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Why Online Forums Don’t Work to Build Accountability and Community

Have you ever been a part of an online forum where you didn’t feel connected to anyone else? You are excited to join and can’t wait to post your latest success or challenge, but when you do… no one responds.

Or, maybe you have been a member of an empty forum. You know the type- those online forums that are filled with categories and/or questions, but are missing posts and responses from actual users. Perhaps there are a few participants, but the posts are few and far between.

It’s like someone threw a party, and no one showed up!

Many coaches, trainers, and mastermind leaders use online forums as a method of building community and providing accountability. Facebook forums are an example of one of the most popular online forums being used today. These group forums don’t use categories or questions- just running lists of threads.

The idea is that the forum will help members bond with each other between classes, and those members will hold each other accountable in order to get things done. I have belonged to membership sites and business masterminds that depend on online forums, such as Moodle, Ning, WishList, php, or Facebook forums.

Guess what? Forums don’t work! At least, not well enough to provide adequate community and accountability.

Here are some of the reasons that online forums don’t work:

  • The site owners depend on their clients to create the content (the posts) for them. And if that doesn’t happen, the forum is an empty, depressing place not conducive to building community.
  • It is easy for people to “disappear,” and stop posting altogether on the forum.
  • Nobody notices when you’re gone.
  • If they do notice, there’s no easy mechanism for them to contact you.
  • Often, the most able, active, and successful people post on the forum the most frequently. (And of course, those who could benefit most from receiving feedback post less frequently.)
  • There isn’t encouragement to post, even when you’re struggling.
  • It’s easy to get lost in a large group, which makes it difficult to find your own small group within it.
  • You aren’t actually held accountable, because nobody notices if you didn’t do what you said you would.
  • When you do post your success or problem, oftentimes, no one responds.

Another huge issue is that the leaders don’t notice or do anything about any of this happening. This is in part due to the fact that it is difficult to scroll down the forum and find out who responded to whom, who is participating, etc.

Now that I’ve shared my experiences with online forums, I’m curious to hear about yours (as part of a class series, ongoing training, group coaching program, or mastermind)!  Have you been part of a Facebook group forum? Have you run such forums? What has worked well and what hasn’t?  Have the online forums helped with accountability for getting things done?  Have they created a community that stays active?

Please share your experience in the comments below!

1 thought on “Why Online Forums Don’t Work to Build Accountability and Community

  1. Kelsey Leyanne said:

    I run 2 different Facebook groups for mental health and for weight loss. I definitely learned as the person running them you need to be actively involved. I schedule daily post and do my best to tag people if they don’t follow up on post that are for accountability. I can’t imagine managing that though if you get more than like 15 people.

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