Individual and social benefits of online discussion forums
Computers in Human Behavior
Louise F. Pendrya, Jessica Salvatoreb
Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 211–220

Conclusions

Dwarfed in recent years by more prominent social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, forums appear anecdotally to have assumed an unfashionable status in many organizations’ eyes, being viewed as a primitive form of communication whose time has passed. This observation is partly based on feedback we have received when presenting these findings at end-user conferences. Such a view is also echoed by forum moderators themselves seeking to sell the benefits. A recent comment on one large forum perfectly captures this mood:

“I’ve contacted a number of larger organizations with members anywhere from 100 k to 500 k and asked them if they would be interested in creating a discussion forum for their members. I told them of the benefits of bringing…members closer together by finding common interests and having a dedicated online “space” for them to congregate and talk about things relevant to their organization… All of the responses I’ve received… they have decided the direction they want to go with social media and it is [Facebook] and Twitter, but I tell them that this is something completely different than those two forms of [social media].”

Are forums with social media like Facebook? | Technibble Forums

We agree with this poster. Forums offer something different and their potential to provide social capital and effect related offline civic activity remains a largely untapped force, and one that is in danger of being eclipsed by their larger, and more seductive contemporary social networking cousins. If this should happen, we would consider it a shame. The need for forums has certainly not decreased, and forum providers should be actively promoting the benefits of forum use more widely and energetically. The uninitiated may yet need convincing, but converted, committed and active users already know that forums can transform lives. In the words of Radin (2006, p. 599–600), the forum formula “…succeeds in transforming many casual visitors into people who wholeheartedly contribute to the community…by their very existence, [online forums] are planting the seeds of revolution.”