Beyond Social Business Software: Making the Case for Open Source Social Publishing

One of the most hotly debated questions among marketers and company executives is "How does my organization become a truly social business?" With more pressure than ever to "engage" with customers, user-groups, influencers, etc. this question is bubbling to the top of most executives' and technologists list. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle for businesses is finding the right blend of content and community in order to get true context and added value. Until now, the answer (and solutions) to the "social business" question have offered limited options: use traditional proprietary software with legacy licensing models, or rely on unwieldy white label community management solutions that are often too disconnected to help businesses meet their engagement objectives. In this article I'll make a case for a third option: open source social publishing. Not only a cost alternative but an innovation alternative to these other models, open source is emerging as the viable answer to an organization's social business quandary.

Meeting the Social Business Imperative:

Whether you are a product company introducing a new consumer packaged goods offering, a media publisher introducing a new artist or author, or a government agency trying to improve citizen engagement, you must support this broad new range of dynamic online interactions: you must become a "social publisher." Furthermore, you must be able to respond to changes within your market quickly: your social publishing platform must not impose technical barriers to the introduction of new products, the launch of new micro sites, or the delivery of key information to your users, customers, constituents, or competitors.

After a period of experimentation with a multitude of technologies and approaches to social publishing, businesses are looking to one of three dominant approaches:

1. proprietary products, with perpetual license charges and maintenance fees or per-user pricing models;

2. "white label" community platforms, where an organization decides to outsource the development and ongoing management of their community to a third-party agency; or

3. Open source solutions.

Businesses approaching the social business question from either of the first two angles are going to find themselves falling short. On one hand, enterprises are driven to create authoritative "groomed" or "controlled" content- about their products, services, etc- in order to drive engagement. They are investing in content management systems to track, manage and monitor everything flowing through the repository. However, the downside is that these large (often clunky systems) are designed with a command and control, workflow mentality. They not designed to foster social interaction and cannot quickly evolve to meet new social business needs. In order to counter this, business turn to option #2- building third party communities such social networks, forums, etc- to serve as social, user-driven channels. However these communities are built around connections and networking rather than content, leaving visitors with more "friends," but very little value for their time spent on the community site. Additionally, these services are silos of interactivity, disconnected from a business' core content or website.

The good news is that there is another way: open source.

Becoming a Social Business Through Social Publishing

Option #3, open source social publishing, has emerged as a viable strategy for meeting social business requirements, both in terms of cost and innovation. Enterprise leaders who already have committed to open source know that the overall value in moving to the OS model goes way beyond initial savings. Access to innovation from the community, support and security assurances from companies such as Acquia, allow business users to enter into open source social publishing without hesitation or reservation.

How exactly does social publishing usher in the new "social business" required in today's market?

Drupal, is the convergence of web content management software (WCM) and social software tools in a unified system. As a result, Drupal transcends boundaries between internal Enterprise 2.0 applications and external Web 2.0 applications. Based upon the experiences of a huge Drupal ecosystem that contributes new modules for every desired function back to the community, the platform delivers on what being a social business means:

  • Accepting that everyone in your company is a marketer: from corporate communications to your engineering team, everyone has a role in how your business and brand are perceived.

  • Understanding that collaboration with customers is only as good as your ability to connect your community with your primary web activities, and then tune the social media feedback loop inward and make real business moves in response.

  • Realizing that the number one concern of everyone at the board room table is reputation management, and operating a responsive social business is the only way to address it.

By leveraging Drupal's capabilities as a social publishing platform, organizations are able to reinforce their branded experiences and deliver relevant content to their customers and stakeholders. By exploiting Drupal as an open source project, developers supporting these organizations can easily enhance and extend Drupal's capabilities, and introduce innovative modes of interactivity that meet specific business requirements.

At the end of the day Drupal is an attractive investment with substantial business benefits that get right to the heart of what enterprises really need:

  • ONE technology solution that seamlessly marries content management and Social Software, not siloed collaboration functions;

  • a single platform to power the web in a company; public facing websites, external facing communities, and internal facing collaboration - connecting content and community across these channels;

  • the ability to quickly and easily extend a brand by launching multiple sites in response to new opportunities;

  • an Open Source community of over 600,000 driving the speed of innovation and developing over 4,000 modules;

  • a social software solution that doesn't trip you up - whether you're marketing to customers, engaging with partners or organizing internal teams.

Open source social publishing allows enterprises to quickly build web and micro sites to connect with existing customers and reach new audiences. Those who have already taken the social publishing plunge have been rewarded with a platform that sparks engagement and collaboration among highly targeted audiences. This powerful combination of content and community in a seamless, unified experience, promotes transparency, drives innovation and brand equity among stakeholders.