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Forget Facebook! 5 Reasons Why Bloggers Need A Forum Or Social Network

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With Facebook all the rage nowadays, it seems like every blogger and their mother are creating fan pages of their respective sites. (note: here’s ours!)

While connecting with Facebook’s massive user base is something every (smart) blogger should be doing, you should not depend upon the service as their default forum/social network.

Although a forum may not be appropriate for every blog master, you should consider starting their own forum/social network (regardless of your preferred platform) if you desire to acquire the title of a blogging pro.

For the skeptics out there who do not see the need of establishing your own forum/social network, here are five reasons below that will enlighten you as to why you need to move off of Facebook and establish a presence upon your own domain.

Enrich Thyself, Not Facebook

Every time your readers are visiting Facebook, commenting upon your Facebook pages, groups, etc. they are building up Facebook’s cash reserves instead of yours.

While your blog should court Facebook in order to keep your blog relevant, your pocket book and advertisers would benefit more if users were able to socialize upon your own site instead.

A forum or social network would help keep your site social, which could help your blog earn some extra cash (as well as some extra traffic).

It’s Your Brand Silly!

Smart bloggers seek to control the appearance of their sites in order to distinguish themselves from the “sea of me’s” still using default (or popular) themes.

If controlling the appearance of your site is important, then why would you give up that power when it comes to the world of social networks?! While white and blue may look cute for Facebook, those colors may not compliment your site or appeal to your users.

Creating your own forum/social network would allow you to take charge of your blog’s social appearance, without sending users to a domain whose colors may clash with your blog’s brand.

Be The Captain Or Be Controlled

If Mark Zuckenburg can visit your Facebook fan page and shut it down tomorrow, there is nothing you can do except vent on Twitter about “how evil” Facebook is.

Unless voices in the twittersphere and blogosphere pressure Zuckenberg to restore your account, you are unfortunately out of luck and your readers will have no clue that you vanished until days later (if at all).

Starting your own forum or social network can mitigate this catastrophic scenario by allowing your fans and readers to interact with you and each other without fear of being “Facebook smacked.”

Know Thy Users

Despite the fact that Facebook’s Open Graph can help bloggers gain insight about the habits of their readers, at the end of the day Facebook owns (and controls) that data, and can at any time filter what you can see.

This data can be crucial to the success of your site, as well as help you determine what topics your readers are interested in, as well as help you understand your readers across the social universe (like Twitter, Tumblr, etc.).

By running your own forum or social network, you will have unrestricted access to that data, as well as ensure that your users data is kept safe from third party advertisers, something Facebook seems to have trouble with.

Google is doing it (and so should you)

Think about this point: Google is launching its own social network in order to ensure that it retains some access into the daily lives of its users.

While the upcoming failure/success of the social network has yet to be determined, the fact that a multibillion dollar company thinks social networking is important should justify why your blog needs one as well.

So why are you still reading this? It’s time for you to start building your own forum or social network today! (and without delay)

Help?! Where do I start?!

Since not everyone is a geek, here are a few tools to help you start your own forum.

First, you need to consider investing in a hosting service, and NOT another publishing service (as that would leave you in the same scenario as outsourcing to Facebook).

Locate a hosting company that has “one click” installs (preferably by Simple Scripts), which will allow you to easily install forums without mucking around with MySQL servers, databases and editing files (such as PHP, .ASP, etc.).

(Note: If your hosting company doesn’t have a “one click” install, encourage them to find one lest it encourages you to find a host that does).

For those of you seeking a simple forum, bbPress (from WordPress) and phpBB are recommended, while social lovers may want to install BuddyPress (also from WordPress).

Any other tips?

For those of you who have created complimentary forums or social networks for your blogs, what other tips would you recommend (whether its plugins, themes, etc.).

And if you have any other questions about adding a social element to your site, feel free to post them below for the community (as well as myself) to answer.

Image Credit: Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney

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Comments

  1. Darice de Cuba ) says: 7/20/2010

    I agree that trusting Facebook with your weblog page is a risky business and off course bringing them money instead of your own. But the pro of a social network like Facebook is that you have it all in one place. I doubt users would like one more website/social network to visit.

    While login is now easier with api’s like OAuth, I for one cannot keep up anymore with sites I frequent daily. So I think a lot of weblog visitors won’t feel inclined to join yet another community, especially if all weblogger decide to start their own.

    A good solution would be a less “evil” social network then Facebook that allows you to design your own page. But again I would be the first to leave Facebook if it wasn’t that all my friends and family are on it.

    Reply

    • Darnell Clayton ) says: 7/20/2010

      I’m in the same boat my friend!

      Introducing my non-geek friends is something that I semi-regret (semi because MySpace was the alternative).

      That said, I think building your own social network might work depending upon your type of blog (like gamers, tech, mommy blogs, etc.).

      Reply

  2. Darice de Cuba ) says: 7/20/2010

    You are right on that. Look at mommy blogger Dooce, she started her own community and until now it is a success. The login system they have also keeps trolls away from the entry comments on the weblog.

    I suppose if you have a huge following creating your own community is much more profitable then using Facebook. It all depends on how much you want to invest in it.

    Reply

  3. Franky Branckaute ) says: 7/21/2010

    Forums are lots of work though and you already need a solid readerbase before even considering launching a forum. Look at our forum we used to run on ForeverGeek, after trying two months (even with having some personal friends who contributed to) we had a whopping 8 new members and 2 who contributed.

    Reply

    • Darnell Clayton ) says: 7/21/2010

      It might depend on the type of forum I guess.

      One if my friends (who has a small trafficked gaming blog) is starting a forum out of the demands of his readers.

      Despite using WordPress bbPress wasn’t “up to par” so he is going with another option instead.

      Reply

  4. Cyndi L ) says: 7/21/2010

    I’m wondering what you might suggest for those who use BlogSpot as a platform. Please don’t just suggest that we move to WP ;-) I’ve used both and am comfortable with both, but Blogger just suits me better, most of the time. Do you know if bbPress and the rest work with platforms other than WP? Thanks!

    Reply

  5. Darnell Clayton ) says: 7/21/2010

    That is a great find Cyndi L! While I prefer to own my data, the example you linked to is an excellent work around for those who don’t want to muck with the MySQL servers.

    Reply

    • Cyndi L ) says: 7/21/2010

      I totally understand your point and theoretically I agree with you! But as a full-time artist who tries to keep techno stuff as simple as possible, I’m always looking for the work around ;-) I’m not a techno-phobe, but I do know my limitations!

      Reply

  6. Jamie Northrup ) says: 7/22/2010

    Great post Darnell, I featured it in thhis week’s Deuce Group Weekly Ten Important Posts.

    I definitely agree that it’s better to have your visitors stay on your site and get more ad and page views, then give them to Facebook, but like others have mentioned, a lot of people don’t want an extra place to check or login, I think what’s important is not give your best content away on FB and whenever possible when chatting or answering questions on your Facebook page, refer them to your website.

    That being said there are quite a few cases where starting your own social network or forum can be preferable, specially for niche websites.

    Anyways again great article!!

    Jamie

    Reply

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    Reply

  8. Quinclyn Birris ) says: 2/9/2011

    I think with social networking it’s a home where you can meet new people and become friends. As where with blogging it’s always personal whether its about you or someone else. I personally like blogging even though I have my own social community. And I love when all my members create there own content.

    Reply

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  10. Darnell Clayton ) says: 7/22/2010

    Maybe. He said he found another solution so I’m not exactly sure.

    Reply

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