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May 5
Blogs and Bulletin Boards: Differences, Similarities and Uses
While traveling this week, I had a number of interesting conversations with healthcare education and communications experts about blogs.  Many of them were very familiar with online bulletin boards or forums, but were less aware of blogs.  In addition, I spent a lot of time explaining the primary differences between bulletin boards and blogs and how Weblogs can enhance internal communications.  Inspired by these conversations, I decided to make a few observations about the key differences between both technologies and post them on this blog.  

Bulletin Boards Enable People To Receive Customized Responses To Questions, Foster Tight Communities

Online bulletin boards are one of the oldest forms of “social media” technologies.  They are especially useful because they:

-Enable People To Receive Customized Reponses To Questions:  Bulletin boards are great resources for people looking for answers to specific questions about healthcare-related issues.  For example, many people use bulletin boards to find out how others have fared on a particular medication and how to cope with side effects.  By participating in bulletin boards people get highly customized and personalized information about healthcare products and services.   

-Enable People To Feel Part Of A Larger Community:  Healthcare bulletin board participants often enable people to join a tightly knit community that is dedicated to providing information and helping to resolve problems and overcome obstacles.  While blogging communities are no less supportive, those on bulletin boards may feel closer because they engage in more substantive two-way conversations with others.  Bloggers – especially if they disable comments – are often communicating one way.  

Blogs Encourage Broad Participation, Provide A User Rich Experience, Direct Dialogue

There are a number of similarities between blogs and bulletin boards.  Both technologies enable people to post content of varying lengths and receive feedback.  However, there are a number of ways that blogs are different from online forums.   Specifically, blogs:

-Encourage A Broad Range Of Participation:  Many bulletin boards require people to register in order to leave comments.  This requirement may curb dialogue because some may be reluctant to provide personal details (e-mail addresses, etc.) in order to respond to a post.  In addition, this requirement may limit spontaneity – i.e., people may be less willing to leave an impromptu comment on an article.   Blogs, on the other hand permit people to comment anonymously and quickly.    

-Provide A Rich User Experience:  Bulletin boards tend to be dominated by text while some blogs utilize pictures, audio and video to deliver content.  Bloggers take advantage of the flexibility of the medium to express themselves using a combination of text, images and sound.

-Blogs Seem To Do A Better Job Of Directing Dialogue: While blogs and bulletin boards both enable people to encourage dialogue on different topics, blogs seem to do a better job of this.  The first reason may be because a broader range of people (whether they are registered or not) can participate.  The second is because blog content is better organized.  Readers can easily follow a blogger’s commentary on specific themes by clicking on links located on a Weblog’s home page.  

Blogs and Bulletin Boards:  Complimentary Technologies

In comparing and contrasting blogs and bulletin boards, my purpose is not to argue that one technology is better or worse than the other.  Instead, I hope to show that both vehicles are useful, but best suited for different purposes.  For example, bulletin boards are a great way to forge close, vibrant virtual communities of people who share common medical conditions or healthcare-related interests.  Blogs are an ideal means of educating readers, shaping dialouge and aggregating diverse commentary on a range of topics.  

It is important to understand the differences and similarities between blogs and bulletin boards to determine when and how to utilize them.  Hopefully, this brief overview will help those trying to understand, leverage and use both communications vehicles. 

(To learn more about how blogs may impact healthcare, click here.)

Looking for more information? Read about Blog Marketing, Blog Advertising and Blog Marketing Research.

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