Pros And Cons Of Facebook Groups Vs. A Hosted Forum Service

We’ve had several clients switch to a Ninja Post private forum after starting with a Facebook Group.

No matter what subject matter, their stories are similar. They started using Facebook Groups because they’re easy to set up but limitations regarding control and data ownership surfaced over time. Eventually they were compelled to find a more robust solution for their tribe.

In this post, we examine the pros and cons of Facebook Groups for building your community.



  • Free
  • Simple set up
  • Many users already have Facebook
  • Email alerts
  • Privacy options: open, closed, or secret
  • Good for small, closely knit groups (e.g., family)
  • Easy to embed rich media such as photos and videos
  • Mobile support


  • Many people don’t have Facebook, no longer use Facebook, or don’t check Facebook routinely
  • Content “disappears” after user scrolls past it
  • Group content competes against other content in the user’s Facebook stream which is often more provocative
  • Limited control over functionality
  • Limited control over the data (e.g., data cannot be exported)
  • Does not integrate with your website or URL
  • Users are confused between a Facebook page (typically large and public) and a Facebook group (typically small and private)

In summary

Facebook Groups’ greatest strength is their cost (free!) and ease of set up. However, we’ve found that engagement tends to be lower, less serious, and short term on Facebook Groups compared to forum communities. Perhaps that’s because it’s easier to scroll through Facebook mindlessly rather than actively engage. Facebook does a great job with rich media and mobile support but a good forum platform offers similar functionality.

In our experience, the biggest drawback to Facebook Groups is that, without fail, prominent members of the tribe do not use Facebook. This might be hard to believe for Facebook power users but we’ve seen it happen many times! We’ve also talked to users who say they prefer to post sensitive information on their own site instead of inside of Facebook’s walled garden.

A Facebook Group is a simple, low friction option to create a new community. But “free” services often have hidden costs. We believe this is true with Facebook Groups because people tell us they feel “locked in.” For increased community engagement—where both site owners and users have a strong sense of control—a hosted forum seems to provide more flexibility over the long-term.

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Top 10 Things To Look For In A Forum Hosting Service

Whether you are considering hosting your forum with your traditional web host or if you’ve migrated to a service that provides forum hosting in the cloud, it’s critical to understand what to look for in a forum hosting service before you get started.

This checklist will help you determine if the provider you’re considering for your forum community is trustworthy and reliable.

1. Tech Support

What level of tech support does the service provide? Most forums run smoothly but every once in a while, the s*** hits the fan and an immediate resolution is required! Get a sense for the level of support available to you by speaking with the provider to determine their availability and ability to help you solve unexpected problems.

2. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

In this day and age, rich media support has never been a bigger part of the forum experience. When a user uploads a photo, that photo should automatically be ported to a content delivery network (CDN). This approach keeps pages loading fast which keeps users happy and compels participation. Ask your prospective service provider how they handle rich media like images and videos.

3. Automatic Software Updates

There is nothing more tedious than downloading, unzipping, and installing software updates manually. Many people don’t even bother… until there’s an emergency and by then it’s usually too late. We advise you to ask your service provider how software updates to your forum are deployed.

4. Uptime Guarantee and Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Find out how your forum host monitors and guarantees performance. If your potential forum host is unwilling to provide historical reports that demonstrate the company’s uptime history or enter into a specific guarantee regarding their service, this could be a red flag.

5. Statistics and Analytics

Understanding how users behave on your forum and what topics generate the most interest helps you create new content that appeals to your audience. Does your forum host provide sophisticated statistics and analytics that show trending content? Find out before you sign on the dotted line.

6. Performance and Scalability

Over time, forums grow like wildflowers. But wildflowers eventually wilt and wither and return to dust. On the other hand, forum content never dies. This means that forums become more complex when they grow: more users, more posts, more rich media, etc. You need a service provider capable of handling such complexity; one that will allow your community to flourish while protecting and preserving your content.

7. Automatic Backups

Right behind manually running your own software updates, backing up your forum data is one of the most critical-but-still-overlooked tasks. Make sure your forum host does this automatically. We advise backing up data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

8. Mobile and Tablet Support

Find out what the mobile and tablet experience is like on the platform you’re testing. Is the default site design responsive to different devices? Is there a mobile app for the forum? Answers to these questions will reveal if the company understands the importance of catering to mobile users.

9. Platform Lock-In And Data Ownership

There is nothing more insidious than data lock-in. Ask about the forum host’s policy with regards exporting data should you decide to migrate later on. If you wait until after launching your community to learn about this policy, it might be too late.

10. Advertising policies

If you’re considering a “free” forum hosting service beware that your forum might be covered in ads that you have no control over and generate no revenue from. You deserve the right to include ads at your own discretion. Think twice about working with a forum host that does not give you this control!

Whew! So there you have it: 10 steps to take to ensure you find the best host for your forum community. Some of these questions may be difficult to ask. But don’t be bashful. It’s better to ask the hard questions now so you don’t get burned later. Hopefully, Ninja Post’s answers to the above questions are already obvious. But if you ask us or elaborate, we certainly won’t be offended! We want to make sure we’re on the same page before we proceed.

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The 4 Most Common Help Requests When Managing A Forum

One of the great things about a hosted forum solution is that we are able to eliminate the grunt work associated with running a forum. This allows site owners to reap the benefits of a vibrant forum community without the hassle. That does not mean that we don’t get any help requests from users. We just resolve them before they reach the site owner’s desk.

The most common types of help requests we get from our forum communities are as follows:

  • Technical issues. “I’m having trouble uploading photos. Can you help?”
  • Account requests. “I’m can’t log into my account” or “Can you change my user name?”
  • Spam. Posts flagged as spam for removal.
  • User disagreements. “Someone called me an ‘ignoramus.’ Can you ban him?”

Technical issues and account requests can be quickly dealt with by Ninja Post staff because the platform is ours and we know it so well. Spam can be an issue on any board open to the public. While we have many defense mechanisms in place to stop spam, if a spammer does slip through, their ilk is easy to recognize. Finally user disagreements can usually be resolved with a simple reminder to be courteous and constructive. If that warning fails, then we bring out the ban hammer. Problem solved.

Bear in mind these requests are rare and represent a miniscule fraction of the total activity. They’re sporadic, but when these issues do come up, we work hard to resolve them instantly. Our clients tell us they love working with us because they never have to get their hands dirty. We love hearing feedback like that!

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Migrating To A Hosted Forum Solution: What You Need To Know

We have successfully migrated many different legacy platforms to Ninja Post. During this process we work closely with company personnel to ensure smooth transition. Our goal is to eliminate the pain, anguish, and uncertainty when it comes to changing platforms.

We talk to many site owners who are running a successful community on a platform that is less than ideal. They often say they feel trapped. The day-to-day rigors of running their main site and keeping their forum afloat are enough to make them think twice about making a change, even if there is a guaranteed return on investment.

In order to migrate your forum to a hosted forum solution like Ninja Post please take the following steps so we can help you:

  1. Export existing database. Be sure to include user names and email addresses, thread titles, posts, thread categories (if applicable), and groups (if applicable).
  2. Export images. This includes any images uploaded by users as well as users’ avatars.

When we receive this data we will resolve any platform differences (e.g., are the rules for user names different?), examine the character encoding on the data, and then import the data in relatively small chunks. We’ll start with users, then move onto thread titles, and then onto posts. Finally, we will set up a special page to help users create a new password and claim their old account.

After that, its a matter of Quality Assurance and slowly expanding the circle of trust until you’re ready to send an email blast to the entire community to let them know the good news.

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3 Fears About Hosted Forum Software (And Why They’re Bogus)

Most site owners we talk to want to outsource the “grunt work” associated with running a forum so they can focus on their main site. Despite the trend for companies to migrate to cloud-based technologies there are reasonable concerns. In this post, we allay the most common fears.

Fear #1 – Customizing My Forum Will Be Impossible

Why this fear is bogus with Ninja Post:

The inability to customize the layout and look & feel is a serious problem with many forum platforms. However, that is not true with Ninja Post. Customizing your forum with Ninja Post is a non-issue. We have been proponents of an elegant design that is in sync with your main site from Day 1.

Fear #2 – Data Security & Portability

Why this fear is bogus with Ninja Post:

When it comes to working with any service provider, data security and portability are top concerns. We fiercely protect and encrypt client data. In the event that you decide to change service providers we will help you export your data. Some service providers might not care about security or try to “lock in” customers but that is not true about Ninja Post.

Fear #3 – Server Uptime and Potential Data Loss

Why this fear is bogus with Ninja Post:

Once again, relying a 3rd party service for any web application bears some risk. We take the responsibility to serve your users extremely seriously. That is why we have redundancy built into our platform and continuously monitor our systems for any unusual activity. We also perform data backups on a daily and weekly basis. Finally, while some cloud service providers might shut down tomorrow (and leave their customers high and dry) we are in business for the long haul.


Before engaging with any service provider it makes sense to understand their policies regarding data retention, protecting user data, and service level agreement (SLA). We are committed to earning your trust as a business partner and we are happy to discuss any specific requirements you have. If your needs are extreme, we will guarantee our service under oath and in writing to ensure that your expectations are matched.

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Seven Reasons Why A Hosted Forum Solution Makes Sense For Your Company

Ninja Post is a hosted forum solution. We host your forum in the cloud and integrate it with your site and URL. The end user can’t tell the difference because the experience is seamless.

This approach represents a departure from traditional forum software in which a software package is installed and hosted locally. Installing, configuring, and designing a forum platform can be time consuming and frustrating.  But that’s only the first hurdle because hosting a heavily trafficked forum presents a unique set of challenges that can quickly bog down or even cripple a normal server.

Because we provide a hosted solution, we can extend the following benefits to our clients:

  1. Automatic configuration and automatic updates. It is a pain to set the initial configuration options and install weekly (or sometimes daily) software patches. Ninja Post is hosted in the cloud so it works without endless tinkering.  Updates (such as new features) are rolled out automatically.
  2. Elegant design. Forum software has a reputation for being ugly. We offer a WYSIWYG color picker and will customize the CSS on your forum to match your main site.
  3. High availability and reliability. A single server that hosts your main site and your forum could suffer from a single point of failure (SPOF): if your main site goes down (heaven forbid!), then the forum will go down with it. A Ninja Post forum can remain operational even if your main site is in maintenance mode for some reason. Bonus: We also provide automatic daily and weekly backups.
  4. Image hosting. Threads with lots of images must pull those images from a content delivery network (CDN) rather than directly from the server to remain alive. Ninja Post has a CDN built into its core.
  5. Automated email delivery and tracking. Sending a vast amount of email alerts requires a special relationship with ISPs, otherwise the messages will be flagged as spam. Ninja Post has solved this problem for you and we can even provide data regarding deliverability and total emails sent.
  6. Real-time updates. Most forum software is static: new posts only show up when the page is refreshed manually. Ninja Post solves what we call the “overlapping post” problem by updating threads instantaneously.
  7. Automated monthly reports. We help you understand what is being said and measuring the content. This will help you extract valuable information from the content, as opposed to simply having an area for your users to talk.

Hosting your forum yourself is a daunting challenge. For a heavily trafficked forum, it often makes sense to partner with a company that can help you surmount these challenges. By working together we can reap the benefits of a hosted forum solution which will provide more time to focus on the more important task of making your community as vibrant as possible.

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