Just Released My Open Source Campaign Management Software

It’s been very quiet on my blog for a long time. The reason being that I’ve been tinkering with and then building a software product for the past 9 months.

As a marketing consultant for open-source vendors, I’ve been closely following trends in digital marketing and used various tools to get my job done:

  • Basecamp and then JIRA for agile marketing management
  • Hootsuite for social media publishing
  • Google Docs for strategy development and copy writing
  • Google Analytics for website traffic
  • Google Spreadsheets to collect statistical data for monitoring
  • HubSpot for marketing automation
  • Google Adwords for online advertisement
  • and more

There’s an amazing amount of manual work involved in digital marketing and as I found out through my consulting business, even at very large corporations.

Last year, I was searching for software that covered planning, execution and monitoring of digital marketing campaigns. There are proprietary products that come close, but they are

  • off-the-shelf offerings that are hard to integrate with third-party online channels,
  • or in the cloud and thus a walled garden.

Let alone open-source solutions for digital marketing: There was nothing out there. Search for “open source campaign management” on Google and you mostly get newsletter tools.

Yet, I was looking for software that would have allowed me to plan and schedule newsletters along with posting messages on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Plus that point to a landing page connected with that software, make a video public on YouTube and then monitor it all through Google Analytics and automatically capture the number of people who visited the landing page and watched the video two weeks after the campaign launched.

Scratching my own itch, I decided to build it on my own. Not having programmed for 10 years, it was a great experience to be hacking again. This has been brewing since April, and is starting to get ready. Today I launched the website and published a first alpha release along with comprehensive documentation.

Hop over to www.campaignchain.com and give it a try. Of course, I’d be happy to walk you through a live demo if you don’t want to mess with installing it on your own.

Branding and the Open Source Marketplace

I’m quite busy with transitioning from my life as a consultant to working for Magnolia. Hence, I was not yet able to let you know that opensource.com published yet another article from yours truly.

In the extremely overcrowded open source marketplace, marketing managers find it difficult to think of innovative ways to raise their brand’s visibility. With so many brands jostling for attention, the low signal-to-noise ratio might tempt marketers into adopting an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, attempting every idea from the marketing playbook in the hope that one will stick. However, this would be a mistake: careful niche marketing offers greater opportunities for brand advancements and market share. Let’s see how.

Read more over at opensource.com: Branding and the Open Source Marketplace

Recap: Open Source India 2012

This is a guest post by my esteemed team mate Vikram Vaswani:

A few days ago, I presented a session entitled “Community Matters: Why Open Source Marketing Can Help Improve Your Product” at Open Source India 2012 in Bangalore. In this guest post, I’d like to recap my experiences at the conference and provide some insight into the state of Open Source in India.

  • The conference ran for three days, each addressing different aspects of Open Source technologies and practices. Day 1 was all about mobile app development and cloud deployment, Day 2 was about Web development, kernel development and IT infrastructure management and Day 3, simply entitled “FOSS for Everyone”, was about FOSS technologies, practices and community adoption in India. Needless to say, my session was on Day 3.
  • According to the event organizers, there were more than 1500 registrants in all, and more than 50 speakers. The audience consisted mostly of developers, but there was also a fair sprinkling of IT and project managers. My session took place on Oct 14 in a 1300-seater auditorium. It began 20 minutes later than scheduled mostly because of spillover from a very interesting panel discussion on the role of Indian LUGs in promoting FOSS. Given that it was a Sunday morning, only about 35 seats were full. However, the audience was engaged, interested and receptive to the material in my presentation (slides).
  • My presentation was divided into three main segments: understanding the nature of open source communities; understanding the role of marketing and community development in creating network effects within these communities; and practical tips and techniques for open source vendors to apply in their community marketing programs. There was a lot of information I wanted to communicate and fortunately, I was able to get it all in within the allotted 45-minute window.
  • Given that the next item on the agenda was lunch, I wasn’t surprised that the majority of attendees didn’t wait for questions. However, a few of them did walk over to introduce themselves. We discussed some of the differences between community and corporate marketing and how they were perceived in India, and many of the attendees asked for copies of the slides, either for their own review or to discuss with colleagues.

One of my key takeaways from the various conversations I had after the session was that community development in India is yet to be perceived as a valuable service. Most vendors still prefer to adopt traditional “top down” marketing, rather than the “bottom-up” adoption that’s more common in open source communities. Nevertheless, most of the people I spoke to agreed that community development was gradually becoming more important in India, especially with the growth of home-grown open source vendors, and companies that had the courage and resources to invest in community development and marketing would likely have an advantage.

In summary, the event was well attended, with an informed and tech-savvy audience, and the quality of speakers was extremely high. Photos of the event can be found in its official Twitter feed, and I look forward to attending and speaking at it again next year!

Age of Peers at Open Source India 2012

Open Source India is a well-known annual open source conference in India. This year, it will be held in Bangalore between October 12-14 at the NIMHANS Convention Centre, and my Age of Peers colleague Vikram Vaswani will be presenting a session on October 14 entitled “Community Matters: Why Open Source Marketing Can Help Improve Your Product” which was presented by webmaster who runs The Real SizeGenetics.

In this session, Vikram will be offering a primer on the nature of open source communities, together with information on how open source marketing can help create positive feedback loops and increase community adoption of your product. It promises to be a fun session, so if you’re in Bangalore this weekend, why not drop by and check it out?

My Article on opensource.com: Why Marketing Is For Geeks

Red Hat’s opensource.com has published my article “Marketing open source is made for geeks”, which has a case study and some ideas for how you can take your open source product “across the chasm“. Every open source business ecosystem offers multiple revenue opportunities to exploit. However, to do this successfully, you must have a good understanding of business dynamics within the ecosystems. Armed with this knowledge, you can use open source marketing techniques to raise your credibility and generate sales for your product. Read more

The Right Language for Your Open Source Audience

No doubt, Open Source is essentially an international business. Open Source vendors who solely focus on one region that might not even be an English-speaking one, will struggle. They will be forced off the road by competitors with an international focus who benefit from economies and communities of scale.

Being an international company does not mean that English is supposed to be the only language throughout your business which offers great benefits such as the flexibility of penomet. It rather means that picking the right language is critical to reaching your target audience. Of course, your target audience and regions depend on your business goals.

International Mindset

First of all, Open Source vendors should always adopt an international mindset, no matter where they are located. One major business goal for them is to reach maximum product distribution and adoption on a global scale through community development efforts, marketing, PR, etc. It’s a prerequisite for effective Open Source sales. Someone in Brazil will very unlikely try out your software if all relevant information is available in French only. Even less likely will someone in Brazil buy 24/7 support in French (unless it is a French corporation with subsidiaries in Brazil). English is the lingua franca to reach a global audience.

Businesses starting in the U.S., can much easier communicate to an international audience because English is not an issue for most employees. Quite the opposite for companies headquartered for example in France, Spain or Germany. If an international focus is not in their genes, they will have to change corporate culture and communications accordingly to adopt an international mindset. One major drawback for them is: They might be very successful in their home territory – so why think global? On the other hand, U.S.-based Open Source vendors should never underestimate the importance of setting up a subsidiary speaking a region’s language, especially in marketing, sales and support.

The tricky issue is to draw a line between international and regional communications within all communication channels.

Core Software Development

Core software development should always communicate in English externally. The reason being that the benefits of Open Source as the best software development model can only be fully leveraged by attracting a global developer community. Not only does this increase the likelihood of third-party bug reports, patches and code contributions. It also allows a vendor to recruit the best people from the community. That’s how MySQL was able to steadily grow a team of excellent software developers who themselves live and breath Open Source. Most likely, your core team will already converse in English internally anyway, because today’s development teams are spread across the globe with units in Bangalore, Russia or other places where labor costs are relatively low (could also be Finnish companies outsourcing to Germany). English is not an issue for programmers, at least to read and understand it.

Community Development

The primary language of Community Development is English. You want to attract some enthusiastic community members from various regions who can easily read and write English. They will act as multipliers and spread the word into their home region by speaking the local language. Such early adopters will also contribute by enhancing international community assets (e.g. maintain the community Wiki, moderate forums, etc.).

Life is not that easy though. As I have written in a comment to a previous post:

You might have a strong community in Germany for example, but of course want bugs to be reported in English to be useful for your development staff and your international developers community. There might be people within your German community who feel uncomfortable writing in English. Here again, you need to invest time and e.g. ask them to first post the bug in a German-speaking forum so that you can translate it and turn it into an English bug report. Later, there might be community members who can help you with that.

Communication Channels

Roughly speaking, the following communication channels, collateral, etc. should focus on an international and/or regional audience:

  • developer mailing list: international
  • bug tracker: international
  • feature requests: international
  • documentation and tutorials: international
  • release notes: international
  • Twitter: international and optionally regional
  • Weblog: international and optionally regional
  • Forums: international and optionally regional
  • … you get the idea.

How to Hire Your (Quirky) First Community Manager

This blog post lists some important things you should think about when making your first community manager hire, why credibility is the most important trait of character and why being quirky might be a virtue.

Full Time Job

If you’re an Open Source vendor that is serious about using your community to drive product adoption, then you need to invest as much time and effort in community development as you would in any other business activity, such as marketing or PR. And one of the first things you should do, is hire a full-time community manager, who will engage with the community on your behalf with a view to fostering community growth. Yes, full-time, because only then your community development efforts will start to pay out.

Role and Responsibilities

A community manager serves as the vendor’s representative to the community (the “human face” of the product), and has the big-picture goal of creating strong, mutually beneficial relationships between the vendor, the community and related third-party communities. It’s an important and demanding role, and one which requires both tactical and diplomatic skills. The success of the company’s community development effort depends heavily on how well its community manager wields these skills, and how he or she is perceived by the community.

There are many roles of a community manager, the most important responsiblities are as follows:

Disseminating information: The community manager is responsible for writing blog posts, articles, and tutorials; answering questions in discussion forums and mailing lists; and providing news and updates through social media properties like Twitter, Facebook, and so on. In general, it is the community manager’s responsibility to ensure that there is an abundance of information available to the community on all relevant topics of interest. Of course, this responsibility includes that a community manager coaches and supports staff and active community members in doing the same.

Moderating community-vendor communication: The community manager is an intermediary between the company and the community. This means that he or she is responsible for bringing important community issues to the attention of company management and mediating between the company and the community to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Planning and attending community events: The community manager is responsible for planning community events, such as developer or user group meetings, workshops, BoF/unconference sessions and so on. The community manager is also responsible for attending high profile Open Source events to liaise with peers from other Open Source communities to either raise product adoption or to learn more about community development tactics of other vendors and projects.

Analyzing performance: The community manager is responsible for collecting statistics and success stories to allow top management to understand the effects of community development. The community manager is also responsible for collating community feedback (for example, product feature requests) into actionable items for the company.


First and foremost, a Community Manager needs to be a good (ideally great) communicator. He or she should be fluent in English as well as the native language of the region where the company is based or where its largest market is. This is because the community manager will be constantly interacting with end-users, developers, partners and other community participants and so, it is critical that he or she is able to identify the problem or need of the person being communicated with and respond appropriately. Language fluency is also important for creating content such as blog posts, newsletters, and articles.

A community manager also needs to be capable of dealing with different interest groups in a consistent and ethical manner. As a community grows, participants and needs will coalesce into groups, and managing the relationships and tensions between these groups is an important part of a community manager’s job. It’s important that a community manager demonstrate the enthusiasm and commitment to deal with important issues in a positive and respectful manner.

A community manager will be required to be present at (or even host) community development events, such as developer meetups, workshops, conferences and so on. Since this typically means interacting with strangers, a community manager should be comfortable in social situations involving large groups. The best community managers are approachable, outgoing and highly social, and are expert at making community participants feel included in, and valuable to, the community.

The community manager should also have some technical knowledge, both to understand and communicate the technical aspects of the product, and to ensure the availability of sufficient infrastructure for the community to collaborate on driving the product forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the manager needs to have previous experience as a software developer; it simply means that he or she should be comfortable with the typical tools of Web collaboration (wikis, mailing lists, forums…), and has a working understanding of the product’s technical platform and key features.

Finally, when it comes to community management, there’s no substitute for battle experience. An Open Source community is a sensitive animal and so, it’s always good to hire a community manager who can demonstrate relevant experience hosting and growing other Open Source communities. This ensures that he or she knows the tricks of the trade and has the ability to quietly (and diplomatically) head off confrontations and conflicts before they become serious problems or cause reputational damage to the firm.


The role of a community manager is an important one, and no single person can claim to know it all. Therefore, when making your first community manager hire, it’s important to select a candidate who meets most of the qualifications above, but is also willing to learn, evolve and grow into the role.

It’s also important to remember that no community manager will win the hearts and minds of the community on his or her first day at work. However, if he or she takes care to play a facilitative, ethical and neutral role, chances are that your community will quickly embrace its new manager.

What counts most is credibility. A good indicator for a good candidate is (no kidding) if top management finds him or her quirky. That’s because the candidate has a strong personality and tends to call things as they are. It can be quite hard to find a community manager who becomes highly credible and who also understands how to generate leads.

The combination of social skills and strategic thinking is rare in this field. Yet, once the community development strategy is well defined (e.g. by coordinating community development with marketing or through an external agency), nothing tops a community manager who nurtures community growth due to a genuine interest in helping each member, which will ultimately lead to increased profits.