If you want to build your own social networking community website, Drupal is a solid platform to do this type of launch with. Drupal is a content management system (CMS), and is similar to CMS platforms such as Joomla/Mambo, PHP-Nuke, Post-Nuke, Xoops, Plone, and to some extent WordPress (which has grown beyond it’s blogging-platform roots into one of the most popular CMS’s around, and is running this site).
After some research and experimentation, the choice to use Drupal for a medium-size website community was made based on favorable results in the following key areas:
- support/growth/stability – Drupal is a popular and well-supported product with a passionate community of active development, and also has been integrated into the KickApps social media platform.
- SEO (search engine optimization) – the software has had solid support for urls that search engines love
- themes – while currently perhaps not as extendable and tricked-out as Joomla, the Drupal themes that are available are numerous, and suit the purpose of social networking websites
- multiple ways to structure pages, allowing for monetization via text ads, banners, and widgets/gadgets
- reputation – Over 2000 websites, including community and international organizations, politicians, and some media sites, are relying on the CMS platform, and it has been recognized by an award or two.
- Modules aplenty – there are new modules each day being released (or updated), and this month a package of modules called Drigg was released to allow similar functionality to Digg.
- cost – free, and getting cheaper!
The steps that would be taken for developing a SNS would include:
- Setting up both a test domain and the real (production) domain, and installing drupal
- Configuring the website to have the functions desired, while also thinking about:
- Types of users (free/paid, regular/moderators/super-moderators) – the platform offers powerful access control to create roles and specify what each role will be able to do – and not do – within the features that are enabled.
- Features to launch with, and features to roll out later. This would be either due to features that would not work at launch, or features that work at launch but are strategically rolled out in phases to allow for more publicity and announcements.
- Looking at features coming up in upcoming releases of the software (as of this writing, Drupal version 6 is available in near-final form, and includes in the core package some features that currently are add-on modules).
- Finding or designing a theme that allows the vision for the site to be implemented.
- Having some test members sign up (on either the test or real site) and work out the issues, and finalize the terms and conditions for members.
- Set a launch date in the future, and work out a plan to get momentum for that date.Â An alternate strategy is to simply soft-launch when everything is working.
- Pre- or post-launch, set up profiles on the major social networking and bookmarking websites, with information and links to your site.Â Also set up an external blog (either your own domain or using a free site such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com), and publish informative articles and blog posts.
- Market your website using traditional PR methods, and new social media methods.Â Find out where the people are who would be looking for the community you are building, and engage in conversations with them.
- Determine how you will stay up to date with the latest modules and Drupal core updates.Â Having a test domain may come in handy to try out new features and upgrades.
- Continue to listen to the community on your website, including via polls and surveys, as to what they like and don’t like.Â Be prepared to adjust your website as the community grows and becomes better-defined.
Here are some key links to continue your info-gathering on Drupal:
- The Drupal page on Social Networking Sites
- Some other ideas for Drupal modules to include for your SNS
- Netsquared article – Drupal for Nonprofits, or, How to Build Social Networks for Change, which includes a section titled “When to Use Drupal â€” and When Not to Use it”.
- The folks at Lullabot have information and also a podcast that heavily features Drupal tips and techniques (current Drupal-based site operators might want to listen to #46 “New Features in Drupal 6“)
- An article – “How to Set-Up An Interactive Social Network Site That Draws Hundreds Of Daily Unique Visitors“
Post your comments with any additional information on Drupal, or on building SNS’s and growing them.
- January 14th