In the past I’ve covered how to go about selecting what social platform to use when rolling out a social strategy for your brand or product.  However, if you are someone that is just dipping their toe in the water (or is on a limited marketing budget), one of the best ways to get going is to install and run a social networking software on your server.   I’ve handpicked two of the best free platforms that you should be able to leverage out of the box or customize to your heart’s content.

1.  WordPress with Buddypress


WordPress launched as a free blogging platform but quickly became the world’s most popular CMS.  In fact, over 60,000,000 sites currently run WordPress.  By itself, WordPress isn’t a social platform (other than commenting), but when you add the Buddypress plugin your site is transformed into a social community.  Here’s the breakdown of what it does great and where it’s lacking:

The good:

  • Full control of HTML output using WordPress’ awesome theming system.
  • Off the charts easy to create new plugins.
  • SEO-friendly tools that allow you to manage URLs and metadata.
  • Super easy to query and manipulate data.

The bad:

  • Set of hooks isn’t as robust as it should be.
  • Only a single blog per site (excluding WPAMU).  This is a HUGE miss for a blogging platform.
  • Disjointed member system from Buddypress.

 2.  Drupal


At its core, Drupal is a CMS but in the past two years the makers of Drupal have done an excellent job of adding more and more social elements to the base platform.  With over 500,000+ sites running Drupal, it’s the second most popular CMS running today.  Here’s a breakdown of the good and bad.

The good:

  • Robust set of permissions and user management.
  • Sweet backup and recovery tools.
  • Full set of content taxonomy tools.
  • Mind-blowing amount of Hooks that allow you to create almost any module you can conceive.

The bad:

  • Control of HTML is not user friendly.  What you see isn’t always what you get. While it is a full CMS, creating and maintaining taxonomies can be a little painful if you are not a seasoned pro.
  • Because the platform is so CMS-based, it requires you to manage a lengthy list of modules that can make performing
    updates difficult.

Now to answer the question that I am sure you are asking yourself.  “Which one do you recommend?”  My answer:  “That depends.”  If you’re looking to have a full CMS and don’t mind some administrative overhead then I would say  jump on the Drupal bandwagon.  If you’re looking to quickly customize a site and want to easily add and maintain content and widgets, then WordPress is your platform.  Either way, you’ll end up with a solid platform.  Best of all … You’ll own and maintain all of your data.

Brian Costea
Brian Costea