A Facebook group is different from a Facebook page in that the group is community-driven, as opposed to a Fan Page that is all about a brand or character.
Facebook groups are a big deal these days. There are thousands of them and new ones are being created every day. Groups share the same intuitiveness and virality as Facebook pages. They are super easy (and free) to create and share with friends and the community. You can find groups on any subject. About any interest or brand. Official or unofficial. Even overlapped groups abound.
Anyone can create a Facebook group in literally seconds. Also, people can join the group and make comments in a single continuous feed that is dead simple to use. With a relatively humble number of participants, the group can feel busy and vibrant with people commenting on. So groups are a magnet for attention. Facebook delivers you notifications with any comment posted on any group you follow. Groups are one of Facebook shiniest little things.
That’s a good thing, right?
Well, it depends. Facebook right now is oversaturated with groups. Competing tribes and infights exist within Facebook groups. The fact that there is no barrier to entry creates a surplus offer of group communities.
Facebook groups also suffer from short attention span. Groups conversations live in the moment. If you don’t happen to read the comments in an active way, chances are that you will never do. The lack of any organization as channels or sub forums makes finding an old post a difficult task. So “passivity” in groups is almost nonexistent.
As with any Facebook activity, you are a victim of distractions. A notification here, a private message there. It’s all Facebook territory. You own nothing. You’ll have to play by Facebook rules, and that means a complete lack of ownership. Anyway, Facebook group marketing is a hot topic these days.
Good Old Internet Forums
On the other side of the spectrum, we have internet forums. The name even sounds boring for some. But they are indeed one of the best community structures on the internet.
One of the best features of forums is their reach. Any conversation can be indexed on Google and found by anyone who is looking for a certain particular topic. Provided that it’s a public forum. Potentially, your conversations can be found by thousands of people who can ask to join the forum and help grow the community.
A heaven for order
Forums have a feature called “subforums” and can be used for covering different categories or subtopics within the forum. Inside them, people can create conversations or “threads”, each one covering one particular topic.
The Fastlane Forum (entrepreneurship) and Warrior Forum (online marketing) both have thousands of threads covering a wide range of topics. You can find any post with their built-in functionality.
Passivity and Longevity
Another great thing about forums is that they are long-lasting. One conversation can endure for years, as this one: “is learning to program is stupid or smart?”. Driving a lot of traffic from Google as time passes by.
As an investment, internet forums are a great way to establish a grounded and solid community. One that you completely own.
But they do have a barrier to entry. You’ll have to host a forum on a web server and configure it to suit your needs. So technically, not anyone can run a forum.
Forums are not the shiny new thing on the internet. And they surely lack all the real-time interaction of Facebook. But right now, with forum software as XenForo, forums can deliver more interactivity and “gamification” to refresh community experience.
Is important to note that Forums are the only option here that works well for SEO objectives.
Slack: A mix of both worlds
A new trend for communities is the team communication application Slack. A super successful work application that even Microsoft thought of purchasing (but instead created Teams). As I see it, Slack is the Whatsapp for business.
We can now find very active and public communities in the form of slack teams. Anyone can ask to join OnlineGeniuses (marketing) with over 10,000 members. Also, BigSEO and Backlinks are two popular public marketing teams. There is even a Slack community database, where you can discover a group to join.
Slack has one of the main features of forum software in the form of “channels”. Which are conversations about different topics within the Slack team. Although not as detailed as forum’s subforums and threads, Slack channels offer a better organization for communication than Facebook groups.
Slack also has an awesome search feature that can find any comment on any channel. You can even pin comments on a sidebar for easy access. And there are lots of other features that make this application great.
As in Facebook, conversations live only inside the application and can’t be found on Google as in forums.
Quora and Reddit
Quora is an open community with the main objective to answer questions. It’s not as well suited for community building as the former spaces mentioned. There is a lot of noise there.
Anyone can answer the questions and you can find a lot of spam there.
Reddit is a social network with deep ambitions. People publish text posts, images, and videos, which are then voted up or down by other members. Content is organized in community boards known as subreddits.
Reddit is more curated and well organized than Quora. A fun fact it that you can receive karma points for giving good information to the community.
Which tool to use?
We have three great platforms for creating communities. Which one to choose from will depend on your liking, as well as on your target community skillset. My personal preference is forums, because of their capabilities and control. But I’m sure a lot of people out there will prefer Facebook groups for their fast and interactive qualities. Additionally, you could always check out places like LinkedIn to see if they meet your particular needs better. It all comes down to the industry you are writing for.