Weed 'N' Feed With Drupal's Organic Groups

March 26, 2009

Jazz great Charles Mingus once noted that "Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." The same thing could be said in business; as products and services get more complicated, moreover, making the complicated simple leapfrogs creativity in favor of genius.

Unfortunately, that's a difficult order for the average website. If your organization has a multitude of products or service offerings—each, perhaps, targeted at a difference market—an attempt to be all things  to all markets could easily get you a bloated site that is too lengthy or complex. Your customers want relevant information, and they want it on their terms.

Organic Groups in Drupal

The organic groups module can help solve this problem—with some impressive side effects, which we'll discuss further down. OG, as it's commonly known, allows both administrators and users to establish and manage multiple groups on Drupal-based websites, each with its own look, feel, and content. This allows an organization to effectively address disparate audiences and present numerous products or services simultaneously. Some of the other benefits include:

  • The ability to maintain multiple messages with one voice. This makes it easier to brand individual offerings online under one identity.
  • An abundance of RSS feeds. Your primary feed is still there, but users will be able to select specialized feeds that appeal to them.
  • Targeted content can appear in multiple groups, which can boost cross-market sales.
  • Groups can be public or private, and configuration preferences are numerous.

And those are just a few. As with many things in Drupal, the overwhelming number of possibilities can't be listed in one blog post. However, one more benefit warrants discussion.

Groups are organic, so you don't chemically fertilize them

That is, the users grow the site—and the message, and the strength of the brand, etc.—on their own. This reduces the amount of pure marketing effort you have to heap on the site content. What we're talking about here is building community around a common product or practice, allowing users to congregate and discuss your offerings—in the process, perhaps, doing a bit of your marketing for you.

You can use organic groups to connect users with similarly minded people, all under your umbrella, for a number of purposes. A couple of examples might include product support or project management. Get creative with the application, and your users will likely do the same.