Forums Fit Where Facebook and Other Social Media Fall Short

Chris CrumSocial Media

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Last week, Demand Media announced Pluck 5, the latest version of its social platform, which is used by brands including the NFL, Kraft, NPR, Target and USA Today. Steve Semelsberger, SVP and GM of Social Solutions at Demand Media told us about the product's discovery, exchange and management engines.

The new pluck comes with 14 pre-built social apps. The company says Forums is one of Pluck's most popular apps. We asked Semelsberger to talk a little bit about the relevance of forums to today's web, as social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. have become so prevalent. Following is what he had to say.
"Forums technology definitely pre-dates the social tools you mention, but forums haven’t remotely been superseded by Facebook et al. We would argue that forums serve a purpose that these other tools don’t. We and our brand customers certainly value what the social tools deliver – we offer applications with similar functionality as part of Pluck – but we appreciate the reasons that consumers continue to like forums."

"When we look at companies who are good at powering and channeling customer passion, it’s clear that Forums have a place. Take the Dallas Cowboys for example. Their Facebook Discussions only had ~2K posts in 18 months, even though they had more than 1MM Facebook Fans (~0.002 posts/fan). Their web-based forums had more than ~750K posts from ~125K members in the same time period (~6 posts/fan). Realizing that people love to engage deeply with the Cowboys on their website (3000x more posts/fan), they replaced their Facebook Discussions with Pluck Forums, enabling fans to have a consistent read/write experience across the web and Facebook."
"Forums scale. They have a structure that supports enduring, lengthy, multi-threaded conversations, which some of the social tools you mention can’t replicate. Forum content is organized by topic and sub-topic, which makes forums content easy to navigate even when the volumes of interactions are enormous. We power the forums at Runners World, for example, which have accumulated millions of posts over tens of thousands of topics, but the volume of content hasn’t constrained participation in the least. Nearly 3 million AARP members use Pluck Forums to talk about an enormous variety of topics. The Knot, a site dedicated to brides and weddings, has over 8 ½ million Pluck Forums users."
"In our experience, another reason forums are attractive to our brand customers is because it is so easy and natural for their community management staff to be part of the forums conversation. Brands that do this tend to want to exercise some control over the tenor of the conversation, or want to convey authority and credibility among members of their core audience. This certainly is hard to do in some of the social tools’ 'frontier towns.'

Forums are more likely to be of persistent value to both our brand customers and their community members. Lots of forums content – discussions of the best way to light a family photo shoot, for example – will never go out of date."
"In general, we see that Forums work extraordinarily well for things like category discussions (for digital retailers), Q&A and general advice (e.g. Runner’s World and the Knot have very vibrant Forums). With Pluck 5 we’ve given Pluck Forums a lot of versatility beyond the native capabilities of generic forums. Brands can easily configure Pluck Forums so that it works as a Question and Answer application, for example, which is attractive to digital retailers. We’ve added Polls as a Pluck Forums feature, which lets consumers or staff members inject structured queries into ongoing topical conversations. We’ve added our Trust Filters to Pluck Forums, which gives consumers the ability to ascertain who among many Forums participants are their friends, are noted authorities or are highly regarded contributors."

For more on the benefits of forums, read these articles:

Are forums and Q&A sites more important to search now?

Could forums be more valuable to your brand than Facebook/Twitter?

Google gives forums more links on SERPs

Forums are relevant in social media marketing

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.