The launch of the Citizens Advice Bureau board in the MSE forum is a more radical change than it may appear. Our forum has more active UK users than Twitter (source: YouGov), yet when social networks are discussed, it’s overlooked.
After Facebook, the dominant UK social media platform are forums – MSE, Mumsnet, The Student Room, Digital Spy, AVForums, PistonHeads and more. They’re a focal point for millions to share facts, opinions and store a wealth of crowd-sourced information.
Why are forums ignored as social media?
The subject-specific focus means they tend to be ignored as the community platform that they are. Yet we too have our own share of births, dating, marriages, meet-ups, friendships, fights and more.
While a Facebook group of 1,000 or so can be reported in newspapers as a protest group, gatherings of 10,000s in forums are unnoticed.
Part of the problem is that with only a few exceptions, they’re seen as closed communities. While Twitter and Facebook enable charities, the media and businesses to set up their own content, there’s been little of this on forums.
So while the prime reason for the new pilot CAB board is to give it a cost-free platform to reach more people online, I’m delighted to be losing our ‘external content’ virginity with them too.
The new board is a toe dipped in the water to see if partnering with relevant, non-commercial organisations to provide them (for free) a big space of their own, with a ready-built audience, where they can answer questions (thanks so much to their reps) and help more people, can work.
Will the BBC ever support forums like it does Facebook?
I don’t know where we can take this in future. Perhaps it’s a step towards stopping the duopoly plugging of Facebook and Twitter (both advertising-funded, commercial sites). The BBC often asks its staff to have Facebook and Twitter pages, and individual programmes have them too.
But one day, perhaps there will be an official Top Gear board on PistonHeads? Or a BBC parenting board on Mumsnet? You never know.