Why Six Apart’s Community Platform will matter to brands

I’m scheduled to meet with the Six Apart team in the near future, I wasn’t able to make it this week as I’m in Barcelona, I did take a look at their recent announcement, here’s my take:

Six Apart has announced they are launching a community platform for brands to use. A company already focused on openness, social graph, opensocial, and OpenID, I’ll expect that brands will have full access to their data, and users will also have control over their information.

Although the press release doesn’t say, I suspect it will be a platform that a customer can rebrand to ‘fit’ on a corporate website. I also want to know if there are ‘widgetized’ components that can embed on a static/irrelevant website. It’s my prediction that websites (corporate ones at that) will become social, with community components being a big part of the experience. Here’s primers on Social Graph and Open Social if you need to get up to speed.

Despite this being a very, very crowded market (see my master list of over 80 companies) Six Apart has three things going for them: 1) Brand recognition: companies that have already deployed a social media program have already looked or used their blogging tools. 2) Experience. With Vox, a form of a more secure social network site previously launched, the hopes are the company has worked out any bugs to extend this tool to brands. 3) Movable Type: Reading between the lines, I suspect this is an ‘upsell’ opportunity for existing MT users, which is a good move for them as they already have a strong footprint with existing customers.

Rafe at webware, who has positioned this story as a solution for forums (I see it as much more than that), suggests that the $10k price tag is steep (not sure if a one time or monthly fee, but I suspect a one time fee as this appears to be a licensed sale). As an analyst, clients are sending me proposals from vendors and I see monthly price tags for these community-in-box solutions comparable or even more per month. Big brands don’t want to deal with infrastructure problems and are willing to pay up that price tag, also Marketers may not want to deal with a confused or slow IT department. Lastly, brands have more important things to worry about, like building a strategy.

I used to be an implementor, and in 2005, I launched a corporate blogging program at a brand you know, we started with Typepad, as it was easy, aimed for corporate, and I could avoid dealing with a long, over-calculated IT department. For these same reasons, white label social networking and community platforms will experience similar adoption patterns in corporations.

Oh, and thank you Jane for writing a press release void of hyperbole, it’s refreshing, and respectful of our time.