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HBR.org adds social tools to increase engagement

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HBR.org is the online home of Harvard Business Review, which is published by Harvard University's not-for-profit Harvard Business Publishing subsidiary. Kevin Newman, director of technology for Harvard Business Publishing, manages the production technology and software development teams. This year, he has added social tools to HBR.org. In addition to facilitating conversations and increasing user engagement, these features “help us get to know our users well enough to learn what will turn them into customers,” he said.

Digital Directions: What social tools have you added this year?

Kevin Newman: In January, we began using Lithium Technologies to power our HBR Answer Exchange, which provides a forum for managers to get feedback on pressing management challenges from some of the most recognized experts on the topic as well as peers who are in the trenches every day. Lithium has a platform that manages these kinds of interactions and exchanges, and they have an experienced team that understood what we were trying to accomplish. So far, Answer Exchange is working well.

In April, we launched Disqus as our commenting component on our content pages. By making content a conversation-starter, we get “drive-by” visitors quickly involved with other readers. We've been really pleased with how broad and deep the conversations have become.

Two weeks ago, we launched Gigya as our register/login component. Right now, Gigya primarily serves as a convenient, quick way to get users registered and logged in [by connecting them with their established identities on major social platforms including Facebook, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube]. We're hoping that the Gigya service makes registering as easy and seamless as possible while simultaneously encouraging a higher level of engagement. We will be deepening our integration with Gigya in the coming months, assuming users take to it.

DD: What is your Web content management system?

Newman: Our core CMS is Alfresco, [an open-source enterprise content management platform]. We have a mostly open-source shop with a heavy emphasis on integrations because we want to be able to plug in best-of-breed tools wherever they can make a difference.

DD: What would your advice be to other business media companies that want to roll out social tools?

Newman: Make sure the business is truly behind the broader social effort. Once the tools are launched and public, everyone has to be involved or the value for both the user and the business is lost. We've been fortunate in that our whole group is excited about how these technologies provide real and meaningful conversations with our users and vice versa.

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