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Building a community, whether you’re using a facebook group or forum is a great way to keep your members engaged. Because more engagement means more results which means more happy members.

So how do you build an engaged community? There are many ways but the 2 most common ones are creating a facebook group or building a forum hosted inside your member area.

They each have their pros and cons and I personally think that ideally one should lead to the other, so let’s dive in to the pros and cons of each.

I am a member myself of quite a few forums and facebook groups (either paid or free) and it’s pretty clear that the community is often the key to a successful online course or membership. A lot of people won’t even consume most of the content but they might stay on the membership and continue to pay month after month because of the community and the connections they’ve made there (I am guilty of that!)

The pros and cons of facebook groups

THE PROS

  • Very easy to setup, in minutes
  • the majority of your audience probably already has a facebook account and logs in daily so it’s easier to get them to interact in the group
  • Instant notifications and tagging helps members visit the group sometimes several times a day
  • The interface makes it easy to tag people, like and share content
  • It’s easy to use on mobile devices
  • You can run facebook live videos for Q&As for example, even if they don’t see it live they’ll automatically get the replay

THE CONS

  • Your facebook group can get shutdown at any time without warning and you can lose all the content
  • The search mechanism is pretty poor
  • threads sometimes disappear and re-appear
  • it’s next to impossible to organize the content so a lot of the knowledge is lost
  • As the group grows it gets harder for your posts to be seen because of the high post turnover
  • You can’t automate the access/revoke access to a group so it’s hard to scale and requires manual work to add/remove people
  • A lot of distraction with notifications from friends, family, games or other facebook group so members are not always 100% focused on your group even when they are in it
  • The facebook group is not integrated with your content

The major benefit of facebook groups is that you can quickly build a community of several hundreds of people and if you’re consistent in showing up and providing value you should quite easily get engagement. It’s a platform that people are familiar with and already visit sometimes several times a day. Chances are they already belong to several other groups so they know exactly how that works.

The pros and cons of forums

THE PROS

  • Integrated with your content so members that visit the forum are already logged in to your membership and are in the right mindset and are more likely to consume your content and be focused on your membership and not distracted by a funny cat video
  • Easy to organize content by forums and topics
  • access and management can be completed automated to add and remove members
  • members are more focused on your membership than if they were on facebook
  • You have full control of the platform unlike facebook that can shut you down anytime
  • Some forums allow for tagging and notifications which increases engagement

THE CONS

  • harder to setup, might require hiring a developer to customize it for you
  • Harder to get initial engagement
  • harder to get people to come to the forum and engage, they’ll come to ask questions but it’s harder to get them to come to just be of help and support others
  • Members not necessarily used to being in forums so there’s a learning curve
  • Technical challenges can prevent members from participating
  • harder to stay top of mind unlike facebook groups where you get notifications, they might “forget” about the forum if you don’t remind them it’s there

When used right and once you’ve built the engagement, forums are much more powerful than facebook group.

WHAT SHOULD YOU USE?

My recommendation if you’re getting started is to start with a faceboook group.

It’s easy to setup and you can quickly get some engagement there.

As members start engaging they’re going to realize that some content gets lost, that questions have been asked and answered but they can’t seem to find it.

That’s where you can come in and save the day by offering to move them over to a forum, inside your membership, where all content will be saved and organized in topics so that it will be easily searchable.

The key is to get them in the habit of checking the forums regularly not just when they have a question. For that it’s important to keep the facebook group for more casual conversations, to share and celebrate wins and remind them to visit the forum regularly to support each other and get their questions answered.

Now I’d like to hear from you: if you have a community or plan to build one, what are you using or plan to use? Please share in the comments!