Superstah! Six Apart - Customer Relationship Management

Six Apart is a company I’ve had a bit of a love affair with (my wife knows) over the past few years. I use TypePad,their on-demand blogging platform,to host and update my blog every morning (yeah,right,every morning—who am I lying to here?). I’m not the only one either.They serve over 20 million bloggers worldwide. Their client list is a Fortune 500 A-list with companies like GM,Dell,and Boeing among them. A case can be made that they are the powerhouse platform in the blogging world,with their only real competition coming from Word- Press. But WordPress isn’t the subject of this section because Movable Type proved better in my assessments. Plus Six Apart just has it all—coolness,200 employees,venture backing,and a helluva product.

Their appeal is wide and they are constantly innovating in ways that are unique and genuinely interesting. For example they have released a mobile blogging tool that is specifically for the iPhone that is,I have to say,while a little awkward,pretty nice—though typing on an iPhone keyboard is always difficult.

But beyond just an iPhone app,we are talking about enterpriseready technologies that are media for communications with customers,which must be part of your CRM strategy,and Six Apart hits a sweet spot with their offerings.

Movable Type has a vibrant community of developers and designers constantly working on the platform—some employees,some independent—but all in all numbering in the thousands. They have a vibrant wiki which is constantly being updated and refined so that whatever information you need from the nitty-gritty of installation to the granular nature of customization is openly and publicly available.

Mission 21st Century
Six Apart’s mission was never a secret. Their home page has this brief little blurb:“Ever since Ben and Mena Trott created Movable Type together so that Mena could blog and build a community. . . .” Building a social platform with blogging as the nucleus has been the aim from the beginning.

Anil Dash,their VP of Customer Evangelism,and a very articulate and active Web 2.0 advocate,always knew they’d do what they’re doing:

Our original business plan was that in a couple of years,we’d have an enterprise product. We had several reasons for our confidence level in that. One was that we understood that this wasn’t something that was going to be aimed at the past patterns of going to CIOs and CTOs. We knew that technology gets adopted because people want to use it and when it gets there,it can’t be stopped. >

The Product:Movable Type:Enterprise
How can a blogging platform have an edition that can provide the features and functions needed to build user communities and at the same time provide the security,administrative functionality,and scalability that a large company might need,you might ask? Though I suspect this is not the question that springs immediately to mind after that first Starbucks venti doubleshot espresso gets you going.

On the one hand,doesn’t Movable Type just create blogs,something like WordPress? Also,if it’s at an enterprise level,can it really scale to the level that I need for my thousands of potential readers and dozens of bloggers—and how does this translate into the capacity to build integrated communities?

Thankfully,Anil answered that for you:

Every blog is a social network. It’s a long tail with community features. For example,each tag is a community because you find those of like interest when you access the tag. People and relationships are managed with profiles and they can rate and recommend and forward content to others. Links to Wikipedia,Craig’s List,and Digg add to the social elements.

If you want to take it deeper,the compatibility with both the Open Social and Facebook APIs makes it extensible immediately. It’s not just a closed silo. It provides a context for where the minds of the customers are across the web.

We also understood that in the Internet world,enterprise scaling could be seen as (for our purposes) lots of visitors to a single blog on a good day.

That settles that. Almost. Here’s the snapshot of their technology offering.

Basic Features

  • Global blog templates Even with multiple sites you can maintain consistent use of brand elements. If a change in an element is made in one place,it can be propagated across all the sites using the template. There is full administrative control over the use of the templates and their elements
  • Global blog templates
    While this is a comment reply in Movable Type

    comment reply in Movable Type
    This is what’s going on behind the scenes

  • Multiple authors Each blog can have multiple authors individually

  • Roles and permissions Administrators can control all permissions of all readers and authors and vary them by blog or by assigned role,such as

  • Mobile Movable Type Both the BlackBerry and the iPhone can be used to post entries.

  • Rich media and asset manager The platform supports the use of rich media (video,audio,etc.) and also conduits to other services like YouTube or your own asset management. The native asset manager allows the reuse of assets across multiple properties.

  • Content aggregation/relationship links I’ll explain this with an example. You have a specific topic that you want to investigate,such as CRM in financial services. You can create a microsite that can pull all the content on that subject into the site ranging from blog entries to embedded PowerPoint presentations. You can then incorporate the related links to this content. All of this is done by using the tags that are associated with CRM and financial services. Clear enough?

Enterprise Features

  • LDAP user and group management It provides administrative control of user accounts with inherited group privileges which are automatically applied to new users. The user accounts are managed internally.

  • User account synchronization Administrators can edit user profiles within the LDAP director and then sync them within Movable Type.

  • Automatic blog provisioning Administrators can quickly provision new personal blogs for new users.

  • Professional social network There are thousands of Movable Typedevelopers, designers,and consultants available as a resource for the Movable Type community members,which includes customers.

Community Features

  • Community user profiles These are the equivalent of a Facebook profile. You can track the user profiles for changes to the profile,comments made by the owner of the profile,responses to the comments made by the owner,or owner recommendations of posts or comments.

  • Comment authentication The use of CAPTCHAs—those annoying and often unreadablecombinations of letters and numbers that help minimize the spam that generates automatic comments.

  • Recommend This A voting mechanism and the ability to sort the
    recommendations by criteria—in other words,sift the postings that were best liked and have them organized from most to least.

  • User-controlled privacy The user controls who can comment and respond. Comments are publicly listed on profile page.

Six Apart doesn’t think in terms of a “blog application” universe. It is a social publishing platform that integrates well with the other social media that it potentially has to live alongside or can be used to create blog-centered user communities,directly through its Community Edition,its newer Social Publishing edition,or its Vox platform,which certainly is worth looking into. Part of their value is in their platform and much of the rest is in the vision of the company,which makes sure that you won’t be left behind.

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