Over the past few months, I’ve been working with a lot of companies on various kinds of community and content projects. Some are startups looking at community as the foundation of their marketing efforts, others are enterprise companies trying to galvanize a channel, or develop a customer community. It’s amazing to see the convergence around this concept as Social Media enters the mainstream marketing mindset. But it’s also incredibly confusing, because the convergence is also having a huge impact on the technology markets.
Almost every enterprise technology that touches marketing suddenly must have a social component, and hundreds of different startups are offering point solutions. This has made it tremendously difficult for marketers to get their arms around while trying to partner with IT in building a community project. Should you bolt something on to your Extranet? Should you leverage your investment in Sharepoint or Plumtree? Should you shave your costs and launch an open source effort with Drupal or Joomla? Or should you pick up a point solution from the exploding ranks of Web2.0 startups? Maybe KickApps or Intellimar? And when you really start to dig into this mire, should you start with a content management system like Clickability? Or should you start with a social networking application like Visible Path? Maybe you should try to piggy back on an existing platform and pay nothing, by setting up a group on Facebook.
Obviously there are a whole lot of questions that mitigate the path to a solution. Are you building a private community or a public forum? Are you focused more on providing support, or participating in open dialog? Are you trying to integrate with other information systems? Do you have an IT team that knows the space? But what I’m seeing out there in my discussions with companies is that most marketers are still in the “How do I make sense of all this?” phase. It’s a little overwhelming.
So I’ve started some discussion points on the Web to start tapping into the experience of marketers and engineers who have been working on these issues. Right now, I’m just asking questions. But over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sifting through the answers and my own research to start putting together some kind of guide to community and content software. If you’d like to weigh in with your own insights, experiences or questions, please don’t hesitate to join the discussion. You can plug in right here by commenting on this post, or you can get all interactive and stuff by plugging into this discussion atFacebook or LinkedIn.