Assembling Extraordinary External Community Sites
by Tom Erickson
I was recently asked to speak to a group of CTOs in Europe and the USA about social business tools. Designed as an information session, the organizers asked Acquia to present how an open source platform like Drupal could be used to build effective community sites as well as delivering other types of web applications, from e-commerce sites to marketing microsites. The other company asked to present focuses exclusively on a social business solution, requiring the use of other products for different applications.
The power of Drupal as a platform has been the primary driving force behind its substantial growth. But enterprises unfamiliar with Drupal often stumble to understand this power and the possibilities it presents. One of our goals at Acquia is to help clarify how easily Drupal can be deployed.
Symantec, Nike, Unilever, NASCAR, Intel, and nVidia are just a few of the thousands of enterprises who have deployed Drupal to build online communities. Acquia examined many of these community sites, established common “best practices” and created a product that provides substantial community capabilities out of the box, without losing the flexibility of Drupal as a platform. Enter Drupal Commons.
The sites that Acquia examined are varied in their use cases – from customer communities to supplier portals, consumer sites to developer communities. Here are some of them:
Customer Support Communities
In their words, “Symantec Connect is a community that enables you to find and share technical information and to connect with all of your product peers globally.” With more than 650,000 items submitted by more than 210,000 community members, Symantec Connect is not only vibrant and productive, it’s helping Symantec establish higher levels of customer satisfaction through community. Symantec adopted a “Find, Share, Earn” paradigm, allowing community members themselves to earn kudos (and other awards) by sharing solutions to issues encountered by other community members. Ninety-five percent (95%) of all content in the community is created by Symantec customers and partners, not employees. At the time of this writing, a new item is created each second.
The power and flexibility of the Drupal platform has allowed Symantec Connect to evolve from a simple social business application to the powerful platform it is today. Symantec promotes the following use cases for the site:
- Have a question? Post a forum discussion.
- Suggest a new product feature? Create an idea.
- Share a short product tip? Post a blog entry or video.
- Find other customers in your area? Join a group.
Symantec has done an excellent job of creating a rewards system for Symantec Connect, leveraging some key strengths of Drupal. The screenshot below highlights the contributions of a “trusted advisor”, demonstrating the benefits of extending Symantec’s customer success team to partners and other customers.
Establishing a new paradigm for consumer behavior tracking, Unilever France created the site Pour tout vous dire (For all you say). The site targets home makers with games, coupons, community forums and a vast array of information from tips on treating a cold to recipes for great meals. For an English translation of the site, click here.
By personalizing the coupons, they’re able to get a 360 degree view of their customer, from the collection of the coupon to their use of it in a retail store. This has increased Unilever’s customer understanding, optimizing marketing programs and increasing sales.
The screen shot below highlights a game on the left and a coupon on the right. This is from a section of the site highlighting the current games available, with opportunities for the homemaker to win prizes and free merchandise.
The site utilizes many of Drupal’s social features from connecting to social platforms like Facebook to voting on articles that offer tips and subscribing to email newsletters.
NASCAR is one of the best known brands in the United States. Yet, there is always more opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty and drive merchandise sales. Using a combination of voting, driver performance and store sales, the top 5 drivers are identified weekly. The popularity “gauge” draws return visits weekly by fans, who can comment on the results, creating a vibrant community for NASCAR followers and enhancing brand loyalty.
The NASCAR Driver Gauge site is a great example of gaming techniques mixed with popularity polls, a marketing technique that has proven extremely successful.
To improve the experience for developers working on their Atom-based devices, Intel created the “AppUp” program and built a community site to support them. The AppUp program builds value in their partner ecosystem by offering enablement and training in a scalable manner. Through the forums, members of the program can share experiences and ideas, supporting each other in ways that go well beyond device support offered by Intel.
Intel benefits from a more capable developer ecosystem, while eliminating communication friction between developers and the Intel R&D organization. Processes and products are improved, accelerating time to market and leveraging a wider availability of Atom-based solutions.
We're going to be announcing some more, highly visible, external community sites built on Drupal soon. For more information on Drupal Commons, click here.
Caveat: Acquia did not participate in the assembling of the sites listed above. Symantec and Intel drove their own design. A case study on Symantec Connect will soon be posted on drupal.org. Pout Tout Vous dire was designed and built by Publicis Modem in France. NASCAR Driver Gauge is the work of Turner Broadcasting, an Acquia client.