Back to the Future: A reminder why journalists shouldn’t forget about forums

back-to-the-future-car-2012A report by pollsters YouGov last week gave some insights into the use of social media in the UK. The headline figure was that two in five people are getting bored of social media and want sites to do more – ie be useful.

Whether that’s a surprise or not, I’m not sure. Certainly many of the other stats, including the pecking order of popularity of sites – 1) Facebook, 2) Twitter), 3) Windows Live, 4) LikedIn, 5) Google +, 6) Spotify – won’t be a shock.

But the fact that now has as many active users in the UK as Twitter, did generate a lot of attention, and seemed to back up the point that people want their social media experience to be a useful one.

This feels like a Back to the Future moment. I would probably argue that it’s not a case of having as many active users as Twitter so much as Twitter catching up with MSE – it has been around for much longer.

And that’s something I think journalists need to remember more often. Twitter is at the forefront of thinking in newsrooms when it comes to monitoring what’s going on or finding stories and reaction. Facebook gets less of a look in than it should do – yet it’s where more the audience are on a regular basis.

But what about forums? That’s where journalists should be. Every journalist should know which forums they need to be aware of, and, crucially, the ones they should be interacting with.

Why do people use It’s because they can find information from people who are interested in the same things they are. If you’re a journalist covering that information area, why wouldn’t you want to be involved to? Not just as a lurker – although you could – but as an active participant?

Take  – a forum based in Accrington, Lancashire. The local newspaper, the Accrington Observer, was taking quite a kicking on there when it moved out of town, until the then news editor went on, introduced herself and became an active member of the community on there.

When I worked on a crowdsourcing project at the Liverpool Daily Post, we approached YoLiverpool, a forum which covers all sorts of stuff to do with Liverpool, and asked if we could work with them. They said yes – and a good relationship ensued.

Forums, generally, don’t have the same audience as a Facebook or a Twitter. Many of your friends won’t be on them. But then again, how many of your friends are in the same network as your contacts? And isn’t a small group of people who know a lot about a subject at least as  valuable as a wider network of people who may know something?

Boardtracker (when working) is a good place to start. Omgili is also good.

I also blogged on 10 tips for using forums last year

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