Push vs Pull in Online Communities
What is the difference between push social media vs pull social media? In simplest terms, push media or technology comes to you, while pull media makes you go and get it. Pull media includes online message forums and blogs, which require people to remember to check them, taking effort on the part of community members and thus having problems.
For one thing, with pull media, your members have to remember to log in to your online forum or check your blog. On busy days, they may forget. For another, no one knows when a question has been posted. So even if they are ready, able, and willing to answer, days or weeks may go by before they log in and see the question. The lack of answers and activity decreases desire, which leads to even longer intervals before people check in, which leads to your community losing members.
Members are the most important part of a community. No matter how many features an online platform has, it has little value on its own. The value is created by your members—the more members, the more value. When we compare push vs pull, pull technologies aren’t the best way to keep members.
It’s a challenge to reach a critical mass with an online community, even in a forum where people are participating on a consistent basis and questions are getting good answers in a reasonable amount of time. When comparing push social media vs pull social media, you need a push technology to get the maximum value from all of your members, not just those who remember to visit your online forum.
If your members are on Facebook all day long, that could be considered a push technology. Twitter could be considered a push technology if your community members check their feeds often enough and if their feeds aren’t crowding you out, but it doesn’t exactly foster conversation. (Read more about listservs vs Twitter.) Really, good old-fashioned Email is still the best push technology
Email in Push Social Media vs Pull Social Media
Email is old and unsexy, but everyone has it and everyone uses it constantly. (Having trouble keeping your inbox empty?) It’s on desktops at work and home, on tablets and smartphones, and people read and respond to their email all day long—typically the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
People are looking for email from friends and family so email seems personal, like a letter. Email also feels private, and that’s an important factor in encouraging people to share their questions in public.
Almost everyone understands email so training is rarely needed. Email is free, and everyone on the Internet has at least one email account.
Email’s always handy on mobile devices too. The recent rise of smartphones and tablets with their small screens is another good reason to use email. For one thing, it’s easy to read plain text email on your phone—you just scroll down. But reading an online forum on a small screen is a challenge. You have to pinch and zoom and scroll sideways. And while there are some apps that can read online forums a bit better than a web browser, they cost money, they only work on some devices, and your members must install these apps—and then they have to remember to actually use them, which is what you want to avoid!
Statistically, one of the primary tasks people use their smartphones for is reading emails. According to the Always Connected study from IDC and Facebook, email usage is still the most common activity on smartphones for American adults. The 2015 Experian Marketing Services report shows that 57% of all emails were opened on a mobile device.
Don’t Discount Email
So don’t discount email in the fight between push social media vs pull social media. Whether it’s for following up with customers or even creating an online community. As of this year, there are hundreds of thousands of active, successful email discussion groups. Many of these groups have been going continuously for years, if not decades. They must be doing something right!