One of the most important aspects to Web 2.0 interaction is the integration of user generated content. User generated content is usually done through the creation of some kind “community” platform. The community aspect has become more familiar simply due to the popularity of social networking websites. Online community is no longer an added value that websites offer users but rather something that is expected from certain types of sites.
User generated content can be in an open format but is usually moderated by the administrators of the site. Allowing users to interact with the online experience engages people emotionally, allows a free flow of information, creates a valuable learning environment, keeps people on the sites longer, keeps them coming back, and can help with optimization and conversions.
So what are the differences between blogs and forums? Is one better than the other for certain sites? Below is a list of comparisons that can help clarify these points:
Blogs are defined as content generated by a person or persons with the main goal of offering knowledge, advice, and thoughts about specific topics (an online publication so to speak). Blogs are usually broken into categories and have search functions for users to find specific topics. Most blogs have a “forum” aspect where users can post comments, feedback, and questions about the posts. Those comments are usually managed by an administrator, so some will get posted and some will not. The intent is for the author to provide insight on the topics they are interested in, and what their users want to read. A good example is this Internet marketing blog.
The main purpose of forums is to create a discussion platform between multiple people. Forums offer a real time place for people to interact and exchange knowledge and ideas. Forums are also usually monitored by admistrators, but open communication is encouraged. The intent is to create an open discussion including the positive and the negative. Good examples are rating systems for products on e-commerce sites.
How Content is Controlled:
Blog administrators usually define the content and direction of topics. Blogs are often used for specific Internet marketing functions for applying unique content and adding value to website pages and user experience. Blogs are more focused and managed by a single person or group of people.
Forums are usually less structured and allow for users to create new topics. The direction of the conversations are more unpredictable and can often more accurately define the interests of the community. Forums are less focused and follow the trends of the users themselves rather than the hosting platform.
Order of Topics and Articles:
Articles in blogs are usually ordered such that the most recent posts are at the top of the page. This is good and bad. Most blogs have search features but users (especially new users) typically read whatever is most recent unless they are researching specific topics.
Forums show posts and comments from all variations of topics. Usuallyk, the most recent comments are at the top creating a display of conversations on all types of categories. A good example of this is a social platform like Twitter.
Blogs can be syndicated across many other blogs and websites through blog rolls and RSS feeds. Content can be displayed anywhere.
Forums are usually more private and kept within the website platform itself.
So what is better? Both are a great way for information exchange and user generated content on the web. E-commerce platforms or sites selling products and services usually have one or both. Forums are seen more often in e-commerce because users are allowed to rate products and discuss their purchase experiences. Blogs can be integrated with any type of site but are presented more like an online publication presenting the topics designed by the author.
How does all this apply to Internet marketing? A professional Internet marketing company offering comprehensive services usually will integrate blogs and forums into their organic search engine optimization strategies as well as their social media optimization and reputation management strategies. This can occur both “on page” and “off page”. Blogs and forums can be integrated with any site and there are great existing software programs out there so you can avoid building from scratch. The off page component is used for organic SEO, which helps generate unique content and inbound links to the site being optimized – but that is another topic in itself.