There was a time when community forums were the shit. I was on them going back 2005 – earlier still. if I had known back then that chatting on message boards could become a full-time job – let’s just say I’d be a that chick right now. I was on hip hop forums, primarily. I was also on a few other forums that I can’t remember now, but forums really were the heart of social media, just like cyber chat rooms.
Now we’ve got Reddit, which is massive, if you’re a tech geek. I will say I appreciate the sneaker-focused threads on the platform catering to true sneaker lovers like myself, but only in theory. Do they really have the impact as commenting under a post on Hypebeast.com?
Right now, sneaker forums are fluttered with discussions almost exclusively dedicated to the Yeezy Boot. That’s the problem. There is no real discussion, just adoration over a celebrity-endorsed drop for the sake of it. But that’s the problem in the industry as a whole: it’s filled with groupies or straight up trolls. No one wants to add value.
During my career as a Social Media Expert, I had lost interest in the forum aspect and focused solely on content creation. It wasn’t until recently that I started getting into community engagement again. And one of the communities that are thriving, particularly in the UK, is the crafting industry.
During my time working as a Social Media Manager for a home shopping channel (that shan’t be named), I had to take on Community Manager duties because, well, that’s what we had to do. Through this experience, I learned from the TV presenters that online community forums were actually a PR disaster. Shoot they were a mental disaster. Instead, they chose to have page-moderated Facebook Pages, and/or Facebook Groups. Actually, a majority of of the crafting community took to engaging in multiple conversations in Facebook Groups. It makes sense. In my world, I’m constantly being added to Facebook groups. My thing is, rather than having to search for a forum, sign up to it, wait for approval and then search through endless threads, I can just download the Facebook group app, and launch it from your phone. Or, turn on notifications from that group when I log onto my account from my desktop.
The key to social media, is about accessibility. Even more so now that social media is this rapid beast. Now, it’s all about thinking mobile first. If there are community forums in the form of an app, then yeah, sure, why not. But until then, it’s extra leg work for no real reason.
How are online community forums competing with the likes of Facebook where the purpose of connecting communities is clear.
My friend was saying Mumsnet is one of the biggest online communities in the UK. But hip hop and streetwear focused sites like the aforementioned Hypebeast or Complex dominated that mutli-faceted online community space back in the early 2000s (It’s no wonder that Hybeast’s slogan is ‘Driving Culture Forward’). To the point that their engagement has decreased because of the saturation of sneaker/streetwear sites. Now, give me HGTV, where the focus is not only parenting but providing solutions, in this case, championing the whole DIY approach to anything from seasonal decorations to cooking and everything else in between, then that’s adding value and creating an experience. Therein lies my point.
The reason Facebook Groups for crafting communities are so hot right now is because people can post their own albums, show off their latest makes, gossip on what’s happening at a particularly craft channel, and build the community in real-time. Whereas online community forums are a bit old school in the sense of social media as we know it right now.
Now, there are brands building exclusive VIP Facebook groups for ‘special’ members. And that’s a good idea. You may love the content posted on the page, but imagine being a part of an elite group of members? That’s the direction a lot of brands are taking in a way to steer the direction of online engagement where their brands are concerned.
What brands need to do is focus on creating an experience that ads value to people’s lives. So creating a space, in this case, a Facebook group to curate discussion around their products and services. Now, there are Whatsapp Groups, but that’s actually a bit of a nightmare where it comes to taking up data on your phone and receiving extremely annoying notifications when you’re trying to sleep (if you don’t know how to mute your settings). But that’s another blog post 🙂