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If I had been asked that question a year ago, my answer would have been a resounding no. I would have said people will still want to gather in forums and bulletin boards regardless of facebook or twitter or google plus. But it appears I would have been wrong.
The concept of ‘community’ online has been changed forever with the advent of social media and as even our parents, and in some cases, our grandparents finally climb on the social media bandwagon, I fear death is very near for the forum model. The idea of community is shifting to a more individual perspective. People can now create their own, personalized, community with circles and groups.
Years ago, if you wanted to connect with quilters (for example) you would join a community forum just for quilters. You would make friends there, share your love of quilting and perhaps have off topic conversations. Your online life was quite compartmentalized into specific areas of interest. Now, quilters just have to add each other to their google plus circle or ‘like’ their favorite quilting bloggers on facebook and it is all filtered into them, aggregated into their streams and merged with their love for say, coupons.
There are certainly forums that will survive this community personalization shift. Long established, niche boards will continue to maintain and grow as long as they adapt to integrating social media successfully. Nurtured communities that have a loyal membership will still have long, happy lives. Medical niches will most certainly stay as people want that compartmentalization. They don’t want to talk about their bowel issues on Facebook. They will still look for closed communities that provide more understanding of their specific illness.
But if I am asked, and I have been quite frequently lately, “should I start a community around my blog?”, my answer is a resounding NO. Unless you have a thriving (and I mean very active) readership, look at ways to become a more active part of your readers lives. Go where they are. Find ways to interact on Facebook (create a private group perhaps), create a group Pinterest board, host a weekly chat on twitter (not talking about the sponsored party model).
I have seen more forums turn into virtual ghost towns over the last few years than I can count. This isn’t the time to be trying to build and force a ‘new’ community. They take a significant investment of time, money and nurturing to be successful. The ‘if you build it they will come’ model doesn’t hold up anymore. Find where your potential community members are already engaging and go to them.