From the May 2009 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE

Blogs vs. Forums: Differences Explained

What's the difference between a blog and a forum? They offer many similar benefits, but some important differences. The main distinction is who controls the conversation.

A blog is written by a single person or a small group of people. Each blog post focuses on a single specific topic, and can vary substantially in length. Posts are presented in reverse chronological order. In a well-done blog, the look and tone reflect the brand of the company it represents. Comments and questions are allowed on a blog, but are not necessary to its mission. For an example of a blog, click here.

A forum consists of a website with multiple topics open for discussion. Any forum member is welcome to post on any topic. Content is organized by conversation "thread." Forum posts are typically short questions, comments and suggestions, mostly exchanged among forum members. For an example of a forum, click here.

Think of a blog as a conference speech given by a single person, typically an authority on the subject in question, who provides information on a specific topic. The audience may or may not ask questions, but the speaker drives the content.

Think of a forum as a round table, where the topic of discussion is set by the conference manager, but the conversation flows as a back-and-forth discussion among round table participants. The moderator may guide the conversation, but serves primarily to prevent chaos.

Which one is right for you? Blogs and forums both boost search engine rankings, because search engines love fresh content on targeted topics.

Both can help answer customer questions, and so reduce customer service issues.

Blogs establish the writer as the voice of authority. By contrast, forums are an ideal way to learn what's on your customers' minds, good and bad, in real time so you can respond quickly.

Which is easier? Blogs need to be fed content on a regular basis - between two and seven days per week for optimal value. It's usually easy to hire a knowledgeable professional (think of Evergreen Marketing!) to write blog content.

Forums require the most nurturing during the first six months to a year. Without creating numerous categories and populating them with posts, it's like inviting someone to a party with no one else there. Again, much of this work can be subcontracted. A moderator will always need to keep an eye on the forum, police any inappropriate posts, and chime in with a few responses every now and then.

Don't think of blogs and forums as an either/or choice. They serve different purposes, so it's common to use both.

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