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Why community forums stand the test of time


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Since the dawn of the Internet, forums have remained a dominant force on the worldwide web. Invision Community not only survived the social media boom, we thrived. Our community forum platform is an industry leader and continues to serve thousands of businesses year-round. If community forums are tried and true, then why is the average Internet user bombarded with pleas to follow a brand’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts versus a forum? It's often the case that when decision makers consider building a community, they look to social media tools first and overlook the power an owned community platform has. It's rare to find an instance where exclusively maintaining a social media presence builds a rich and diverse community that shares information and actively help each other. Every smart company should invest in fostering a community through the means of a forum. Without geeking out too hard (I’m about to geek out real hard), allow me to explain why forums harness immense power. Meaningful user generated content I added meaningful because the fabric of social media is also user generated content, however, much of the time it's followers competing for attention or having no interest or knowledge of your brand and its products. One issue with social media is random trolls and people misunderstanding a brand's products or services. That causes a lot of noise or adds little value. This is because community forums focus on the content, whereas social media centers around the individual user. Social media comment sections have become increasingly divisive with tempers easily flared. It can be hard to have a worthwhile conversation. You’re either tossing a comment into the social media campfire, arguing with someone you’ll never meet or double tapping a “like” to show public support. None of which adds value or elevates a brand’s identity. On the other hand, a community forum offers various pathways for meaningful engagement. A library of content Topics build on top of one another and eventually creates a searchable library of content for new users to discover. Easily discoverable Search engines don’t typically respond to your query with social media posts. On the other hand, forum posts are quickly indexed. Invision Community’s latest update 4.6.11 includes IndexNow, which quickly informs search engines about new content changes. This draws in new users with little effort. Belonging Successful forums are inherently niche. Generally, members who participate share overarching commonalities with one another, and where they don’t they have a platform to express otherwise. Social media is too gargantuan to recreate these special connections. Moderation Social media can be powerful, but often spirals into toxicity because these platforms rely on automatic moderation tools. Our community forum has built-in tools for automatic moderation as well as tools for moderators (actual people caring for your community!) to ensure stability. Invision Community's forums in Fluid mode Fosters community Community forums facilitate community building. They are the apparatus for Internet users around the world to instantly connect with one another. Think of community forums like a neighborhood. A construction company (that's you) builds the community, but the community needs residents (your members) to transform the houses into homes. Once the infrastructure is set up, forums can use time to its advantage. Unlike social media, forum content can remain relevant and circulate throughout a community for long periods of time. That’s because ongoing conversations aren’t dependent on complex algorithms that display content based on past engagement. For example, your Instagram explore page shows you similar content based on other content you’ve engaged with in the past. That keeps you stuck in a loop and prevents you from interacting with new content. The algorithm sees you liked X, it shows you more of X, you see X, you engage with more of X and the cycle repeats itself, never allowing yourself to explore A, B, C or literally anything else. Forums display content based on what the community as a whole is interested in (not just the individual). With the Invision Community’s forums application, the member also has the option to decide how they want to consume content (maybe engaging with X is all that member wants, but they have the ability to discover more content outside of what machine learning dictates). Own your community forum Imagine spending years building a following on social media only for it to vanish overnight. Even worse, there’s no point of contact to reach out to to gain an understanding of what happened. That can’t happen when owning your own community forum. Not only do you maintain control, but you… Call the shots You are the decision maker. On social media, there’s no ability to enable, test, try or optimize new ideas / features. Have access to rich reporting Social media offers some insights, but it’s limited. Invision Community’s reporting inside the ACP includes various engagement reporting metrics to help you better understand what’s working (and what isn’t). Can monetize There are roundabout ways to get monetized on social media, however with our community forums application, you have far more flexibility to integrate digital campaigns such as banner ads, affiliate links and paid promotional content. Invision Community's Activity Streams Free market research Save money on market research by tapping into your audience's needs free of charge. Your power users want to tell you about their experience in your community, something big brands without a community pay big money for. If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, you probably think I have something against social media. To the contrary! Social media is a powerful tool, but most use it as the be-all end-all when it can better serve businesses to encourage new audiences to visit your community (versus attempting to create community directly on a platform you don’t own, control or have any real say in). Owning your own community forum is so immensely powerful, and, despite message boards and forums existing since the early ‘80s, it still feels like a secret. Invision Community’s forums application is the best in the industry. If you have your own community forum, show it off in the comments! Don’t have one yet? Please reach out to us and we’ll get you started.

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