Forum owners, how do you "fight" Facebook groups?

My current forum story: My 2nd Discourse forum, 2 years after the first one

The first days were amazing. A lot of people came and posted.
But suddenly, the activity decreased a lot. Since the forum existed before and it was a re-opening after being unavailable for two months, a spike of activity and then a decrease is expected.
However, I’m not very optimistic for the following weeks and months, despite the fact that I had only positive feedback and that users even donated 400$ on the very first day to pay the first year the forum’s fees.

The forum has been open for one week.

I took a look at the “concurrent” facebook group, and the latter is more active… The activity has been moving from the old forum (vBulletin) to Facebook over the years and has grown larger. :pensive:

It saddens me because information is, in my opinion, more valuable in forums than facebook groups.
In forums, the information is categorized, easily available no matter its age.
On facebook, information is all mixed up, quickly disappear, the search engine feature is crappy and all is made to make users post short messages. Posts and comment sections are an endless universe of “click to see more”.

Have some of you been in the same situation? What did you do to make the forum more attractive?
Should I add similar features like Retort - a reaction-style plugin for Discourse?

Several users asked me to add categories to the home page, like phpbb and vbulletin default home.

Note that my current forum always had the categories as the first page for 20 years, so users are very used to it, but do you think having the latest topics only can lead to more activity?

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I’ve been dealing with this. My largest competitor is a Facebook group. I think more people use Facebook groups vs forums because they already have Facebook and they are familiar with the platform. I figure the people who join my forum are likely to be from an older generation who are more familiar with forums. I’m not sure what the solution is. I’m always trying to think of ways to make my site better than Facebook groups. One day I would like to code or commission a custom plugin that adds a trade/commerce and user review system to Discourse. I think this feature would give me a lot of leverage over Facebook groups.

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The aggressive version: Identify the key content contributors on the Facebook group and convince them to come back to the forum when they post their unicycling content and updates. The viewers will follow the content.

Be careful here, you may accidentally bias your decision towards keeping the people who are already okay with the forum instead of the people you want to attract back.

Categories with Latest is a nice compromise for many sites!

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What you’re fighting here isn’t the group, it’s ease of access. There is already a Facebook app installed on most phones, everyone’s already on Facebook and checking it multiple times a day, it’s right there and they can get their information easily. We’ve had to do a “if you can beat them, join them” approach for our nonprofit. We encourage forum use for a lot of things, but run a 25k Facebook group to meet people where they are. You’re fighting psychology, not logic.

If you want people in the forums, you need to do things in the forums that people want to see and can’t get anywhere else. Make sure you have Facebook login enabled so it’s super easy to just hop on over with as little friction as possible. Are there plugins for integrating Facebook content in some way? (I doubt it since FB really doesn’t want people to leave the platform, but it doesn’t hurt to check.)

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Thanks for your advice! :slight_smile:

We encourage forum use for a lot of things, but run a 25k Facebook group to meet people where they are.

I’d be happy to do the same, but I don’t own the facebook group. It has nothing to do with our forum except that some people frequent both…

That’s the first thing I did before opening the forum for this very reason! :wink:
I also added other logins to make access as easier as it is possible.

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The big challenge and Facebook’s killer feature is “The Feed”. People like to see a feed of all the posts that relate to all their bespoke group memberships in one single feed. Because people are lazy. This is why a consolidated Latest view of all Discourse forums I’m a member of would be a great thing to have. The Discourse Hub app nearly goes this far but could go further.

One of my sites failed and this was the feedback.

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Instead of fighting, I would suggest the opposite embrace it head on. Push and pull content from social media and the internet but make your forum the hub.

On my site I have been creating half a dozen bot accounts. Their job is basically to post contextualised hyperlink in threads coming from either RSS feeds or key Twitter accounts. With a bit of experimenting with a few rules you can automatically pull the best content /most relivent content on the internet.

If you liken it to a store. Facebook and Twitter are like a jumble sale. Besides old ladies jabbing you with elbows, it’s takes a bit of knowledge to find good stuff and spot the nuggets. Now apply that to a discussion say about US politics. The downside of these platforms is there are rabbit holes. From reinforcement bias to attention seekers, to those that wear tinfoil hats. Finding the best content takes time and experience.

Forums need to fill gap where people want their ideas and thoughts to be challenged (they want debate), they want to have minimum posting standards, they don’t want to engage with crazies.

If people can use your site to find good content elsewhere for me that is a good thing. People come to your site to find the best content. While there they are more likely to engage with other like minded people also seeking content they like or challenges their thinking.

Sorry went a bit philosophical there :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Key thing is though it is very very easy to use Zapier with Discourse (free 1000 actions a month). If you can bring content to your users which is more tailored and better your user base will grow.

You should also consider pushing content to Facebook and Twitter. For example every new thread automatically send out a link promoting it.

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it would be awesome if discourse also adds a feature like FB newsfeed

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About pulling: are you talking about stuff like creating topics on Discourse from Facebook content? I’m not sure how it should be done and what it would look like in real life.
Or have a sidebar that embeds the facebook group (the content is public)?

As for pushing content out of Discourse to social media, I’m also not sure where to send it. Sending a topic link from Discourse to the Facebook “concurrent” group? :thinking:

Creating new social media accounts of which I would be the owner and push content in here?

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You can quote good [public] social media posts (with full credits to the writer/creator). Even “news” sites do it pretty frequently now, by quoting twitter posts (it’s getting sometimes annoying as they seem to be more gathering opinions of twitter users, rather than actually report on things). The idea is that you may be starting a new conversation on your forum, thanks to the quote.

As for publishing to social media: Create an account for you forum there, which will be publishing quotes from your forum (the opposite from above).

You just have to be wary of the rules (especially for Facebook). Some ideas mentioned above in this forum may also be problematic because of Facebook’s rules.

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I considered a side bar with a feed but thought it would be detrimental to the look and feel of the site.

So I instead created dummy accounts

Here are two dummy accounts I created that I have been experimenting with.

In one picture they are taking tweets, the second using an RSS feed.

The only information they are taking from either is the website URL. Discourse does the rest making it a contextualised link. These bots are directed to post in specific threads.

The way I did this is very simple.

  1. Create dummy accounts in discourse
  2. Under admin panel create an API for each user
  3. Create free account with Zapier
  4. When you select apps in Zapier add RSS, twitter.
  5. In Zapier select link Twitter to Discourse
  6. Enter usernames and passwords to Twitter
  7. You will then get the option for the trigger (what starts the action) ie a tweet, number likes, retweets, key words etc. Select what’s appropriate
  8. Zapier will then ask you for the Discourse action. Enter your discourse user name (bots) and password. Also enter the API created in discourse.
  9. Zapier then asks you what you want to do. Eg Create a thread or post within a thread. Your categories and threads automatically come up within Zapier
  10. You then define action. What is posted ? I suggest just the URL.

Click on test, to see if it works. But that’s it !

If you find you are capturing too much information or non relevent information. Try altering the “trigger”. Alternatively the paid version of Zapier allows you to add extra steps of filtering or time delays etc.

I have not tried it with Facebook but believe likely works the same.

I would heed the advice about Facebook rules for pushing (that’s something I know nothing about).

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Interesting. I tried Zapier a long time ago, but I forgot that existed.

Can you explain how do you think these bots are beneficial to your community growth or stickiness? On a psychology level. Aren’t Discourse users bothered by topics full of bot posts? Do you think it can attract Facebook users in some way?

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The limits are probably thin between being beneficial to your forum and bothering your users, or even being some kind of advertisement for fb/twitter (“hey, the good content is over there, this is where you should go !”).

My feeling is that automating things is risky about these matters. One good usage is
to only manually quote and add value by writing yourself something along the quote. But that’s work (there’s no magic). That’s only my own opinion, of course.

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Forums are like a discussion platform as compared to Facebook groups which are completely unorganized. We can’t see the reputation of the user at Facebook groups, crappy search feature, repeated questions etc… The only advantage is the ease of access, a dedicated Facebook app icon on your mobile phone.

So having a dedicated discourse app of your discourse forum with notifications will add traffic to your site, in other words, its the ease of access.

I agree with member @Bill, a plugin to rate sellers/traders will be an advantage over Facebook groups. There is a thread on this already but we are still waiting for the plugin at Is there any plugin to rate sellers? - plugin - Discourse Meta

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Hi All,

I have been fighting Facebook groups in the French community in London since 3 years and here are some strategies.

  • 1 - Try to partnership with the admins of the facebook groups. Some of them will like you and your project. They will see an interest in working with you. So they will let you post or comment and you will also help them on your website.
    I prefer commenting in groups instead of posting, because in commenting i bring the answer to a question. For example Facebook group post is : "Hi guys, how to find accommodation in London " My comment will be -> "go here, to the forum where you will find the wiki post that every users can improve, tweak (Trouver un Logement à Londres - Auberges de jeunesses, résidences étudiantes, colocations et agences immobilieres - Logement - Français à Londres)

  • 2 - To do the above you need to have the answer to everything in your forum so gather the questions people are often posting in FB groups and write topics or wikis about it. Then to help you comment faster, if you have à mac, install Alfred (https://www.alfredapp.com/) for better productivity and find quickly your forum topics

  • 3 - do partnership with companies - in our case, we have agencies that post job offers, accommodations, au pairs, events etc… this is fresh content and free visibility for the companies.

  • 4 - Create facebook groups yourself, it does give us a bit of visibility our stats of the last 6 months :

  • 5 - create a directory - on FB groups people always look for a dentist, a lawyer, summer camps, here is our answer for this -> Français à Londres

With a bit of patience and consistency we have our audience stats that looks like this : Audience du site francais à Londres - Site Feedback - Français à Londres

Good luck to you all guys.

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This is what I recently did after reading this thread.

I set up some Zapier functionality for cross-posting between Facebook and Discourse.

I think this will help, but I’m not sure if search engines will consider this “duplicate content” and penalize me.

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Opening Facebook accounts and linking content is giving in, no?

Sorry, my reaction is probably less logical and more emotional. We have to cut ourselves off from those platforms or we will always be slaves to them?!

However I have the luxury of making a living writing software not running a marketing department … so who am I to judge?

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I agree, and this was a hard decision for me. My biggest competition is a FB group, second biggest is a subreddit, while all the others are small forums with outdated forum platforms and little to no activity.

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Mine is a sports forum, so a lot of content is driven by what is in the press. New transfer rumour, player failed drug test, someone injured. It is very common for normal users to post links to Twitter or articles. What I am trying to say in my round about way of saying things is my solution works well for me but may not universally good for all forums.

On mine I tried to strike balance. I use the bots in just 3 threads.

Dedicated Twitter thread
Dedicated news thread
In game commentary for my team.

The first two are basically used as a feed. It’s keeps users up-to-date with what’s happening. I limit it to about 5-10 posts a day. People are going there don’t tend to user Twitter, and links get reposted in other discussions.

The third use is match updates. It compliments the user comments with more factual events occuring.

Doing it this way it becomes additive rather than a negative

I would love to tell you the beneficial impact it has had but it’s difficult to untangle from other aspects. I have been continually adding features. From navigation buttons you see in picture above, whose online plugin, improved skins etc.

What I can say is that after 10 years of a slow decline on xenforo we are seeing a huge spike in posters returning (a couple of days ago we had over 600 posts in 1 hr by 300 active users…when total membership is just 400 users) . Next week will be my third server upgrade in a matter of months.

This is a forum that has not been open to the public but enticing old members back. Our daily engagement numbers range from 3-5 times higher than we were on xenforo.

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I really try to be pragmatic,

By instinct I would react like you, meaning that yes I want to leave Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

It could seem that I’m dependent to those social things, but I prefer to think that I take advantage of them.
1- I never do paid campaign with them
2- I never really give them content, only links that points to the forum

The one I’m really afraid of is google, 70% of the traffic come from the google search. By the way, well done Guys for the nice work on the natural ranking.

But can we trust google? Will this last ?

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