• Forums v Facebook groups


    Facebook has come a long way since its debut as a social network c. 2004. These days, Facebook would like to be all things for all people. In addition to being a social network, it doubles up as a platform to advertise, sell products and run groups. Facebook was not designed to function as a forum and it doesn't do a very good job as a foral platform but, being free, easy to use and virtually idiot-proof, it's little wonder it's often used as a substitute for forums, especially when it comes to the more niche subjects and unorthodox approaches.

    FACEBOOK DIVERSIFIES

    As with supermarkets selling insurance and offering financial services, capitalism not only allows but encourages businesses to diversify as opposed to sticking to what they do best and letting others specialise in matters outside their area of expertise. Facebook does a decent job of allowing people to have a personal website without the hassles of registering domains or the need for any technical expertise to set up websites.

    FACEBOOK'S LESSER KNOWN FEATURES

    In addition to personal profiles, Facebook also allows you to set up pages for anything from causes to fan groups and products. There is also an option to create groups that anyone can join where discussions can take place. Compared to even basic, free forum platforms, Facebook groups have very limited features but, unlike forum software, it doesn't require any technical knowledge to set them up.

    As a result, Facebook groups have proliferated and, whatever the subject, there's likely to be a number of them out there. Although groups can be public, a lot of them are closed, meaning only members can read posts made by other members. This is in sharp contrast with forums, where most are open and membership is only required to post but not to read most of their content. Content posted on closed groups is neither indexed by search engines nor available to non-members. A lot of these groups are by invitation only.

    It should be noted that the groups feature was never intended to be used in the same way as a forum, it was intended for a group of people who knew each other and/or who have a common interest, to interact as a group. The conventional Facebook set up is intended for people to communicate on a one-to-one basis, making it hard work to interact with more than two or three people. Groups were intended for families, teams, clubs and associations to communicate, not for the giving of advice. In fact, when you go to create a new group, a pop-up window appears with the following:
    Create a shared group for you and some of your friends, like your film night buddies, sports team, siblings or book club.
    There is no easy way to know what goes on behind closed doors on Facebook groups but there is every indication that at least some of them may be giving bad advice and consumers should always try and find out as much as they can about those who run those sites as well as doing their own homework and researching the topics dealt with by themselves rather than taking advice from social media groups.

    DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FACEBOOK GROUPS AND FORUMS

    • Most Facebook groups are closed, this means only members can read posts and don't have the same reach as forums, nor are they subject to the same level of scrutiny. This makes them even riskier, unless you know the people involved.
    • Facebook has the ultimate say about the fate of any groups set up under its wing, although it's not likely to be concerned with specific advice, groups can be reported to Facebook and potentially closed down.
    • Facebook group posts are not as well structured as forum threads, nor is there the capacity to accommodate a large amount of content, nor a variety of content types.
    • Facebook membership is required to join any group and even to view content. While joining Facebook is free and painless, not everyone is prepared to set up a personal page and this may deter a number of people from joining.
    • Facebook accounts are set up under people's own real names as opposed to anonymous usernames. That results in lack of anonymity within groups. Group members can look at other's Facebook pages and find out all about their families and personal friends outside the groups.
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