This document discusses how to expose the content of gated (also known as premium or private) communities, and makes no attempt to discuss the potentially larger topic of whether or not to have gated communities versus public communities.
Exposing a gated community’s content is really all about making the content searchable with a search engine such as Google or Bing. Of course, the problem doing this in a gated community is that the community’s content is behind authentication of one kind or another and thus never sees the light of day in the search engines. The problem then unravels with a fundamental truth that when we are looking for a solution, an answer or helpful information we go to, for example, Google to find it.
One way to accomplish this is with a permissions-based scheme. While this suggested solution is generic without bias for a community platform, there are platforms such as Jive that can accomplish this task. Consider the following model:
Whether you have public communities as an overall part of your offering or not, this model works equally as well for offerings with or without them. There is no rocket science to this model, and in fact you might be tempted to call it smoke and mirrors for which I have often characterized it. The model is simple and straight-forward. Inside your structure of gated communities, simply create a community you intend to make visible to the public. Typically, such communities can be viewed without needing to be registered but to participate (i.e. create a discussion/blog/document or make a comment or reply) you have to be registered.
It is usually true that registration means you have created an account and that anyone can do so without any further obligation such as payment. On the other hand, to be authenticated usually means you have paid for or secured a more private type of registration that enables you to have exclusive access. For example, paid support or membership. As you can see in the above model, Community Z lives in the gated community hierarchy. However its content is searchable by internet search engines so there is no restriction in its access. In such situations where both public and gated communities exist, as noted with the blue link in the model, it is advisable to show-case its existence with an access link from some public home page.
This was the easier part. To make this successful and without violating or infringing on enterprise information protection (IP), to make this work requires some internal rules that are enforced. Community Z should never, ever, have information that the general public should not see and per your corporate policies about IP. Every company is different, so I can’t and won’t try to make any suggestion in this regard. On the one side, Community Z’s content should have the keywords/phrases that will enable anyone finding it and yet on the other side the details that should not be seen should be a link that will require authentication to enter another gated community, a knowledge base or bank or some other source. Here is a simplified example:
This example demonstrates a few things:
- There are good keywords to be found on an internet search engine
- There is a useful and publicly available morsel of information (create one diamond)
- It hides via link requiring authentication the privileged information (create multiple diamonds).
Finally, consider rendering Community Z as a blog-only or document-only community which would encourage participation with comments/replies but not make things more complicated in your environment.