Facebook Groups vs Forums - Pros and Cons
The platform you choose to start your new community is a vital decision. It will impact the types of discussions you have, how quickly it grows, how much money you earn, whether it will survive long-term, and how often people return to it. Here we'll compare the pros and cons of Facebook and forums to help you choose which is right for you.
Facebook already has a lot of active daily users. Having them begin using the Facebook group may be easier than convincing people to begin using a new forum.
With Facebook, you don't own your data (conversations, messages, profile information, etc). Facebook owns that data and they use it to track people, sell the data, and display targeted ads.
It also means that you won't be able to export your data so that you can import it into some other system when Facebook is replaced by something else. Remember MySpace, Friendster, and others? They were social networks that eventually dissapeared, and they took everyone's data with them. After working so hard to build a community, it's important that you are able to create backups and easily move or restore the data in the future.
With forums, you own the forum and its content yourself. You can backup the data to your own computer, export the data and move your forum to a different software, and keep your data secure and private so that people who use your community are not tracked.
If you have your own website, having your own forum instead of a Facebook group has major advantages. You can embed a forum seamlessly into your website. This ensures that the the person stays on your website, rather than being redirected to a third-party website such as Facebook. Giving them a reason to come back to your website over and over increases brand awareness and loyalty.
Adding a forum to your website is also extremely beneficial for search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines love user-generated content that is all related to the same topic. It ranks high in search engines and helps drive more new traffic to your website and forum. On the other hand, Facebook groups are not even indexed by search engines. (It's also possible to create a private forum that isn't indexed by search engines.)
It's important to be able to create a community that is your own. You want it to be able to have a clear and consistent theme so that people feel that they are part of a community with a solid identifity.
While using Facebook groups, you can't customize the colors, browser icon, logo, and so many other options. Facebook is strict about maintaining the look, feel, and functionality of Facebook even within groups. This is a real problem for anyone that is serious about building a loyal community that will grow and last a long time. It's even more important for anyone who has a website or company, since a community should match the colors, logo, and theme of their website/company.
Forums allow you to customize all aspects of the experience since the forum is owned by you. You can customize the colors, browser icon, logo, header image, fonts, layout, options, etc.
Facebook runs their own advertisements on your group without even giving you a share! Only Facebook benefits while you work hard to grow the group, attract new people, start relevant discussions, etc.
Alternatively, when creating a forum for your community, you can make money from it using a variety of methods. You can place your own Google Adsense ads on it, charge users a subscription fee for access to sections or all of the forum, get sponsors, or ask for donations. It can become an entirely new source of recurring revenue.
Selling your community
Down the line if you ever want to sell your company, website, or group, a forum would have value because it's something that belongs to you. You own the member data, post data, and the whole community itself. It's not uncommon for active forums to sell for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. A Facebook group can't be sold like that because it belongs to Facebook. It may even be against their Terms of Service.
Facebook groups are more for short posts and chats. Forums promote more in-depth and robust conversations. You'd need to see what fits your community best.
People will return to your community if they think it is valuable. In-depth conversation can be great for helping a community grow and prosper long-term since it provides more valuable information than superficial short comments. However, short comments are easy to post and encourage more participation.
Facebook groups are a stream of posts and comments to those posts. There is no way to categorize posts. Due to this, people usually only pay attention to the latest few posts.
Forums are organized into topics. Users can start new topics or reply to existing topics. Topics can be further organized into categories or even subcategories. The categories used in forums helps content in each category be discovered rather than just the latest few topics. It also ensures that older topics can be browsed and searched quickly and easily.
When comparing Facebook vs forums, the disadvantages of a Facebook group outweigh the advantages, especially if you own a website or company. After working so hard to grow a community, you won't be able to earn any money from it, move it, back it up, sell it, or even customize it. Meanwhile, Facebook will continue to track your users and their conversations.
Creating a forum ensures that you can earn money for your hard work, own the data, customize your community's appearance, and keep their conversations from being tracked by third-parties.