting to see if anyone who can “wall in commentary” from a traffic perspective.  

        I think walled-gardens will always remain but the walls become less perceptible as the visitors become more sophisticated. Naturally a truly new “netizens” will always be unaware of walled gardens just as early AOL adopters thought it was the internet.

  • We actually have a client in the motorcycle industry, and forums are HUGE! Just from a listening perspective, there is so much information that people provide about their wants, needs, problems, etc in these types of forums. It’s a goldmine for text analysis nerds.

    • Thanks for the verification Nick. Good to hear some assertion from someone in the trenches.

  • it is a very interesting result. I am fairly active on many blog posts and do a lot of commenting but have not considered forums. My main problem with them is the fragmentation issue and the difficulty in tracking them, however, it might be worth it to investigate a couple of forums.

  • Since, as you say, just about all forums prohibit spammy posts there really are only two good options. One, pay to advertise on some high traffic forums, or two, post regularly on the forum but only to answer questions and participate in a way that will make you a popular contributor and then put a link or two (as permitted) in your signature. I haven’t done it in a couple of years but I used to regularly participate on several forums and was eventually asked to be a moderator on a few of them which gave me some perks, like getting to use a spammy signature, and it worked extremely well for me.

    • Thanks for sharing Hugh. Good perspective and you’re spot-on! Those two options are probably best.