Recently a client asked about the differences between Liferay and social community products. Great question! Here are some points based on our work with customers.

  • Social community products are narrowly focused and track social interactions well, but do not provide the breadth and depth that Liferay does from a web platform perspective. This results in situations where social community products might meet short-term needs but not be able to meet future, more diverse needs. Liferay provides significant capabilities out of the box across a broad spectrum of functionality, from the basics of dynamically creating role-based, access restricted sites through web content management, document management, personalization, social collaboration, application integration, security, and application development in an integrated fashion. Furthermore, Liferay provides extension points that allow you to leverage the platform according to your business needs (as opposed to being restricted by what the platform offers OOTB), without modification of core source code.
  • Social community products are often focused on the tools, not content and not necessarily custom application needs. These communities typically have Wiki and other page tabs oriented towards a particular tool.  It’s much better to focus on organizing interaction and content to meet the needs of the people using the system. Otherwise, it’s like always forcing users to open Word, then open a document, rather than opening file browser and double-clicking the interesting document. Liferay allows tools to be mixed and matched, driven by user needs.
  • Content is key to delivering an effective user experience, and organization of that content can be the critical difference between a web page with many external links and one that’s never visited. Liferay allows you to organize content into sites, web pages, and whatever way makes the most sense to get your message across.
  • Many social products have addressed content almost as an afterthought, with reduced functionality. Liferay provides automatic versioning, multiple languages, publication and expiration dates, association of related content, sharing across your sites, and other features to deal with the everyday needs of content development and management.
  • Mission-critical sites must manage risk effectively. Social products typically treat content as self-organizing and provide little or no management of that process. Liferay provides multiple levels of management, from being able to retrieve prior versions of content, creating consistent look and feel for your pages and related sites through templates, and built-in support for reviewable staging websites.
  • Social products often provide metrics on different aspects of a site, but these are not always an effective measurement of what’s important for your organization. Liferay provides easy integration with web analytic tools like WebTrends and Google analytics, so you can see if the A/B testing of your marketing campaign is bringing the results you expect.
  • Robust, repeatable process makes us all more effective. Liferay provides easy, customizable integration of workflow into everyday management processes. For instance, you may require web content to go through an approval process before publication.
  • Social products often take an all-or-nothing approach to site management: either everyone can manage content or just selected administrators. Liferay takes a laser-tuned approach based on the needs of the organization, so Jill may be able to modify page X of site A, but is unable to change anything in Site B. This allows self-service with control.
  • Do you want a single-use tool or a platform to deliver your long-term needs? SaaS social products only give you limited web link integration to your legacy applications. Liferay gives you a platform that you can control and extend to deliver legacy applications, as well as the ability to deliver social and collaborative applications across your enterprise.
  • The best systems model human interaction and provide a balance between open and closed communities. While social products may allow a community to be open or closed, you may need both. For instance, you may need to collaborate in private while formulating a new policy, and then announce the result to the entire open community. Liferay allows you to mix open and closed communities whatever way you want, and membership in those communities can be highly dynamic.
  • Can you deliver your content across devices, operating systems, and browsers? Some social systems address mobile users with a separate product. Liferay directly supports mobile devices and responsive design, allowing delivery across all common environments.

What’s your perspective? Leave your comments at the bottom of this post, or contact XTIVIA for more information.

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