Everyone knows how easy it is create and run a Facebook group. With the popularity of Facebook growing, a large chunk of the audience on community forums have shifted to Facebook groups. Now, the biggest question that arises is whether Facebook groups is as good as a community forums? Could Facebook groups replace community forums? Is the Facebook community suited to different kind of users as compared to full-fledged community forums?
Let’s try to answer these questions by comparing both the platforms and see what we find:
1> User Experience
All users are not the same. Different users need to treated differently. On forums, there is a VIP zone for paying users where they can get a more immersive experience, while the regular users can access limited information. On Facebook, everyone has equal access/rights, which means a new comer cannot be distinguished from a regularly active user. There is no customization of the user experience. The members of the Facebook group therefore don’t stay active for a long time as they leave as soon as they have got the information they needed. The sense of community is not established as members come and go without contributing much.
Running a forum is expensive, but it allows for numerous ways to generate revenue. With paid subscriptions, Google Adsense and affiliate marketing; a forum owner can earn enough to sustain the website and also pay for the investment of their time/effort over the years. With Facebook, there is little or no ways to monetize the community and also there is no investment to maintain it. This gives the forum owner no incentive to build the forum in the long run. In forums, where owners work passionately with serious business motives, on Facebook it is confined to being a hobby or an indirect business activity.
When it comes to Facebook groups, accessing it is extremely straightforward. Users are logged into Facebook at home and at work. When it comes to forums, members have to login to all the different forums on a daily basis. All the forums don’t have native mobile apps, which makes it difficult for users to access forums on the go. On Facebook, there is often a barrage of good information mixed with mediocre information, while forums are moderated and users can follow the threads they like. With dedicated sections for each type of information, forums are extremely well-organized and suited for both contributing and consuming content.
It is easy to grow a Facebook group in terms of numbers. Being a social network, the word goes out quickly and attracts an audience. But the problem is that this is an audience that is mostly interested in consuming information. Only select few stay active and contribute new information. On the other hand, building an audience on a forum is quite a task. But most of the members stay active over the course of months and years. They contribute and consume in equal measure. This is what makes it close-knitted community that is then able to engage in meaningful discussions and share expert-level information in their niche. On Facebook, a user is part of umpteen number of groups with little attachment to it. But forums are branded uniquely with a different culture and bonding, that makes them so attractive to hardcore users.
When it comes to Facebook groups, all the data and content is owned by Facebook. All the rules are set by Facebook. There is very little control in the hands of the owner when it comes to running a Facebook community. Facebook can change the algorithm and decide the future of the how the community interacts. When it comes to a forum, the forum owner can decide what permissions to give to moderators, what is considered spam and create the community in the way they like. They also own the content on the forum, which can reused to market the forum and they also own the data which can be used to improve the forum activity.
The Final Word
When it comes to the battle between Facebook groups and community forums, the pro and cons seem to pretty obvious. With Facebook groups, users get extreme convenience and with forums, forum owners get complete control to design the user experience. In the end, we see how the communities on forums seem to thrive even though there quantities shrink, while the numbers on Facebook groups seems to increase but the quality of the community seems to be questionable. But the biggest benefit of having control of your community is that you can give your community what they ask for and this is where community forums seem to win the contest.