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From listservers to forums/communities

I’m seeing a growing trend among my clients, moving from listservers (the old-style Lyris-type lists that are completely email-driven, and impossible to search!) to online forums. These forums may be standalone or integrated with an AMS product, but in either case, they are different from the old-school listservers. There are three reasons for this change:

  1. Facebook – Let’s face it, the vast majority of our members are either on Facebook or at least familiar with it. As a result, the transition to an online forum/community is much easier, because many of the users have already been “trained” on how to use it. The comfort level is already there.
  2. Mobile apps – Many of these online forums provide mobile apps that allow users to access the forum via a smartphone.
  3. Improved functionality – More of these forums are providing tighter integration to email, meaning that once a thread is started, other users can respond via email (i.e., they don’t have to login to the site to respond). This makes participation even easier.

What has been your experience? Has your association moved away from listservers to online forums/communities?

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3 Comments on "From listservers to forums/communities"

Jay Karen - 1 September 2011 Reply

Yes - we moved from listserver style to online forums about 6 years ago, and I was thinking about moving back to listserver style about 3 years ago. Online forums require members to stop what they are doing and log into a forum to participate. I was concerned not enough members were doing that - it required an "active" form of participation. A listserver enabled "passive" participation - magically showing up in the email in-box, requiring little work to observe the discussion, and only requiring one to hit the Reply button to participate. Once we started sending a daily forum digest to all of our members this summer, participation in the online forum has tripled. Our technology doesn't allow someone to reply to the forum digest by email (yet), but the passive folks like reading the summaries of yesterday's discussion, and the active folks like logging in to participate. We use YourMembership.com, BTW.

    Wes Trochlil - 1 September 2011 Reply

    Jay, thanks for sharing your experience. My experience through my clients is similar. Pushing the discussions to email is still critical for broader participation. But smart move on your part to push the digests to everyone.

Kent Hughes - 6 September 2011 Reply

Our experience with 80 trial lawyer associations is that a Web-based or on-line forum is not a push technology and simply has much less participation because members have to login. The fact is that a list server message, while old school, works on every single device. We've tried hybridizing the list server with an online component -- and search clearly wins out as the online tool most utilized online. But we find professionals are twelve times more likely to utilize the list server, be engaged (in their face), and participate on a list server. 65% percent of professionals on average in all of our associations are connected to list servers and don't want it to change. Perhaps if you have a more techie audience, they might prefer a true forum, which is common in technical fields.

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