This past weekend I gave a presentation on Social Networking at DrupalCamp South Carolina, which was hosted by the SouthEast LinuxFest. In the presentation I covered the components of a social network, why social networking is important, how social networking features will help your website succeed, and how to build a social network in Drupal. You can view and download my slides here.
It's difficult to comprehend just how popular social networks really are. Consider this: the average Facebook user posts 70 pieces of content per month. Can you imagine that on your website? Do you know anyone who blogs more than twice a day? Facebook and sites like it are used so much because there is a low entry barrier (status updates are short and unintimidating, easy to use, and provide instant feedback) and because they also encourage power users (there is a lot of opportunity to organically grow a huge following). Social provides a way for users to get and give attention – something everyone wants – and for business users to build connections. Social is now such an integral part of our lives that it is no longer the cool future (the Semantic Web is the cool future). Social is now something that users expect from websites. They are confused if it isn’t there.
1 in 4 Facebook and Twitter users follow or fan a product or brand to join a community. 2 of 3 Twitter followers and 1 of 2 Facebook fans are more likely to buy a product from a brand they follow. 80% of Twitter followers and 60% of Facebook fans are more likely to recommend a product they follow to friends. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of interest on your site? Plus, the people who are interested in social networking are your evangelists – the young, savvy power users who will spread the news about your brand better than you ever could. Why do they do it? Because social is fun.
There is also a misperception that integrating social features into a website represents a dramatic loss of control. That’s simply not true; you won’t lose control, because you’ve already lost control. 77% of social media search results are not controlled by the brand they are about. Moving the conversation to your website won’t give you complete control, but it will let you monitor what’s going on. It won’t reflect negatively on your brand, and you don’t have to respond to every negative comment. Just be willing to reach out to people who have a problem, and they will return the favor by blogging about your great service. That’s what social is all about.
The second part of the presentation introduced how to build a social network in Drupal. We built a Publisher like Facebook’s that could instantly post status updates, pictures, and links into users’ streams. We created a notification system and added a way for users to become friends. We added comments on activity, threaded conversations, “like” buttons for statuses, and “fun points” for creating content. You can walk through the 10 simple steps by watching the slideshow, or check out our end result by trying the demo site we built. I even turned it into a Feature module so you can very quickly and easily add the features we discussed to your site with no configuration.
The demo site was built around the Facebook-style Statuses module (which I wrote) and the Facebook-style Micropublisher module (which is a Google Summer of Code project based on my module which I am mentoring). I’m very excited about where this is going; it’s now possible to almost completely emulate Facebook in Drupal with zero coding.
Next week I’m going to begin a series of blog posts about how I got involved in social networking in Drupal, what the future of SN in Drupal looks like, and an assessment of some of the Drupal modules that are great to have in a social network. In the mean time, you can check out my blog for lots of past articles I’ve written about Social Networking, my Twitter account for updates on the progress I make with social networking, and my drupal.org profile to see some of the modules I maintain. Also take a look at the Social Networking Sites group on groups.drupal.org, and don’t forget to try out the demo site and download the slides!