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10 Ways Blogs Are More Effective Than Message Boards

The perennial question surrounding blogs vs. message boards (aka discussion forums) is one worth revisiting. Namely:

Blogs vs. message boards

  • how are blogs different?
  • why are they better??

My post today is the result of a gentle prod from a fan of The Corporate Blogging Book. Ryan writes:  "Let me start by saying I loved your book..." (Note: always a good way to start an email to an author.) He asked that I not reveal his full name or his company. Suffice it to say he's a would-be corporate blogger working for an established B2B company in a scientific field.

He writes:

"... there is one criticism that I haven't been able to come up with a convincing argument against. No one is fighting me on this, but I feel I need to overcome this criticism for my own piece of mind.  How does a blog differ from a discussion board that is moderated and updated by one (or a group of) individual(s) in a company?"

Then he answers his own question:

"The reason I ask is because we have had discussion boards...and while they have had mild success, they aren't really shattering or changing our industry, marketing, sales, customer support, etc. People say, “I don’t see how it is different. These forums are conversations too….probably a better platform than a blog which is very one-sided.” I think the registration requirements and the dependence on a message board community is a key element that prevents message boards from taking off. Admittedly that is one of the major reasons I think our boards have struggled to be successful."

Here's my take on the pros & cons of blogs vs. message or discussion boards. They are specifically written with big companies in mind, where control over "the message" as well as maintaining decorum are often a concern.

10 Pros for a Blog:

  1. Blogs have one publisher who controls what is published on the blog
  2. Comments from readers can be pre-screened and even blocked (i.e. not published) if they are deemed inappropriate
  3. Good blogs have a distinctive voice and personality
  4. That voice tends to make good reading and to invite a real "conversation" with readers
  5. A blog gathers steam, gains traction and can get better and richer over time
  6. Blog entries are easily searchable (by date and category/topic)
  7. Individual blog posts are findable on Google (each has its own unique URL)
  8. RSS (i.e. a Web feed) is a highly efficient way to read updates to a blog
  9. Blogs don't require registration and logging in (a stumbling block - or an irritant - for some users)
  10. Blogs can host other (compelling) forms of social media, including video clips and  podcasts

10 Cons for a Message Board:

  1. Message boards are a free-for-all
  2. No one is in charge so there is no one dominant or distinctive voice
  3. Discussions tend to be in the form of Q & A rather than a conversation
  4. No one talks about the "personality" of a message board
  5. In general, message boards are useful but not "compelling" or "must read's"
  6. Message boards work *if* enough people in your intended audience participate
  7. They sometimes suffer from overzealous (i.e. annoying) participants
  8. Or... just as often... from not enough participation
  9. Having to log in to post to a message board can be a pain
  10. Comment threads let you dig down into a particular discussion BUT you can do the same thing on an individual blog post that has multiple comments and trackbacks

(Note: can message boards be RSS-enabled - ?)

Useful Links & a Chart

DeathMatch: Bad, Bad Leroy Blog vs. Mean Mr. Message Board (Lee LeFever)

Read Dave Pollard on the pros & cons of blogs vs. wikis vs. discussion boards, etc.

Lee LeFever's excellent chart below. Also read his blog entry on message boards vs. Weblogs.

Weblog_vs_message_board_1

 

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Posted by Debbie Weil on March 1, 2007 in Tools , Tools for corporate blogging | Permalink

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Comments

Alex Manchester

It's the focused and author-led content, ownership and, of course, personality that really makes the difference for me I think, Debbie.
(Whoever said to Ryan "...message boards are probably a better platform than a blog which is very one-sided..." is half way there in recognizing that.)

Over-zealous participants, a tendency to slide into bitchiness if left unchecked and a real splash of topics and questions are also common characteristics of message boards - corporate or otherwise. They do need a lot of moderation.

Perhaps to put the difference in context, it's a brave, confident, committed CEO/Senior exec that starts a blog because they can lead the conversation, stay on topic and focus on the issues they want/can/need to talk about. I doubt there'd be too many CEOs/Senior execs who'd partake in a message board for very long, if at all.

Would be interested to hear other people's views on this though.

John Cass

I wrote about this issue on my old Backbone Media blog at blogsurvey a while ago. To me it is a structural issue. Forums are closed communities; the members talk with one another within the forum, while blogs are open forums, which can be found by anyone on the web through search engines. That is the important difference. It is my understanding that forums can be extremely successful for companies, and in some cases do a better job of encouraging customer feedback than blogs. What forums cannot do is intersect into the community of blogs. Intuit is probably one of the best examples of a company that really knows how to use both forums and blogs. Scott Wilder from Intuit has told me that forums are great tools for Intuit for having their customer community dispense support and advice to other customers within the community. Blogs can do the same but probably not to the same extent currently, however a blog gives a company the ability to connect with a wider audience that might not even know about a company’s forum. Lastly many forums are open and also have rankings on search engines. I do not think a blog is good overall and a forum a bad idea, both technologies provide different services and roles.

Debbie Weil

John,

Thanks for additional clarification on blogs vs. message boards. You've nailed the single biggest difference, I think: in general, message or discussion boards are a "closed" community (which can be a good thing). While a blog (a public, external blog) automatically connects to the broader universe of blogs.

John Cass

Many social media sites have an element of a closed community. Within YouTube you can comment on other videos. The most successful web 2.0 sites are those that realize the advantages of a closed and open community, and allow both as YouTube does by giving people the ability to distribute their content easily.

Tom Chandler

I've been asked this question by several clients. The answer I give involves (sadly) the lowest common denominator.

A blog operates at the level of its author (wherever that might be).

Most message boards inevitably slide to the level of the people most willing to post, which can include the likes of cranks, trolls, and people simply having a bad day.

Great post!

Erin Blaskie

I couldn't agree more!

Blogs are now replacing a lot of technology that used to work well... I've actually just converted my entire site to a Wordpress site and I've seen my traffic quadruple!

I think people are realizing the value of blogging - it's a community but it's quicker. No logins, no passwords, if you don't want to read posts you don't have to go through and mark them all as read... You can just skim the information and read whatever headings appeal to you.

Great post and great blog! I'll definitely be back to read more.

Erin Blaskie

maggie fox

Great post - from my perspective, message boards are very much "talk amongst yourselves", whereas a corporate blog is "let's talk to each other".

Big difference.

tash pop

I think the major difference is that the blog is more FOCUSED. Because it has a starting point of view it encourages more people to participate.

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