Blogs and forums are two great tools for online communication to build a community, and while they might seem like the same thing at first glance because they share similar features, the two are uniquely different from one another.
When you’re considering implementing a blog or a forum, you need to think through some of these differences to decide which will best suit your target audience. Before you make your choice, you need to establish who you are trying to connect with and what your purpose is.
Forums are designed to allow for a wide range of discussions that are usually organized by categories and sub-categories. Any member can begin a new discussion and admins and moderators monitor the conversations for trolls. In this sense, each forum member has a unique opportunity to contribute, but not all members bring equal value to the conversation.
Posts in a forum are initially given equal importance, and then their popularity spreads out a little as each post is given weight based on the group’s collective reaction. Companies typically deploy forums to build a tribe, or as their way of assisting with customer service and technical support. For example, customers of a business can search various forums as a knowledgebase to see if their burning question has been previously asked and answered. Forums are also useful in online tutorials, product support, and viewpoint exploration of a topic or idea.
Forums may be updated anytime, and any user can post without having to wait for the other members or the administrator to take the initiative. Multiple authors may contribute to their own or other members’ threads.
The posts in a forum are presented in chronological order of those that have had a recent reply, which makes it easy to follow a conversation. The users provide the shape and speed of the discussion depending on their interests. When a topic is interesting or controversial, expect many people to give their own take on the subject.
Forum posts are text driven, so contributors don’t usually embed media within them. To make the conversations more personable, some forums allow members to use avatars to represent themselves. That said, forum discussion is usually limited to the members of a group. Due to direct conversations involved, attribution is a key feature of a forum.
On the other hand, a blog usually acts as an online journal or “News” archive. Unless comments are enabled on a blog post, the conversation is usually a singulare direction, the author to the reader. Blogs can be updated as regularly as an author wants, and it is useful when publishing information, reflecting on a thought, or bringing value to the reading audience.
Like a forum, blog posts are also text-driven, but they are more likely to contain images, videos, sound files, and links to other blog posts or websites.
Both of these tools have their place, and some companies opt to employ both. Look around for online examples, and see which of these two communication platforms suits your needs best, because there is no right answer.