There are so many different ways to have a conversation online.
And there are so many tools you can use for the job.
But just as your toolbox has a hammer, a screwdriver, and wrench, your community/engagement toolbox needs more than one tool.
Both blogs and forums can be great for starting discussion. The key difference lies in who starts the conversation.
With a blog, the blog's author generally decides the subject(s) they will cover with their recurring content.
With a forum, the community owner generally decides the structure and organization (how many forums, what are they called, who's allowed to post), but the community members can start their own new topics/conversations.
Key Differences Between a Blog and a Forum
Here are some of the other ways that blogs and forums differ:
- Privacy - blogs are usually public, while forums are often private or restricted-access.
- Length of content - there is some expectation that blog posts will be longer and richer than forum topics (although you can usually include media in either).
- Comments - blog posts don't always allow comments (famously, Seth Godin), while forum topics are always a two way conversation.
- Personality - blogs tend to take on the tone and personality of the primary author. Forums take on a personality of their own, a mosaic of the personalities of the most active members.
Reasons You Might Want a Blog
- You want to focus on a small set of topics that you control.
- You want to have a small group of authors (or a single author).
- You want to become known as a thought leader; your content is being syndicated.
Reasons You Might Want a Forum
- You want to allow the ideas of the community to surface easily.
- You have a wide variety of topics.
- You want to provide customer support.
Reasons You Might Want Both
- You have a large, active member base.
- You have both established authors and a large community.
- You want to provide original content and support on the same site.
- Your community members are requesting both features.
If you're managing a community that encompasses both blogging and forums, make sure there is a clear purpose for the two types of content.