Recently I had a client ask me the difference between a forum and a blog, so I got to thinking, others might be asking themselves the same question, and now here we are. While both blogs and forums share a lot in common technically and socially, there are some distinct differences between them. Online Forums Basically, online forums are created specifically to build online communities around some specific interest or concern. It provides people a place to interact with others who share similar interests. Today, these forums cover the gambit from religion to politics and typically are referred to as online forums, user groups, message boards, discussion groups, or web forums.
Originally, these communities of interest could be found on dial-up, bulletin board services, and internet newsgroups frequented by early adopters of computer technology. So believe it or not, online forums have been around since even before the World Wide Web came into existence!
Blogs Blogs on the other hand, are a publishing tool for individual bloggers or authors to offer their readers a single point of view (that of the blogger).
Blogging, by comparison, is relatively new to the Web. The rise of independent publishing in the late 90s drove the interest to create software that allowed bloggers to quickly and easily update particular pages on their websites, which is the heart of blogging updated content. In fact the word blog is a contraction of the term "web log"
Unlike forums, blogs were not created on the premise of a broader community, but rather to represent an individual or small group of individuals. However, like forums, community has occurred among blogs as an unexpected side effect of allowing its readers to comment on what's been published.
Although online forums and blogs are increasingly becoming more similar in terms of engaging their readers in conversation, their differences are distinct in character, each with an important role to enrich and extend community on the World Wide Web.
Differences Online forums allow many individuals to publish content, which means many viewpoints (often in conflict with each other) are represented. The user group sets the agenda and has a great deal of control. However, to ensure that the group stays on topic, ensure that good behavior is enforced, and to help with any technical problems, one or more moderators are typically on hand to supervise the forums. Online forums also often offer rich functionality, including greater security and authorization features, more formatting options and administrative controls. Because online forums are moderated, the leaders can require registration of members before posts are allowed, control how the site is accessed, limit user posts, and even prevent problem members from posting.
At the same time users have more options in an online forum, from having member profiles to private messaging between other members to reading comments in order of when they are posted, in threaded conversations. Ultimately, forums encourage community. When users register for a forum, they are not only able to find information on topics that interest them, but they can easily connect to other people who share the same interests. In this way, forums are just as much about connecting people as they are about providing useful information.
Blogs also provide content and encourage dialogue between users, but in a different way. Although blogs often include the ability for readers to comment on blog posts, the interaction is usually between just the author and reader. Blog readers don't generally set the conversation's agenda or subject. This differs greatly from online forums, where each member can be author or reader or both. In addition, blogs do not allow private interactions in the same way that forums do. The point of a blog is more about the posting of articles and other topical content. Whether the blog is informational or merely a place to share opinions on selected topics, users interact with this content (or at least with a focus on content). They do not necessarily interact with each other.
Blogs can also be published as RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds that provide automatic notification to subscribers when new posts are made. These feeds provide a mechanism for distributing or syndicating blog posts over the internet. RSS feeds enable the reader to receive new posts to an RSS reader or mobile device so they don't have to go to your website to enjoy new blog posts. They just open up their RSS reader, cell phone or PDA and anytime you post something new, they can read it right away!
Increasingly common these days is a melding of both technologies where some online forums now offer RSS feeds and most blogs support community and moderation. But, while the two media share some aspects in common, they are different tools with distinct primary objectives. Each has a contribution to make to a company or enterprise, and if you choose to use one or both, depends on what you wish to accomplish. Don't let your fears stop you from incorporating at least one of these communication tools to your online marketing strategy. The best way to learn is to do - so get out here and have some fun!