Are Forums better than Social Media?

All the hype and rage you hear from marketers nowadays is all about social media this and social media that.  However, could it be that social media doesn't provide much useful information?

I ran across an interesting article on Social Media Explorer the other day which should make some marketers and companies rethink their social media strategies.  The report examined where the conversations about banks and the banking industry takes place online.  The winner?  Forums.

In the report they found that 90% of information about banks being discussed online is found on online forums.  Social networks accounted for 1% of the real conversations about banking. While Jason Falls, the writer, would obviously like you to purchase his report on the banking industry, keep in mind that he runs a site about social media.  If they were smart they would have thrown out the report and declared social media is the best place to market for banks! 🙂

social media

The article really got me thinking about where I go to find useful information online.  If I wanted to know more about web hosting, I go to a hosting discussion forum.  I would not turn to my followers on Twitter or Facebook since they probably don't know the answer and couldn't help me out.  Most of the time when I need technical help or I am trying to learn something new with software I do the same thing.

Posting cat memes and pictures while fun… come one, that's not useful to anyone.  Of course we all know that Singing Dogs are quite useful for the internet.  (These are my dogs by the way.)  To a certain extent social media is really more ideal for being entertained and engaged.  Something marketers are keen to capitalize on.

For a second I would think about where you get useful information when doing a Google search.  Do you always find what you need on blogs? Probably not.  Does Facebook's search engine (Bing) even work well? No. Can you find technical help on Twitter? Some places sure, but for the most part I doubt you can get technical questions answered in 140 characters or less all the time.

The current bank I have my money with I did research before opening an account with them.  Googling I found a bunch of threads, from genuine people (I hope), recommending their services and after reading these positive reviews on forums I decided to bank with them.  I have been using this bank's services for almost 2 years and couldn't be happier.  Their service and products are better than the local credit union's I was using and they have excellent customer support.

However, in all my research I didn't see anyone from the bank post on these forums or see bank reps taking part in any conversations.  Jason Falls hits the nail on the head when explaining why most marketers don't incorporate a forum into their overall marketing strategy.

marketers are petrified of them [forums]. Why? Because marketers typically aren’t welcome there. Most forum administrators are quick to thwart link droppers and promotional banner wavers. You can’t blame them. The users come there for … wait for it … conversations.

This is an excellent point!  I will get a lot of angry emails for saying this, but the reality is that marketers can't have real and meaningful conversations.  Participating in a forum means you need to really respond to what people say and not feed them what you want them to hear.

A common complaint I've heard about forum marketing is that it can be a lot of work with minimal results.  While it all depends on the niche, and what forums are available in the niche, again you need to provide real value and not just be trying to sell your products or get backlinks for you site.   Let's be fair, marketing on social media networks isn't easy and takes time, work, and a lot of money.

Having recently attended BlogPaws, a pet blogging conference, there was no discussion about forums, forum strategies, or how to get a community started.  The majority of the discussions regarding social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

Before going to the conference though I turned to the BlogPaws Newbie discussion group to get useful information regarding the conference for new attendees.  I got a lot out of the discussion group where I learned great tips and advice about attending BlogPaws I wouldn't have gotten unless I was part of the Newbie group.  If I had gone to the Twitter or Facebook pages I really wouldn't have gotten many answers to my questions or gained as much insight into BlogPaws before attending.

Since forums have been around since the dawn of the web I guess they really don't have the coolness and ‘new kid on the block' appeal of social networks.  I also rarely hear anyone say they want to start a forum since blogging or building a website product or service is what most people want to get into.

If Social Media Explorer's report is accurate, a lot of marketers should consider what having a good forum presence can offer them and their brand.  Forums are not going anywhere and will be around until the internet dies I bet.  So if the conversations for your audience is on forums, you either should get a forum strategy or start one.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!

[Image Source – Social Media Explorer]

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I am an auto journalist, blogger, writer, artist, and most of all dog lover. I like playing music with both my dogs, Cody and Sierra. I also love sharing quality content with the world.

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Adam Yamada-Hanff

I am an auto journalist, blogger, writer, artist, and most of all dog lover. I like playing music with both my dogs, Cody and Sierra. I also love sharing quality content with the world.

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