12 community platforms: a list in development


There are a lot of community platforms on the market today and we thought it would be useful to collate a complete list of them.

Please let us know if there are any tools missing from the list - think of this as a kind of “wiki” which we will add to over time. We hope it will eventually become a useful community platform tool resource.

  • Drupal - Drupal open source content management system can be used for everything from personal blogs to enterprise applications. You can also build websites and use their “Pagebuild” option which enables non technical users to build their website quickly and easily.
  • Get Satisfaction - a cost effective platform for SME business solutions.
  • Jive - In addition to being a community platform, Jive ‘Engage’ offers collaboration software and social media monitoring.
  • Joomla - Open source and one of the most widely used, with an extensive existing community. It enables you to build websites and powerful online applications.
  • Kickapps - Everything built on the KickApps platform is powered from the same database of users and content, making it easy to create integrated experiences across your site, mobile app, Twitter, Facebook and more. That means you can update every single KickApps-powered experience from one place, keeping everything consistent and up to date, no matter how or where the audience accesses your content
  • Liveworld – They specialise in Facebook Wall, Facebook Forums, Facebook interactive tabs. LiveWorld offers a series of applications and platforms designed to stimulate more conversation and engagement with customers. Comes in more than 60 country/language combinations.
  • Lithium - available in 19 languages and dialects. It plugs customers into one powerful network by creating opportunities for them to engage in a community on your own site and connect to other social customers through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Mzinga – Cloud based community platform enabling you to embed apps and create private/public communities.
  • Ning - claims to be the world’s largest platform for community site building, offering an easily customised structure that can include a real time chat feature. It can also be integrated with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to create a digital hub.
  • php-nuke - open source and despite being one of the older, more traditional platforms, it still has a rapidly increasing market-share.
  • Pligg - offers an unlimited number of authors and the ability to add modular plugins to the platform according to your needs and desired social networks.
  • Telligent - Evolution platform which allows for scalability and integration with existing software programmes.

Additions to the list since the post was made:

  • EPiServer Relate - allows you to segment visitors based on location, interests or other profile data, meaning you can personalise each user’s experience to show them relevant articles, content or adverts.
  • Social Engine - social network software that helps you build your own customized community websites.
  • BuddyPress - Open source, out-of-the-box software to help build your own social network.
  • IGLOO - SaaS-based enterprise social networking company. Managed solely in the cloud, IGLOO unites document managementweb content management, collaboration and social features in one integrated suite.

Case Study: Data.gov.uk


Yesterday I went to a Social Media Week event hosted by the Central Office of Information (COI) that focused on data.gov.uk.

Data.gov.uk is a programme that was initiated under Gordon Brown’s tenure of Labour leadership and now continues on in a slightly slimmed down version under the coalition government.

The basic idea is that different parts of government, at local and national level, share relevant data they produce with the public. It’s a great idea because it encourages departments to be open and honest, providing the British people with access to the data that they essentially “own”.

Learnings so far:

  • They’ve realised that it’s not an IT project, but a data project. It sounds obvious, but all the early problems were IT related; they soon realised they needed to focus on the data itself.
  • They established public data principles, helping them publish the data in ways people can use it, like using infographics and standard data formats which can be manipulated in Excel. (Click on the infographic above or here to see it enlarged).
  • They learned they need basic data standards across government organisations.
  • They learned that with programmes like this, it’s best to get something out, event if it’s a rough version of what it will eventually become, and then improve it as time goes by. This helps get people engaged in the project early on.

How is the project using social media?

  • They currently have several blogs, with sharing functionality and comments etc.
  • There is a wiki for data.gov.uk where people can contribute and learn about the programme.
  • There is an active community engaged around the programme, many of whom are developers and data analysts .
  • They have realised there are distinct audiences they need to communicate with through social media and that there are different best practices for each. For example, they know that all the developers are on twitter and communicate in forums.

For those interested in social, especially it’s applications around government, probably the most exciting news is that the Data.gov.uk programme has been something of a pioneer in government for trialling the ways social might impact government activity.

It’s become a good hub for testing ideas and working out best practise, and is leading the way in taking social into other parts of government.

DrupalCon 2010 and the future of Drupal


Last week a few members of the FreshNetworks development team went over to Copenhagen to find out about the latest developments in the Drupal world at DrupalCon 2010.

Drupal is the open source content management system that we use here at FreshNetworks to develop our online community sites.

Drupal has various advantages over other content management systems (as described in our post on why Drupal is a great social media platform (in layman’s terms)) and has grown rapidly in use over the last seven years or so.

Paul Oram and James Andres, both experienced “Drupalistas” and  members of our tech team,  attended the conference this year to speak  find out more about the latest Drupal developments.

In the video below Paul explains these developments and what we can expect from Drupal in the next release and what developments it is taking over the next few years.

FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in March


number five
Image by Hilarywho via Flickr

At FreshNetworks, we aim to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in March.

1. The seven harsh realities of social media for any brand

In our most popular post last month we looked at seven ‘harsh realities’ for any brand getting started in social media. There can sometimes be a tendancy to ‘do social media’ without any proper thought about why and what you want to achieve. Facebook is not always the answer and what works for one brand will not necessarily work for another brand. In this post we look at seven harsh realities of social media unless you get your planning and strategy right - from nobody to read your blog, to users will not generate content.

Working with any social media tool, just as with any marketing or communications tool needs proper thought. Here we look at the hash realities of using social media if you don’t put in this thought.

2. The Economist on Social Networking

At the end of January, the Economist published a special report on on social networking.Their special report on A World of Connections, provided an excellent overview of the current state of social media for those still trying to get to grips with it. You can download a free pdf of the report here. Or check out our summary of key highlights in this post.

3. Russia: the fourth largest social networking market in Europe

In a post from almost a year ago we look at data showing that Russia was the fourth largest market in Europe for social networks behind the UK, Germany and France.

4. How the Global Fortune 100 are using social media: some statistics

A useful survey from global PR firm Burson-Marsteller looks at the ways in which the Global Fortune 100 companies are using social media. The tools they are using and how they are developing a social media strategy. The survey highlights the ways in which these firms are using social media and is also insightful in terms of the tools and platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or a corporate blog) they are using. It is interesting to compare the use of the different tools – Twitter is the most popular and blogging the least. And to compare how behaviour differs by regions – particularly the differences between Asia-Pacific and the US and Europe.

5. Why Drupal is a great social media platform (in layman’s terms)

Five reasons why the content management system Drupal is a great social media platform. Easily explained in layman’s terms. From having the component modules that are suited to building an online community, through being great for SEO to good scalability. Drupal is a popular CMS and social media platform used by large brands and governments.

Why Drupal is a great social media platform (in layman’s terms)


shutterstock_41177428Drupal, Drupal, Drupal. Ever since I organised the “Drupal for Doughnuts” gathering during social media week back in January, all I seem to hear about is Drupal.

At our nfp and membership breakfast seminar a few weeks ago, Bertie Bosredon from Breast Cancer Care was talking about the benefits of Drupal as a content management system. And while some of the US government’s various administrative bodies have been using Drupal as their CMS system for some time now, the big news for Drupal in the UK was when Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt unveiled Data.gov.uk, a new government website allowing access to public sector data for mere mortals like myself. The Data.gov.uk website uses Drupal web technologies to encourage people to create and manipulate data in clear, imaginative ways - a great validation for Drupal’s adoption of the semantic web.

Here at FreshNetworks we have always believed in the power of Drupal, which is why we’ve chosen to use it as our social media software platform.

Now I’ve heard, time and again, from our Tech team about why Drupal is the best choice for developing online communities, but being a layman and not a Drupaler (I work in Marketing), I thought it might be beneficial to explain, in simple terms, my top 5 reasons for using Drupal as a social media platform:

1. Drupal supports the tools and modules needed to develop a successful online community

In order to engage your community and get them talking to each other you need to provide them with an online arena to interact. With a bit of techie know-how, Drupal can be used to build the various tools that are proven to encourage online conversation, including:

  • Blogs: a person or multiple people can publish posts and comment on posts on a regular basis.
  • Forums: an area for a structured group discussion about an idea, theme or topic.
  • Profiles: people can publish information about themselves to help engage users and make the experience more “real”.
  • Wikis: several people can jointly edit a document or group of documents to encourage collaboration and teamwork.

In fact, we’ve used Drupal to develop a variety of different tools and modules so that we can alter the function of the community depending on the needs of our clients.

2. Drupal is open source

Drupal is an open source platform. This is a fancy way of saying that the source code for the software is published and made available to the general public so that everyone can access it.

To me, the benefit of an open source platform is that it is supported by a large developer community. This means that if you use Drupal as a social media platform it’ll be improving all the time - vital in the fast-moving era of social media marketing. And as Drupal is quite a mature platform, it has been through several different version releases so it’s an extremely secure system.

3. Drupal is highly scalable when coupled with a good hosting platform

In a nutshell, Drupal has history of running big websites with lots of content. So you are free to add videos, articles, newsletters and downloads to your online community platform without fear of it crashing.  It also means you can keep on increasing the size of your community and its members.

4. Drupal has great SEO

You don’t have to do much to Drupal for it to be SEO friendly - it has good SEO straight out of the box. You can easily add in page titles, metatags and URLS to give your online community more SEO juice.  Drupal can also be integrated with google analytics so that you can track and monitor the success of your online community.

5. It’s easy to add, edit and change content in Drupal

Once your online community has been built you will want to add, edit and change content on the site. Speaking as someone who barely knows their cascading style sheets from their linen bed sheets, Drupal allows you to pretty much create and update content without any programming knowledge. This means that whoever manages your online community should have no problems changing, adding and altering things, making life easier and freeing up more time for other stuff like growing the community and managing online reputation.

Take a look for yourself at some notable brands running Drupal sites:

  • Warner Bros. Records
  • Sony BMG Myplay
  • FedEx Newsroom