In my work as an online community manager, I get asked quite often “Which online platform is the best?” and quickly following that question is “Which platform is on its way out?”
There is no easy answer. As the term communities of practice is becoming more popular with businesses and organizations, there is a plethora of options on how to engage these communities. Communities of practice can serve as an excellent way to drive knowledge on a particular topic and allow for quick mobilization of new ideas. People join them for a number of reasons as well, and the primary function of that online space will dictate the type of platform it uses.
When I talk about options to clients, I give the whole gamut. But when it comes to one particular platform choice – forums – I send people to this link: http://areforumsdead.com. The answer is right there. Let’s take the example of MySpace. I can’t count how many times that people have announced the death of MySpace. But guess what? In the last month, MySpace gained 1,000,000 new members! MySpace figured out a way to stay relevant by integrating itself into other popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, but by creating a niche – music.
Perhaps the real reason people wonder about dead or dying platforms is because there are more and more options to choose from and certain platforms begin to shine less and less. And this is actually a good thing. But what it means for the big shots on online platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc) is to figure out how they can become the “hub” for all these other new platforms. Facebook is actually doing this pretty well by integrating themselves on practically every online platform there is – you’ve noticed how you can now have the option of signing into new sites with your Facebook account, right? Well, there it is.
The activity – that is, gathering folks together and then telling them something – is not new. What is new is where and how we decide to do this. Change is good, but for platforms to stay relevant they need to embrace that change and create a niche.