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Facebook is killing traditional forums, but there is still time to adapt

DieselMinded

Well-known member
#1
Yes, there is no denying that Facebook has seriously compromised "traditional" discussion forums. Particularly Facebook Groups that mirror the functionality of forums. As Facebook grew in popularity forum members started dropping like flies.

Even those who I had met and became personal friends with showed up less or not at all, but clogged up my Facebook Newsfeed.

Some even had the gall to invite me to Facebook Groups that were in my Boards genre. Its like they didn't have a clue that our boards are often a business and our product is participation and personalities and we have made a substantial investment of time and money to make possible.

The true test was when an active Member who previously expressed no interest in Facebook, suddenly friend requested me on Facebook. Then the countdown began....Participation on my Board decreased, crap posted on Facebook and Facebook Groups increased, and often times they pulled up their tent stakes and POOF, were gone.

Luckily our boards have survived but not without casualties. This survival is largely due to converting to cutting edge softwares, which we think best competes with Facebook as far as Uploading of images etc.

And the connections to other social media venues is a benefit. But unlike Facebook that provides FREE EVERYTHING in exchange for ripping off people's "Likes" and interests and shopping habits, we traditional board owners pay monthly for the data needed to support our membership. That is something many members don't or refuse to understand or just don't care.

We have to adapt NOW!

So why would anyone start a new forum today?
Not a good idea unless you intend to provide tools and features that social media giants do not, with intent is not to supplant the giants but to be used in conjunction with them.

Privacy is one of these items thats often over looked that we all should emphasis on our sites... Facebook has become the #1 investigative tool of law enforcement, rarely do they touch a crime scene without reviewing the victims Facebook. The information is invaluable to the investigation as it shows friends and recent un-friends, locations and check ins , where they ate , even selfies can show potential suspects in the back grounds ect…

Perhaps the only valuable benefit Facebook has added to todays society other than keeping in touch with distant family and friends. Most of the other effects have proven to be a regression. Just look around and you will see it.

Forums Are Not Dead.... but are being killed by the following mistakes....
Non-responsive designs
Lack of mobile support
Difficult uploading of images
Clunky software
Clunky interface
Not offering things that social media giants do not
Poor leadership
Poor site culture
Hidden content
Lack of SSL
No Push Notifications
Too many forums
Too broad of genre
Too shallow of genre
Off topic forums
Poor SEO
Lack of direction or goals
Competition with other forums of same niche (someday we will have to join together to stay live)
More....
 

rainmotorsports

Well-known member
#2
Solid foundations for storage of information will always have their place. Forums can be a form of that. Forums thrive on an active community versus say a Wiki which does well being stagnant as long as it still has useful content.

Facebook lacks a decent ability to pull up old discussions. But it does facilitate the here and now discussions. So its both great and sucks at the same time.

If you are trying to compete for active discussion of here and now topics that have no long term value. You will always lose against a platform the user already belongs to, is already signed into, is already staring at. Facebook fills those 3 qualities for users a large amount of the time.

Idiots don't care of they can google good information. They would rather ask the same question again in a place ready to serve them with potentially bad information.
 
#3
I agree with you totally, but in my mind if forum can have a fully native app and free of cost so everyone can afford it. Then I'm sure Forum trend will be back and start boasting.
The reason Facebook is swallowing everything because if their mobile apps, majority of people use mobile devices and spend less time on computers so that's the reason they are more active on Facebook and other giants through mobiles.
If we have native apps for our forum and I'm sure forum will be more used by the users if not same as Facebook but not less that that as well.
So in my thoughts that's the biggest and main thing which divides our users :(
 

rwm1962

Active member
#4
Facebook lacks a decent ability to pull up old discussions. But it does facilitate the here and now discussions. So its both great and sucks at the same time.
If FB upgrade groups to have more structure to discussions, topics or files it'll be more bad news for forums. What FB does next is as a big a worry for me as what forum softwares aren't doing.

Free/affordable native app would be nice.
 
#5
If FB upgrade groups to have more structure to discussions, topics or files it'll be more bad news for forums. What FB does next is as a big a worry for me as what forum softwares aren't doing.

Free/affordable native app would be nice.
I agree with you completely, there are so many things to talk about this thing. The only way I find to keep users happy on our forums if we have real time native apps that's all. FULL STOP!
 

Pierce

Well-known member
#6
Most engagement is likes and drive by likes.

Forums were about flame wars or information wars. Not how much you were liked.

If it was only so simple as "Native apps". At least those users are using the site.

The difficulty I'm having is 600,000 uniques a month and only 10-20 registered users per day and not many of them sticking. It just seems disconnected.
 

DieselMinded

Well-known member
#7
xf 2.0 must fully commit to mobile use in every which way shape and form or it will go down as "more of the same". Do something no one else is, spearhead forum adaptation into the future.
 

Anthony Parsons

Well-known member
#8
Forums Are Not Dead.... but are being killed by the following mistakes....
You're blaming all the wrong things for your specific circumstance, IF you're basing these assumption that Facebook is killing your forums because of... reasons you list. Yes, many of the reasons you list have a place in success or failure, HOWEVER, in your specific site examples, your biggest issue is your server setup / performance.

I assume you host in the US, considering your sites are US oriented? Horrendous performance. Over 40% of users give up on anything that takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and on desktops your websites are exceeding these boundaries, let alone mobiles are slower the older they are in technology.

A good article from a reputable source: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

3 seconds is your goal for the document complete time. 4 seconds is still ahead of the majority of the web.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.29.58 am.png


Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.28.40 am.png


Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.26.51 am.png

To give you a more than fair advantage, using a recent phone (Samsung s7) which has significant performance benefits for a mobile:

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.55.15 am.png

Can 3 seconds effectively be reached for low cost? Yes, yes it can.

Here is one of my smaller sites, $5 Linode running my own custom NGINX install setup (Samsung s7):

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.59.16 am.png

My forums have done nothing but grow... albeit this is one of my smaller ones. Super fast loading pages is your goal today for maintaining a forum against Facebook and such. Achieve that, you stop losing users and can begin bringing them back to your sites.
 

RobinHood

Well-known member
#9
Facebook are holding their first community summit for group admins this weekend. Following on from his long essay about communities a few months ago, Zuckerburg is ramping up groups full on, and it sounds like he's trying to create his entire private forum ecosystem within facebook. A system that already has 1 billion registered users in it as of a year ago (that's group users specifically)

“You’ll hear from Facebook executives about new products we’re building to help admins grow and manage their groups. You’ll have an opportunity to participate in workshops and give the Facebook team real-time feedback on what will make groups better for you. And you’ll get to meet other admins from across the country who are building remarkable communities through groups.”
So Zuckerberg proposed building better suggestion features to help people find Facebook Groups, admin tools to help galvanize them, and a sub-Group structure that will let pockets of communities rally together.
https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/11/facebook-communities-summit/

Forums need to start ramping it up if they're going to get the next generation of admins on board, as they're already losing grassroots community admins to facbebook.

I made a group for a new product a few months ago. All I had to do was make a nice pretty cover banner in photoshop and write a description. Took me half an hour and cost me nothing.

I barely plugged that group at all, maybe just two links in two related groups when I first created it.

Since then I've done literally nothing to promote it or try to make it grow, and it's already got 500 members.

Every day I wake up there's a ton of group join requests waiting for me. It's just, so, easy.

I don't even have to create any content. Users are talking about the product, uploading photos of them using it, uploading videos of them using it, getting troubleshooting advice. Using the For Sale feature of posts to buy and sell the products. Organising meetups using the events system.

It's a thriving community and I've done practically nothing, yet I already have a pretty decent audience.

The feature gap between forums and facebook groups is already quite large in terms of things like access to a high quality phone app, high quality events system, and sharing of additional content types to text, ie. images and video.

Once they start adding nodes and other features with hundreds of engineers working on groups specifically, plus their insane budget and infrastructure, the gap will start widening at a faster rate.
 
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rwm1962

Active member
#10
Once they start adding nodes and other features with hundreds of engineers working on groups specifically, plus their insane budget and infrastructure, the gap will start widening at a faster rate.
Big worry. Nodes structure - our biggest strength. & unless you join these groups you're unlikely to know they're nicking files from your forum. On facebook groups that share our subject matter, I notice younger members than our forums seem to have. If we don't have a better proposition for the mobile platform we'll likely be dead in 20 years when most of our members have popped their clogs.
 

Brent W

Well-known member
#11
You're blaming all the wrong things for your specific circumstance, IF you're basing these assumption that Facebook is killing your forums because of... reasons you list. Yes, many of the reasons you list have a place in success or failure, HOWEVER, in your specific site examples, your biggest issue is your server setup / performance.

I assume you host in the US, considering your sites are US oriented? Horrendous performance. Over 40% of users give up on anything that takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and on desktops your websites are exceeding these boundaries, let alone mobiles are slower the older they are in technology.

A good article from a reputable source: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

3 seconds is your goal for the document complete time. 4 seconds is still ahead of the majority of the web.

View attachment 153709


View attachment 153710


View attachment 153711

To give you a more than fair advantage, using a recent phone (Samsung s7) which has significant performance benefits for a mobile:

View attachment 153712

Can 3 seconds effectively be reached for low cost? Yes, yes it can.

Here is one of my smaller sites, $5 Linode running my own custom NGINX install setup (Samsung s7):

View attachment 153713

My forums have done nothing but grow... albeit this is one of my smaller ones. Super fast loading pages is your goal today for maintaining a forum against Facebook and such. Achieve that, you stop losing users and can begin bringing them back to your sites.

One of the single biggest things we have done over the last few years is optimize our user experience. From making sure that every add-on we install is going to provide an actual benefit vs the extra cost of the code running to spending days if not weeks researching and optimizing our servers.

We do very little actual marketing of our communities. Actually, we do none at all. So if forums are dying then this graph has me fooled :)

Screenshot 2017-06-21 01.24.36.png
 

dutchbb

Well-known member
#12
We have sort of same graph as above. Website speed (slower with adsense for us, but fast enough) and user engagement is very important. We also make sure that every add-on installed provides an actual benefit for our community.

On the other hand most of our users don't like facebook (or twitter). But instagram is heavily used so of cource you can post instagram pictures (BB code).

Forums will stay most important discussion platform for a while i think, probably always, and it is all about ranking high in google search. What i noticed is the faster google bot can crawl my pages, the more is indexed and the more visitors.

Keeping members post and visitors signing up is all about creating a platform that is accessible and easy to use. Forum structure and add-ons that connects parts of the forum better depending on that stuctrure (and your niche) does the trick.

We also do a lot of polls asking the members what they like and not. This we take in account and see after how it is used with google analytics.
 

Anthony Parsons

Well-known member
#14
Website speed (slower with adsense for us, but fast enough)
Always disable Adsense for speed tests. Google recommend that too, as they do not factor their ads or analytics code, as both are async.

If I was running a forum for products, then yes, I would use Facebook and tap into that market instead.

I ask most young people I chat with, do you use Facebook? Repeated answer, "I used to, but not much now. Just for family and close friend sharing. I use snapchat and Instagram." Numbers mean nothing. Engagement is the crucial one. People register a social media account for the sake of having one, it doesn't mean they actively use it. Facebook are fighting for money and prominence. Forums typically are not.

A well managed forum is just there, being a good community. People are over the time and effort social media is consuming from their lives. Its like a phase for most people today. Business is different. More competition for business. More avenues.

I find clean, fast, uncluttered, simple to use, works best for a forum. I have a 72% mobile market, that is my audience I target. I've done similar to @Brent W has, being I've cut the hell out of additional add-ons to minimise only what is used, what works, and does not impact the above standards.

Ads -- I have found the less I use, the more I make. One ad per page, well placed, that the majority of readers are going to see. That's it. Users don't feel cluttered with ads they despise. It doesn't create a messy look or obstruct readers with constant third party content. And the first thing they see, IS NOT an ad. That has a turn-off factor and will push some away.
 

Brent W

Well-known member
#15
Always disable Adsense for speed tests. Google recommend that too, as they do not factor their ads or analytics code, as both are async.

If I was running a forum for products, then yes, I would use Facebook and tap into that market instead.

I ask most young people I chat with, do you use Facebook? Repeated answer, "I used to, but not much now. Just for family and close friend sharing. I use snapchat and Instagram." Numbers mean nothing. Engagement is the crucial one. People register a social media account for the sake of having one, it doesn't mean they actively use it. Facebook are fighting for money and prominence. Forums typically are not.

A well managed forum is just there, being a good community. People are over the time and effort social media is consuming from their lives. Its like a phase for most people today. Business is different. More competition for business. More avenues.

I find clean, fast, uncluttered, simple to use, works best for a forum. I have a 72% mobile market, that is my audience I target. I've done similar to @Brent W has, being I've cut the hell out of additional add-ons to minimise only what is used, what works, and does not impact the above standards.

Ads -- I have found the less I use, the more I make. One ad per page, well placed, that the majority of readers are going to see. That's it. Users don't feel cluttered with ads they despise. It doesn't create a messy look or obstruct readers with constant third party content. And the first thing they see, IS NOT an ad. That has a turn-off factor and will push some away.
We have done this for our three largest sites over the last year as well as move to a new ad network that does header bidding and async ads.

Results:

Screenshot 2017-06-21 15.59.36.png Screenshot 2017-06-21 16.00.06.png

Users, Sessions and for all but one site Pageviews up across the board.

All three sites Google referals:

Religious Forums up 19.93%
Aspies Central up 35.49%
Christian Forums up 33.99%

Page load speed, reliability + great content = continued growth
 

RobinHood

Well-known member
#16
I ask most young people I chat with, do you use Facebook? Repeated answer, "I used to, but not much now. Just for family and close friend sharing. I use snapchat and Instagram." Numbers mean nothing. Engagement is the crucial one. People register a social media account for the sake of having one, it doesn't mean they actively use it. Facebook are fighting for money and prominence. Forums typically are not.
I used to be the same. I was in Uni in the UK when Facebook launched to universities only. Used it, loved it, loved it, grew to hate it, left it, went back because I felt I was missing out with connecting with family that were then on it, was good for keeping in touch with family, grew to hate it again, hated it, hated it, left again, went back because it's impossible to run any kind of business without having associated social media accounts.

Facebook has the network effect, if your meeting with people IRL who are in these groups, you'll end up in the group or you'll be missing out. Or if you're on messenger, you're in the system and you'll end up getting tagged and invited

Those users you're talking about still have accounts, they're using instagram.

I haven't created a profile post in 6 years.

However I'm on there daily now because of groups. It is turning into a private forum system. It's bloody fantastic for certain types of communities, you get so many responses so quickly. The video upload is a game changer too for hobby communities. The live private chat is excellent, especially when combined with events and meeting people at group events.

I'm both excited to see what they come up with after this weekend and the next few months and years, but also dreading it because I don't really like that I'm spending so much time on there again, and I would much prefer to see some of these features working as well on well run custom built forum communities instead, outside of the facebook ecosystem.
 

Anthony Parsons

Well-known member
#17
Page load speed, reliability + great content = continued growth
Yep. I have an average growth of 8.6% month on month. I've seen a slight boost for that figure based on implementing the AMP thread pages a couple of months ago. AMP has been slow for indexing, but Google have been getting there with it, and the results are providing a small boost in mobile traffic. It isn't that big for me, as between AMP and non-AMP versions, the page load is nearly the same, minus I do not use any ads in my AMP pages purely to stick with the purpose of AMP (the fastest, cleanest, version of a page).
 

Brent W

Well-known member
#18
I used to be the same. I was in Uni in the UK when Facebook launched to universities only. Used it, loved it, loved it, grew to hate it, left it, went back because I felt I was missing out with connecting with family that were then on it, was good for keeping in touch with family, grew to hate it again, hated it, hated it, left again, went back because it's impossible to run any kind of business without having associated social media accounts.

Facebook has the network effect, if your meeting with people IRL who are in these groups, you'll end up in the group or you'll be missing out. Or if you're on messenger, you're in the system and you'll end up getting tagged and invited

Those users you're talking about still have accounts, they're using instagram.

I haven't created a profile post in 6 years.

However I'm on there daily now because of groups. It is turning into a private forum system. It's bloody fantastic for certain types of communities, you get so many responses so quickly. The video upload is a game changer too for hobby communities. The live private chat is excellent, especially when combined with events and meeting people at group events.

I'm both excited to see what they come up with after this weekend and the next few months and years, but also dreading it because I don't really like that I'm spending so much time on there again, and I would much prefer to see some of these features working as well on well run custom built forum communities instead, outside of the facebook ecosystem.
I am honestly not excited about anything Facebook is doing. If you want to stick with it and base an entire community around something you care about and have no control over it, have at it.

At the end of the day, we care about our communities because we are invested in them in one way or the other. I was 17 years old when I started my first forum and I am sure others here can date that back even longer and to an even earlier age of the internet.

When investors in Facebook decide Mark no longer needs to be in control and gain control of Facebook because of pure profit and your 500 member or 5,000 member community suddenly is in the hands of a few people worried about stock price, we can talk about how well Facebook is going to compete.

It is literally the equivalent of a rich mans Proboards right now. Would you start a free Proboards forum? Then why would you start a facebook group and worry about it? Nothing is for free at the end of the day and the more you rely on free the bigger your headache and loss is.

Just my opinion.
 
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rwm1962

Active member
#19
I am honestly not excited about anything Facebook is doing. If you want to stick with it and base an entire community around something you care about and have no control over it, have at it.
It is literally the equivalent of a rich mans Proboards right now. Would you start a free Proboards forum? Then why would you start a facebook group and worry about it? Nothing is for free at the end of the day and the more you rely on free the bigger your headache and loss is.
I wouldn't no way. But plenty other 'amateurs will & are doing in our niche. It's pretty effortless for them & very easy to spread the burden if they need to

I run 2 FB groups. One is no big deal as it's so small & niche & around a equally small niche brand. No way would i set up a forum for it. The other is a secret group for 7 mates so we can plan trips, share pics etc.. We did it via a forum but it was too much effort to maintain & use. FB is much better for us & we chat & plan far more.