Monday, April 24, 2006

Blogs vs. Message Boards

After having just done a research project about another web-based communication phenomenon – the message board (music fan-based boards in particular) – for my Media Audiences class, I thought I’d look into comparing message boards to blogs used for business purposes.

Although they have a similar purpose of facilitating communication between companies and the public, the dynamics of each and the amount and type of communication they allow are very different. In an article by social design consultant Lee LeFever, he presents the dissimilarities of the two. He states that the major difference is that:

"Weblogs are individual or small group resources – the control of content and value is driven by a single person or small group. Message Boards are group resources – the control of content and value is shared equally across all users."

For this reason, message board discussions are generally more open and less monitored or moderated, because there is usually a bigger group involved in the discussion, thus producing a lot more information and activity than there is on a blog, which has only a few selected posters (who in the corporate blogging context, are likely to be employees of the company). Some of the other major differences include:
Authoring of New Topics: On blogs, topics are started by the authorized poster(s), which are usually an individual or a small group; on message boards, topics are started by anyone who registers or is allowed to post in the community, which is usually a larger number of people
Intent: Blogs are intended to provide personal accounts, news, or reflection for others to read and don’t solely rely on interaction for content; message boards are intended to provide group input, decision making, and collaboration, where there is more interaction
Responses: On blogs, comments are not required and not always present; on message boards, replies and interaction are necessary to build a discussion and execute the intent

I couldn’t find many examples of corporate message boards, but I did see that Adobe, Apple, and Dell all provide forums on their websites. For the most part, the posters are customers discussing products or asking questions about products, and employees are not really involved. These boards make for a great customer service tool, since anyone can post their question or concern and get an answer from people who have experience using the same product, assumingly in less time than if he or she were to call the company’s customer service number and deal with all the aggravation of being transferred and waiting on hold. I’m not sure if this type of forum would work as well for a non-technology company that probably deals with fewer questions than one with these types of products, but it would be a good place for fans of any type of product or brand to come together and discuss it. Do you think a message board could benefit any company, or are blogs the way to go?