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Competing with Facebook


ozadars
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Hello,

One of the biggest competitors of my forum are not other forums but actually Facebook groups. My forum is on a niche topic (like the majority forums I suppose) and lately I started to notice that Facebook groups about the same topic as my forum are getting more and more active. It is very hard to compete with emerging bottom-up, more democratic platforms because they have certain advantages that I can not offer. Especially visibility and self-governance. 

I was wondering if there is any possibility to somehow integrate Facebook and the IPB? I believe the future of forums will be self-governing, democratic, flexible platforms. Much more like specialized social networks, than traditional forum structure. I would appreciate if you have any tips on this. How can I integrate Facebook / Facebook Groups to my platform? How can I improve the ownership and equal-governance of my community?

Thank you!

 

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Facebook groups are cut and dry, they don't offer a lot of fancy features your website can offer. Your best bet is to make your own Facebook group and integrate the services your website offer into that said group. Don't try to fight the current, use the current to spread your community further.

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I have the same problem. Private Groups have sprout up based on almost every one of my discussion forums -- some with the exact same name. The problem is people don't want to write any more. All they want to do is post a picture and leave a brief comment. My members find posting pictures too difficult. I have multiple social networks for my site including FB. It does attract new registration but does little to KEEP them. 

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After about a decade running a niche forum I've come to see the issue of Facebook. It's the type of people it attracts. Once you identify and understand this type of person you'll see the connection. Not that it's bad or anything, but I've seen a lot of the "Social" people on my forum migrate to FB. Everyone has a different value to add to the word social but I'll just say they tend to be the type that make short posts and entertain the general chat section more than the actual niche my sites based on. I validated my hypothesis even further when looking into the groups that were seemingly effecting me, what I seen was anything but a serious topic even though each similar topic to my board was the same. It was almost like I had scholars at my site compared to the dribble I was seeing posted at FB.

All I can suggest is try to target people who's got some skin in the game. It's like a hobbyist vs professional. The pro will teach and make long, detailed  posts, the hobbyist will not as a general rule. Gear your site towards knowledge. Real world examples below

  • Questions and Answer forums
  • Knowledge bases in connection to particular niche - When people have a question about your niche, chances are they are not finding detailed information at FB.
  • Get creative to give the hungry end user specific information and sources. Link sections to manufacturers for example. Partner with these people using reciprocal links to gain specific site niche traffic
     

You will end up with better content and a more consistent, quality poster. As a bonus you may find someone that sticks around years and years. I have members a decade old still posting, it can happen.

Now if you own a Social type niche then dis-regard everything I just said and I have no clue how to help you :D Well, that's not true, get one of my Skinz then, you'll for sure look much cooler than FB :D

 

 

 

Edited by DesignzShop
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I totally agree @DesignzShop I am experiencing exactly what you described.

My site is very niche -- to the point that we are selective as to who we let in and what guests can see. This has worked for us for many years. But the past year or so we have seen a dramatic drop in participation.

When 4.x was released I decided to go all out and purchase the entire suite in hope that it would renew interest, but sadly participation continues to dwindle. I could describe my efforts to develop fresh and unique content using articles, how we organize regular contests and events, my use of social media to drive engagement, and even how we use Commerce - but I am sure you've all heard it before.

Next year will be our 10 year anniversary and I am struggling with what to do. I am so sad that this is happening. It's not like I make any money from the site. In fact, all I do is loose money on it. I continually throw money at it and have to listen to my wife and accountant tell me how much of a waste of money it all is. But it is hard to give it up after so much hard work, long hours, and money has gone into it.

Thanks for listening.

Edited by Michael R
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I think it's in our interest and of course in interest of IPB itself to give the users something, to use forums again instead of facebook/whatsapp

copying facebook features (mentions for example) is nice, but no killer feature
integrating facebook/whatsapp auth to forums is nice (I personally don't use it on my board, because I don't like facebook track everything), but why should the users bother... using facebook/whatsapp itself is still easier

users seem not to care, that their posts are gone (no historiography) after a very short period of time there... i still think this is one of the main unique features, to find good content via google, but today this is a small minority of specialists, creating this content...

I think if forums/companies like IPB don't start soon being more innovative... this could have a very bad ending.

It has to be easy, for the casual user... it has to work fast.... it has to offer something, that facebook/whatsapp can't ...and I know, those are friggin billion dollar companies with more DEV's than IPB customers, but we should reflect the big advantages of forum-systems and adapt it to the so called 'modern world'

give them some kind of picture-board feeling like 4chan or let them create whatsapp-like chatrooms with push-notifications out-of-the-box... specialists are very important, but without the casual's which have never seen forums (and think they're to hard to use), forums are pretty much doomed, in the long term

Edited by ThomasS
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4 hours ago, Michael R said:

I totally agree @DesignzShop I am experiencing exactly what you described.

My site is very niche -- to the point that we are selective as to who we let in and what guests can see. This has worked for us for many years. But the past year or so we have seen a dramatic drop in participation.

When 4.x was released I decided to go all out and purchase the entire suite in hope that it would renew interest, but sadly participation continues to dwindle. I could describe my efforts to develop fresh and unique content using articles, how we organize regular contests and events, my use of social media to drive engagement, and even how we use Commerce - but I am sure you've all heard it before.

Next year will be our 10 year anniversary and I am struggling with what to do. I am so sad that this is happening. It's not like I make any money from the site. In fact, all I do is loose money on it. I continually throw money at it and have to listen to my wife and accountant tell me how much of a waste of money it all is. But it is hard to give it up after so much hard work, long hours, and money has gone into it.

Thanks for listening.

Very sorry to hear that Michael. I've been down this exact road and still are in the exact boat you are. There's truly only so much someone can do about this for the moment. My traffic was eventually so low, I lost all my advertisers which paid for my server bill.

Yes, my wife is the accountant of the family also and I also hear it from her :D Just like you my sites around a decade old and it's for hobby. She (my wife) says my drums here at the house are enough of a hobby, why do I need to talk about it, she hears enough about it on a daily/nightly basis and has for over 25 yrs :D

Your wife's pretty lucky Michael, tall her you want to start playing drums and she'll more than likely be thankful it's a Christmas site :D

 

Edited by DesignzShop
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It's not so much the software that makes a forum, it's the members. I see it as my job to create a space where the members feel comfortable to sit and chat in a friendly atmosphere and maintaining that. Something which Facebook groups can struggle with as social media can be toxic at the best of times.

Sure they like the like button, mentions, cover photos and all that but it's not essential, it's not what is keeping members on my site. You can copy Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter all you want but if the community isn't there, no killer feature will draw in the masses.

7 and a half years in now and my site keeps growing and growing despite numerous Facebook groups and another 3 forums on the same subject. 

It's a forum for a football club, something that will never lose interest so I guess you can say it's easier than running forum for a particular video game or TV series that can quickly grow old and lose interest.

I also leave my forum totally open to view for guests, I want them to see the content, see the friendly conversations and want to get involved. I've had many sign up saying that they have been lurking for a few months or even years, when they get involved it can feel strange that they get the in jokes, what is acceptable what isn't and slot straight in. Can be quite scary for new comers into a community, especially going in blind not knowing the atmosphere they are going into.

For me closing all content off to guests, hoping that the curiosity tempts them to sign up would deter more than it would convert to sign ups.

Theres a show your forum topic on this forum I like to have a nosey at, see how others work, if I see that error message when opening a topic that's tab closed for me, on to the next. The sign up process isn't that long but if I have to repeat the process for every site I visit it soon get's tedious.

 

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Ditto. Same issues here. My members even recommend the FB groups in posts, and contact me by PM for a referral :thumbsup: lovely.

Aside from finding a niche angle that these FB groups don't offer (which is fundamental) I think building on member connectivity and improving access to the content and features we already offer are key.

Part of the whole experience of being on a forum is about community.  The more ways I can connect my members and encourage them to interact with each other the better. 

How do you utilize the followers feature or promote ways for members to connect with each other on your forum?

Right now there is no "Friends" feature.  You can follow a member but this is not the same, and even so, it is not clear to everyone what this actually does or why it is useful.  I even have to remind myself.  What is it exactly that I get from seeing these members' posts [on a separate feed]? Is that all it offers me?  For example, on Twitter and Instagram your number of followers are a status symbol and weights your popularity within the community. I don't even know how many followers I have on the forum or who I follow, and rarely use this feature.  I'd be interested to know if I'm doing it wrong, or if there's a better way to make it work.

I think it would be nice to have Friends more akin to Facebook, or at the least have the ability to see your friends'/followers' online status when you login and have them featured in a way that encourages you to message, chat, interact with or see their activity.

Having an attractive Member List page and search console to make connections based on certain criteria (location, common fields, etc) might also be nice.  I know there are addons for this but the bones of the current member search and member list is hard to use and IMO not encouraging interaction.

The second thing that would help is a good search engine to find the excellent content that is there.  Type a word wrong and there is no suggestive search, look for a topic that is discussed and you will be lucky to find all the relevant posts. Follow your activity feed for content that you follow or post in and it shows every member's contribution on a thread rather than an overview of each thread.

The activity stream is getting closer to the lure of the facebook feed but it's still a little hard for members to grasp and connect with directly, I think.

 

Edited by Stormlilly
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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing that has enabled my forum to continue to live on is the ability to post without the faceless mods at facebook blocking posts and entire groups / pages seemingly randomly.  I see the forum as a save haven for those who want to be able to interact without some arbitrary admin passing judgement over their content.

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I concur with daveoh about keeping a Board an oasis for Members, and I believe that's through strict but fair moderating, and keeping Boards largely open to Guests for the reasons he described.

My experiences running a niche Board for over 14 years mirrors other comments concerning Facebook and particularly Facebook Groups. When I started my Board in 2002 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc didn't even exist. What I now call "Traditional Boards" were the only real social media venue at the time. People came in droves to sign up and participate. They were literally addicted, and if the Board was down for a minute I'd be inundated with emails and even phone calls. The activity peaked in the mid 2000's to the point I could have really cashed in and made my board subscription only to join and participate. I chose to stay with a Donation structure to pay the monthly bandwidth and server costs etc. 

Then Facebook took hold with free and easy photo and video posting....soon Facebook Groups that mirror-in a Tweeter like way-Traditional Boards/Discussion Forums took off. My Members started dropping like flys. It was uncanny. A Member who hadn't joined Facebook suddenly Friend requested me on my personal Facebook page. Then that persons participation on my Board dwindled, and many just disappeared, but I saw them clogging up my Facebook newsfeed or joining Facebook Groups. Even personal friends I had met in person through my Board and events I've held, bailed on me and my Board, and became Facebook sluts. Zero loyalty, even though they know my Board is a business and the "product" is the Members, personalities and the content and participation they provide.

Throughout this grand exodus, my Board stayed viable, but a shadow of its former self. After 14 years I was ready to throw in the towel. But after much soul searching decided to Convert to IPS Board and hope the advanced features, particularly the photo and video uploading feature would keep my Members engaged and help keep a trickling stream of new Members registering. In the meantime I had already started a Facebook page years prior, for my Board, that is worthless, and prior to the Conversion started a Private Facebook Group for Board Members, to act as a supplement to the main Board. Sort of a 'cant beat them join them' exercise. I refuse to expand that Facebook Group out of principle.

Ive been on the new IPS Board platform for just a few months now, and it has been received positively for the most part. My core Members have migrated over, but it hasn't attracted nearly the amount of old Members who had stopped showing up after discovering Facebook and Facebook Groups. The more advanced ad placement features is helping me monetize a bit more, but traffic and visits are low enough that I probably won't be able to attract many new advertisers. I am amazed at the functionality as compared to my old Board, but am sorely disappointed that uploaded MP4 and MOV videos will not open or play on iPhones or iPad, as I've posted elsewhere on this IPS Communuty Forum. That alone is a clue as to why Facebook is so attractive and able to poach Members from Boards. They simply want everything easy and free, particularly photo and video posting and are willing to show no loyalty and allow personal info to be gleaned for marketing purposes to get that.

I'm going to limp along for the time being, and strangely enough, am fortunate that my core demo is of the older variety, who haven't all embraced Facebook and other newer social media. I do believe that this Board software is the best out there and has the best tools to try and and compete with Facebook. But in my opinion, the heyday of Traditional Boards is long gone.

Edited by Brad Eden
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