Drupal Commons brings a wealth of functionality to social sites
Preparing to create a new kind of social site, called Seek or Shout, Jay Krall, Business Development Director at Cision, began a lengthy research process. Krall remembers, “Cision provides software and database services to the PR community, and we needed a new approach to engaging our clients through more effectively connecting journalists and PR professionals who have relevant interests.
“Over the course of a few months I evaluated many potential platforms for this project. Among them were several proprietary social development platforms. Despite their ongoing licensing costs, we didn’t find big advantages to their functionality when compared with Drupal Commons. We also got bids for building the site in .NET that were several times what we ended up budgeting. Once we discovered everything we could build through Drupal Commons, the choice was easy.”
“I would absolutely recommend working with Drupal Commons and Acquia to anyone who is pursuing a community site project.”
– Jay Krall, Business Development Director at Cision
Cision’s unique perspective on the current situation of journalists and PR professionals comes from delivering CisionPoint, their premier product which includes a database of over 1 million journalists and bloggers. Krall explains, “Over the past few years, we’ve tracked tens of thousands of journalists in the US alone who have moved from being employees of traditional news organizations to freelancers who produce both journalistic content and PR and marketing content.
“With Seek or Shout we don’t ask at the point of registration whether you are a journalist or a PR person, as similar sites do. You define your role in the moment of any particular message. So if you’re operating as a journalist, you click that Seek tab and ask for help with your article. Conversely, if you have something to promote, you click that Shout tab. The nature of each message is apparent to recipients in their news feeds. That is something Drupal handles seamlessly.”
Drupal Commons, developed by Acquia, is a special version of the Drupal web platform that provides a complete social business software solution for building communities. Even with the robust feature set of Drupal Commons, not every shop could accommodate Cision’s complex business requirements.
Krall recalls, “I talked to a couple of Drupal agencies that couldn’t implement one particular piece of the project. Isovera, the Acquia Enterprise partner that ended up building the site, told us they could make that happen. Isovera has done an excellent job on this project.”
Key to the success of the site is Drupal’s ability to integrate. Krall provides background, “Previously, most journalists had been content for us to contact them to update their information, but today, people want to access and edit information about themselves, to delete information they don’t want listed. Seek or Shout is an opportunity for us to provide journalists their profiles and allow them to actively participate in this exchange.”
The site is completely integrated with the CisionPoint database and can both send and receive data. “When anyone registers for Seek or Shout, we check their email address against the database. If we find a match, we pre-populate that person’s profile. From that point forward, their Seek or Shout profile belongs to them, and they can modify it as they see fit. Any changes they make will associate back into the CisionPoint database product.”
This facility for integration also allows the site to make use of excellent third party software. “As a project manager, I know third party services integrations don’t always go smoothly. With Drupal Commons and Isovera, the integrations went very well. For example, we use Gigya for social login and sharing utilities. With AlchemyAPI, we’ve enhanced Drupal’s native taxonomy functionality. The site also integrates with our own CisionWire service, as well as PitchEngine, to provide news releases and pitches. For analytics, we use Kissmetrics and Google Analytics in addition to the excellent site analytics included with Drupal Commons.”
The site smoothly provides all the functionality Krall and his team envisioned. Since the beta launch in January and full launch in April, site membership has ballooned to four figures. Seek or Shout has received many positive reviews, and news organizations represented among its members include the Guardian, CBS News, The Boston Globe, PC Today, and the Chicago Tribune.
The site is hosted on Acquia Cloud. “We knew we wanted hosting in the cloud, but we preferred having Acquia guide the way. Performance has been excellent with no problems.
“Working with Drupal Commons, Isovera and Acquia was an exceptionally positive experience for me. Most of my past project management experience has been with
.NET projects, trying to imagine the project from scratch, never quite thinking of everything. This is one of the best project management experiences I’ve ever had.”
- 70% less cost that estimates for custom or proprietary development
- 10 week development phase
- 8 week alpha testing, optimization and enhancement phase