CMS Expo: Social Drupal

Blake Hall presenting Drupal Social session at CMS Expo 2011

CMS Expo in Chicago last week gave me a great opportunity to learn about a variety of content management systems. I spent most of my time at the conference getting out of my comfort zone by visiting with those companies and open source projects that I knew the least about their products and services. Unfortunately, this strategy also prevented me from visiting with my personal favorite CMS, Drupal. By the end of the conference, I felt I needed to treat myself by attending one of the final sessions in the Drupal track, "Social Drupal".

What key activities should you integrate? In what scenarios might you be smarter to leave the heavy lifting to an outsourced solution?  What elements are critically important right now when building your social relevance in the market?  Find this out and more at this practical advice session on how you can be using Drupal to capture the Social Media audience which awaits.

My hope for the session was that it would give me good pointers for how to connect my Drupal sites better to the social web. Lullabot's Blake Hall led this information packed session. Blake began the session by pushing his vision that this session should not just be called "Social Drupal" but also "Community Plumbing (without the crack)". The proposed rewriting of the title for this session is a reminder to the audience that Drupal has always been social.

Blake started the session reminding that one needs to take a look at the bigger picture by taking a look as your site's Social Media Strategy. This strategy would include the following elements:

  • Authentic Story
  • Honest Dialogue
  • Engage your audience
  • Activate the social media

While the big picture is always nice consider it's the details that help determine whether your site is going to succeed. From this point forward Blake focused on specifics and I feverishly did my best to keep up. Some of the notable remarks from Blake that caught my attention:

  • First step is to take a look at your business goals and the resources you have available when building/supporting your site. Blake of course sees Drupal as being able to address both ends of this equation.
  • Some of the social modules for Drupal he recommends include Feeds, Flag, Twitter, Dashboard, Fivestar, Messaging, Radioactivity (gotta check this one out!), and Organic Groups.
  • Speaking of organic groups, take a look at groups.drupal.org: especially Social Networking Sites group to tap into Drupal community's expertise on social publishing.
  • Another module to take a look at is HeartBeat. Heartbeat gives you that "facebook" look and feel.
  • The Media module is the up and coming module to consolidate multimedia efforts in Drupal. Consider this a CCK/Views effort for media.

Moving on in the discussion, Blake also shows how one could take a look at Drupal as a Framework (Node System, Menu System, and PHP Template). This isn't necessarily a "best practices" but he wants to show the flexibility Drupal has to help developers make it happen.

  • One of the issues with using Drupal as a framework is perhaps it doesn't look as polished. However, there are powerful options here for why you want to use Drupal as a framework.
  • Blake is showing Brazen Careerist, a niche site, as an example of using Drupal as a framework.

Blake finally wraps his session by bringing up topics that would interest the business crowd attending this conference. Do you want to integrate or outsource?  One needs to take a look at Budget, Time and, Goals.

  • With Drupal, it's easy to build powerful administrator tools. You always want to make an effort to make the content team's life easier including more content and more engagement.
  • Reality Check...tons of modules out there and there are pitfalls. Be aware of the positives and negatives of each module that you use for your site.
  • The hardest issue site owners and developers face are finding modules, hosting complexity, caching needs, performance tuning, UI/UX considerations, and developer availability.
  • The Drupal community can be tapped in with podcast resources (Lulluabot), Planet Drupal, resource books, and local Drupal user groups.

[Revised May 12, 2011 from "draft" to final version. Photo also added.]