Facebook has phased out the native discussion tab for pages, which means administrators need to add their own.
Here are some reasons you want to add a discussion forum to your page.
Search Engine Optimization
When you have a forum, all of the conversations are generating SEO for your site, including many long-tail keywords.
Even though the forum is embedded in Facebook, it is simultaneously existing on your main site, so comments and interactions made on your Facebook-embedded forum are still generating SEO juice for your site.
While likes, shares and comments help to increase awareness of your Facebook page, they do not provide your main site with any SEO.
Control and Ownership of Data
Having a forum means having complete control and ownership of the data, including user data.
You get deeper insights into each user and how they are interacting with you and you get a lot more options in terms of creating different member and moderator roles.
You also have many more options in terms of communicating and building relationships with your members.
Having a forum that is integrated with your Facebook page can be a great way to transition fans to members so as to learn more about them.
One of the challenges with relying heavily on a third-party channel such as Facebook or Google is that they can change all the rules from one day to the next and wipe out a lot of your effort.
Having a forum to backstop your online community-building efforts gives you a measure of reliability and control.
Forums are about conversations. People come to your forum ready to engage more and a forum gives the members a lot more opportunities to express themselves.
For example, members can start conversation threads, quote others, upload files, and they have a lot more options in terms of length and type of content they can post.
A forum has features specifically designed for managing customer communities, such as support analytics and e-mail integration.
You can also connect it up to your website or cloud-based software product through advanced single-sign-on for deeper integration.
A forum can be themed to match your brand or site exactly, creating a unified user experience. You completely control what, if any, advertising appears on your forum.
With forums you can create custom categories and roles and permissions, allowing you to create different groups of users and customizing what kinds of content different groups can access, giving you a lot more flexibility on content access levels and community member types.
You can for instance have different areas for developers, partners, and premium member levels.
Different forum community platform vendors accomplish this integration in slightly different ways, but in each case the forum exists as a tab on your page with the forum embedded within.
That forum is the same as the one existing on your site, with members and moderators able to interact regardless of whether they are accessing it from your site or from the Facebook page.
All of this complies with Facebook’s rules and will not get your page to face any negative repercussions.
Depending on the size of your existing community across different channels, it can take from several minutes to several days to set-up the forum you want to get started with.
And if you have an existing forum that doesn’t work with Facebook in this way, you can migrate to one that does.
Guest writer Greg Marlin is vice president of sales and marketing at Vanilla Forums.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.