Forums Outperform Blogs In Social Media Use

Nearly two-thirds of Americans 12-and-over read message boards weekly

by Jason Falls |

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 a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).