Does the phrase "open source" scare you? You're not alone. Many marketers hear the phrase and cringe—with frightening thoughts of coding, programming, and complex or clunky technology immediately springing to mind.
I'd like to clear up that misconception and ease the minds of many marketers out there. Open source not only offers the collective creativity of a large, vibrant community but also promises a new level of customer engagement, brand equity, and a competitive edge for today's marketers.
However, determining how and where open source fits into your marketing mix may be more challenging. That's where social publishing comes in.
With the advent of social media, the marketing function within organizations has expanded to virtually every department. Sales, IT support, and even engineering folks will find themselves in a marketing "situation" over the next year via online conversations, which is why a business needs to think holistically about its marketing strategy.
The very tools that enable customer engagement on a brand's site should be closely integrated into internal analytics and marketing processes. Only true integration of Web content and social software—a la open-source social publishing—will allow businesses to be creatively nimble enough to navigate an increasingly competitive marketing landscape.
Whether you're a marketer with no open-source background or have been anxious to jump into the open-source game, here are a few reasons why social publishing can make all the difference.
Getting Social With Customers
Managing customer relationships in the social-media age may seem like a daunting task. Most companies today have several social elements that represent their brand: e.g., Facebook pages, a Twitter handle, a LinkedIn presence.
But how do marketers take customers' conversations and other content in those Twitter streams, blog discussions, and Facebook fan pages, and effectively turn them into fine-tuned channels to increase customer retention and spread brand awareness?
Engagement has to be site-wide and pervasive. Open-source social publishing bridges the gap between internal collaboration and external customer engagement. It provides a gateway for social-media tools that operate in very broad communities to be channeled into a brand's targeted community—its website—to encourage customer engagement and participation at every level.
Making SEO an MO
With an open-source social-publishing platform, marketers can create microsites on the fly for new-product launches or highly targeted campaigns. Microsites can create valuable inbound marketing opportunities to attract customers and drive sales.
Organizations with static or custom-built websites often don't have the luxury ofturning around content creation and distribution fast enough, putting them at the bottom of the search engine optimization (SEO) mix and ultimately at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Microsites, built quickly and easily refreshed with new content, are SEO magnets. They're good both for traffic and for your marketing reach. Consider them a new campaign platform.
Worried about a system or server failure because of unexpected volume? Microsites, when built on an open-source platform such as Drupal http://www.drupal.org/ Gardens, give you the best of both: the agility to build "viral" sites and the capacity to manage traffic the way a large enterprise site can.
Moreover, when it comes to support forums, customer-feedback pages, and sites that also factor into the marketing mix, being able to moderate discussions and quickly respond to and address comments and concerns is a must. Static, clunky proprietary-built sites often aren't nimble enough for you to do so at an appropriate level.
Look, Mom, No IT!
As a marketer, how many times do you find your creative campaign ideas at odds with what IT is able to support or secure?
Unfortunately, too often marketing campaigns are designed without IT requirements in mind, whether we want to do things that corporate technology policy cannot support or we fail to use IT tools that are already in place. The good news is that many of those hurdles are overcome with open-source social publishing.
I know, that might seem counterintuitive: open platform equals more IT security and assurance. But with a platform such as Drupal, the enterprise level of security and support that is available with it makes it a great IT option, not merely a marketing must-have. It's a platform that integrates seamlessly into the IT stack with minimal disruption to current content-management investments.
And for marketers, an open-source platform that is IT-friendly does not mean it's a marketing bottleneck. As easily as IT can integrate social-publishing platforms into the stack, marketers can still access those platforms directly for any of their campaigns.
Empowering the Social Business
As marketers, we all "get" one thing: User-generated content driven by the advent of social media has created tremendous opportunities for us to understand what our customers are thinking, to market directly to them, and so on.
But in the end, user-generated social content is fundamentally scattered. Open-source social publishing gives user-generated content a home and helps put it to work within an integrated digital-marketing plan.
With tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, we've seen how customers have the ability to shape brand perception and recognition in a matter of hours. For many traditional marketers, that has been a challenging exercise; relinquishing control over brand messaging to a sea of customers that are often difficult to identify or target can be gut-wrenching.
And so with the landscape changing, one thing marketers can and should be doing is making sure that when customers are talking about the brand, the brand is making the most of it. Open-source social publishing provides a great cornerstone for that strategy, ensuring that marketers capture the right audience and gain new insights for future brand loyalty and growth.
As a marketer myself, I realize the increasing call to develop campaigns that integrate more content both from within and outside our organization's walls. Hopefully, some of these tips and considerations have inspired you to explore social publishing.
Whether you're taking a current campaign in a new direction or starting from square one, don't approach open source with hesitation or uncertainty. It's becoming one of a marketer's best options, and I encourage you to explore it.