One of the topics that I think is not sufficiently explored in IT is how technology influences the way we do business. Open source is well known as a development methodology and a distribution model. But its influence is also felt in the propagation of online communities and social media.
You could even argue the point that the community of users around many open source technologies like MySQL, JBoss, or Apache are more significant than the technology itself. After all, there are plenty of open source databases, app servers, and web servers to chose from. What made these particular products stand out in the marketplace? If you're using open source or trying to build an open source business, how do you tap into that community?
A while back, I was on a panel session with Brian Halligan from HubSpot discussing ways of applying social networking in the tech sector. Brian cowrote a book called "Inbound Marketing," which describes many of the techniques that you can use to help foster a community, whether it's around a product, technology, or social cause. It's a gem of a book, and at 250 pages, it's pretty easy reading. I've bought a couple of dozen copies for my staff and given a few to some small-business owners. One told me it was exactly what he needed to jump start his business.
The book covers a range of topics, such as why the traditional marketing approach is no longer efficient, to creating compelling content and how to foster a dialog with your users. Halligan and co-author Dharmesh Shah show how to improve search engine results and how to tap into Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites.
The book is not necessarily the final word in building online communities or creating the ultimate lead generation machine, but there's a lot of practical information to get you going in the right direction. Many of the techniques and ideas have been pioneered by open source companies like MySQL, JBoss, and Alfresco over the years, but now they're applicable on an even broader scale. It's great to see these and newer ideas all written up in one place. Bottom line: It's such a good book, I wish I'd written it.
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