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Features used by 80% of social sites

You might have seen our plans for Drupal Gardens which will be a way to build a Drupal site very quickly. While you'll be able to build any kind of site you need on Drupal Gardens, we're spending a lot of time to make sure that we make it easy for people to build very social sites to promote campaigns, events, products, and businesses. And by social, we mean a site that encourages people to participate and that leverages other social networks.

We'll include a set of social features that most all sites need when we launch:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • User profiles
  • Commenting
  • Ability for people to get notified when comments are made on a blog post or other content
  • Share this links to encourage visitors to tweet about posts on the site or to share with people in their social networks
  • Follow us links to encourage site visitors to follow the site on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and other networks
  • Mailing list sign-up to let visitors join an email list
  • Automatic or manual posts to Twitter, Facebook, or other networks when new content is published on the Gardens site

And we'll continue to add more social features over time, such as showing activity streams from Twitter and other services on your Drupal Gardens site.

What social features do you use? What works, what doesn't? Let us know. Thanks


Posted on by clineM12 (not verified).

Wow this is sweet. I am currently using wordpress for my site but i have been seriously considering migrating to drupal. I like the idea of the user forums as I am not a fan of Wordpress's options.

How far along is this, or is it still in the beta testing stage?

Ultimate Bet Rakeback

Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Hi Marvin,
We're in alpha now, moving into beta in January. Add your name to the Drupal Gardens list and we'll make sure to ping you when we're ready for beta testers.


Posted on by IceCreamYou (not verified).

Well, as the developer of the Facebook-style Statuses module, my bias is clear, but IMHO stream functionality is essential to any kind of social site today. Facebook-style Statuses (FBSS) can post tweets to Twitter as well, and will soon be able to import tweets. Integration with Gigya is planned too so that integration with Facebook and other social networks will be possible.

These days, people expect to have some kind of stream available to them on a social site that is easier than writing a "long" forum or blog post. I've written much more about it on my blog. FBSS has been very well-maintained (including the issue queue) and it follows all the Drupal code quality standards and such.

So I feel a little guilty about evangelizing my own module, but I do it because I feel strongly that this functionality is essential on any social site. At the least, I eat my own dogfood and use it on all of mine, and it is consistently the most successful aspect of those sites.

Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Hi Isaac,
Thanks for your feedback. I'd like to know more about how it's successful. Is the stream content viewed more than other content on the site? Any stats you have would be fantastic. And in the meantime, I'll take a look at the module.


Posted on by IceCreamYou (not verified).


I have implemented FBSS in several different ways on different sites. The most "social" site also has image galleries, blogs, and forums. It took some conditioning to teach users what the difference was, but now for each blog post there are approximately 2.08 forum threads and 3.15 statuses. The stream is viewed about twice as much as the blog listing and slightly more than the forum index. I've also found that on this site, beginners tend to use statuses more, because it seems more inviting to them as a way to kind of test the waters in the community and ease their way in. Advanced users update their status periodically as a way to communicate personal reactions and such, and use the forums and blogs for more serious content.

On another site, I'm using FBSS to completely replace forums. Compared to other communities I've run that use forums, the site with FBSS has people submitting statuses much more frequently with smaller bits of information. Users have reported that having a consistent interface to communicate directly with friends (via posts on others' profiles and @mentions) makes it easier to get involved than, say, Privatemsg + forums.

Another site is a Twitter clone, and FBSS is used with the Flag module for a follow/follow effect.

On another site, I use FBSS as a personal diary.

On another (corporate) site, I use FBSS as a centralized way to allow employees to post to the company Twitter account, while also making it easy to show lists of the latest statuses/tweets on the front page (and in the case of management, to have separate lists kind of like the new corporate features Twitter rolled out this week).

On a site I'm about to start developing, FBSS is being used as a simple way to poll users on their reactions to specific stimuli.

I hope that makes things a little more clear, although it probably just makes it sound more confusing. :-P

Posted on by NatalieP (not verified).

May I suggest to think about adding image galleries to the common feature set of social sites, too?

I am currently in the process of building a dating community - yet another, I know ;-) - and from market research I found auser-contributed media to be one of the core requirements, so I' aiming to enable users to build both their own private albums on their profile pages, and share images to public or group albums as well.

Posted on by Linea Rowe.

An image gallery feature is on our roadmap. Thanks Natalie

Posted on by Michelle (not verified).

Unfortunately, I don't have time to write up a complete answer to this, but here are a few suggestions based on what I use on ShellSN, my Drupal social networking playground and demo site for my modules.

  • Activity - Shows the what's happening on the site
  • Advanced Forum - Makes the forums look and act like a forum, not a blog. Also see http://drupal.org/node/227121 for a list of modules to flesh out the forum.
  • Advanced Profile Kit - For making the user profile pages look more like what you expect on social networking sites
  • Content Profile - Store the profile information as nodes to get all the goodies available to nodes with CCK
  • Facebook-style Statuses - Stream functionality, already covered in a comment by the maintainer
  • Ignore User - Not everyone will get along. This helps minimize the fighting.
  • PrivateMsg - Lets people talk to each other privately.
  • User Relationships - Because people want to be friends. :)

Beyond the typical social networking modules, there are tons of things you can do with CCK and views to really customize the site. I'll be interested in seeing what you do in this area. I've been working with Drupal social networking for a few years but I'm just a hobbyist and haven't been able to put what I've learned into a re-usable package, outside of my modules. Having an easy to set up social networking template will really help Drupal. So many people come to Drupal and want to do social networking and run screaming when they see how many modules they need to put together and how much customizing needs to be done.

One other thing that desperately needs to be addressed is privacy. Right now, we have a few modules that take a stab at parts of it but we really need unified solution with centralized privacy controls. The recent Facebook fiasco shows how seriously people take their privacy on social networking sites and what we have right now is a mess.

Well, I could go on... SN in Drupal is my life. LOL! But I'll wrap up this book and sit back and see what others have to say. I'm excited to see Acquia get involved in this. I think it could really be the shot in the arm Drupal SN needs.


Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Hi Michelle,
This is fantastic feedback - thanks for taking the time to write. We're planning to add a site template for a social network and I'd really like to hear your ideas about what should be included. The features you suggested are similar to our list, so we have similar ideas in mind. I'll follow up with you soon.


Posted on by ziobudda (not verified).

Hi, I'm building a social network site with Drupal (fitnesspeople.it) and I can say that your modules list is my modules list. With some modules mentioned by Michelle Cox.

I have added bettermessages module to display $message in a better/visible way. Added Organic group because in this storic moment all want to be part of a group.

I have choice FCKeditor in "basic visibility" for the user's blog post. And I have hacked the code to automatic resize the images that user upload via this WYSIWYG editor.

I don't use Content Profile but Profiles.

In this moment I'm working to the photo/video section because I have not found a working module for this. I hoped in "gallery2", but I have see that the current drupal 6.x version of this module (2.x) is not maintained (author is working to the 3.x version).

I have presented this work to the past Italian Drupal Camp.


PS: Sorry for my bad english.
Michel 'ZioBudda' Morelli - [email protected]
Mobile: +39 3939890025
Skype: zio_budda

Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Hi Michel,
Thanks for your comment. We've also added WYSIWYG editing and are using CKeditor, which is the next generation of FCKeditor. Like you, we're trying to make it easier for users to add and edit images in their posts. We want them to be able to click a button to find an image that they've added to their image library or to upload a new one. I'll create a video to show what we've done in a few weeks.

Your site looks great - nice theme and clean design.


Posted on by dbperry (not verified).

Looks like a good option for DIY Small Business Websites
I have been using WP blogs and another CMS to build simple websites for my small business customers. Their needs are often greater than the simple site builder programs can provide them, however, setting up a CMS site takes too much time. Once the site is set up, however, they have no problems maintaining them. The Garden product looks like a step in the right direction.

Hosting + Service = Success

Posted on by Heather James.

The social aspects are sometimes not that obvious.

- Depending on the privacy and nature of the social site, site developers need to be able to say which content is public or private. I know this is basic functionality of Drupal, so I assume it's in Gardens. Users should also have control over their own content and profile.

- In user testing we found people wanted a way to bookmark other users... not necessarily 'be-friend' but to track so it was easy to see if there were updates from someone. This is in a collaborative/social context. Words like 'friend' or 'follow' may not be appropriate in all situations, it would be nice if it was customisable.

- Bookmarking topics, categories. Not necessarily notifications, but being able to see 'at a glance' what new info was available when they log in.

- Another one is 'flagging', we can't forget that spam exists and it gets through. It's important to have someway to quickly flag questionable content that doesn't follow community guidelines. And then it needs to be easily manageable by someone with moderator privileges.

- And then of course you need community guidelines, and some way to encourage people read them before joining, and agree to comply. Every social site has their own hoops to go through. When you start inviting people to blog/post images, comment, etc, you need clear community guidelines.

I'm looking forward to Gardens!

- Heather

Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Thanks Heather, this is great feedback.
You're right that Gardens users will be able to say which content is public/private and be able to use roles to determine what content and features different roles can access.

Posted on by RobertLove (not verified).

How long before this is out? looks like it might fit plans for our site (below) and future related websites that we are working on.

I nternet Marketing Resource

As for features, there's a feature that onlywire.com have which is a one button push share feature that shares blog posts with 33 sites instantly, haven't seen it anywhere else.

Keep up the good work.


Posted on by Linea Rowe.

Hi Robert,
We'll be in beta at the end of the month. If you haven't already, sign up on Drupalgardens.com so you'll be on the list when we send out invitations.