Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year to our 1.9 Million Ning Networks!

2010

2009 has been quite a year for us at Ning. We released new features that we were especially excited about such as Ning Apps and Virtual Gifts. This year also saw the launch of Ning Creators, a Ning Network exclusively for Network Creators that has grown to more than 4,000 members in under two months.

We end 2009 with just under 2 million Ning Networks created on the Ning Platform around hundreds of thousands of unique interests and passions. That’s a 3x increase in the number of Ning Networks created in a single year. It seems like it was only a few months ago that we celebrated our 1 millionth Ning Network! (though that was actually back in April). We also end 2009 with just over 40 million registered users. To put that number in perspective, if Ning was a country, we’d be about the same size as Argentina, which is particularly fitting given our affinity here at Ning for the country.

All in all, we are incredibly thankful for the amazing growth we’ve seen, stories we’ve heard and Network Creators we’ve met in 2009. We’re looking forward to making your Ning Network even faster and full of the features you are looking to add as we head in to 2010.

Happy New Year!

Magazine-style content, courtesy of feedly

thecorner

Note: As of April 2, the feedly Ning App is temporarily unavailable.

As Network Creator, you can create a Ning Network about a topic you find interesting. And chances are, you probably read a lot of stuff online to stay up-to-date — you read blogs, web magazines, online journals, things like that. You could go read every piece of content one website at a time, but there are different web applications that let you read online content in one handy place.

One tool that let’s you do this, is recent Ning Appathon winner feedly, which was originally created as a browser toolbar that grabs the content of blogs and other pages around the internet, and then displays it in a magazine-style format. Think of it as a feed reader like Google Reader, but with a really pretty presentation.

How is this useful for your Ning Networks? Simple — if you already read a bunch of content from around the web from sources you already trust, feedly allows you to publish these really pretty pages to your Ning Networks. Do you run a Ning Network on hip-hop culture and just happen to bookmark a lot of hip-hop sites on your browser? You can use feedly to take articles or blog posts from those web pages, wrap them up in a pretty package, and then show it off as a page on your Ning Network for your members to browse. It’s a little bit like having your own customized magazine that edits itself!

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Guest Post: Surf to the Yoga

Ed note: Today’s post come from Jan Biermann, the founder of yogapad.de, a German Ning Network focused on Yoga and wueins, an advertising agency in Münster, Germany. If you are interested in penning a guest post for the Ning Blog, let us know in the comments below!

Guest-post-for-the-Ning-BlogDo you know yama, niyama, asanas or pranayama? If not, then become acquainted with yogapad.de.

There are about six million yoga disciples in Germany. Very early, yogapad.de became a sleeper hit in the yoga scene. Our young community grew hourly and the amount of interesting material steadily increased, too.

Our Ning Network’s goals are forwarding the network culture between friends of yoga, declining the anonymity on the Internet and on offering a working platform, where like-minded people can exchange information for free.The free website yogapad.de is financed entirely by banner ads.

With help of an advertising agency connected to us, it was possible for us to develop the design and concept and to place our initial ads. Later on, we concentrated on search engine optimizing and in creating strategic partnerships with established yoga blogs and magazines.

Search Engine Optimization – visitors for your website for free
Because of the infinite number of webpages, the high ranking of a webpage in the search results of a search engine is critical for increasing visitors. At this point, search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.

We pay attention to specific criteria that search engines uses to detect and sort pages. This can be clearly shown with the content of the page. When a page’s content is created in a specific way, the search engines regard it preferentially. Using specific keywords in a fixed perceptual frequency can do this, for example. If one of these keywords is inserted in the search engine, the page that’s suitably optimized is regarded as compatible by the search engine, and the page is recommended for the user with an extra high ranking.

We started by investing in Google Adwords. Later on, when our page on Google was better ranked, we slowly reduced the Adwords budget. Today 55 percent of our guests visit us via search engines, which doesn’t cost us anything!

PR articles instead of expensive advertisements
Public relations (PR) includes all the things that help promote a positive image of your company or of the products and services offered by you. It’s your representation to an audience.

We engaged an author to create an article about yogapad.de and then sent our PR piece to established yoga magazines. Many magazines were very interested in reporting our news. It wasn’t long until we had the pleasure of finding our article and its URL in the greatest German yoga magazine.

Running the same article as an advertisement would have cost us  € 600 and would have been seen as an ad by the viewer. In contrast, an article comes out to the reader like a personal recommendation of the magazine.

And we continually refine the concept. We’ve had interviews with German yoga notables via chat as well as sweepstakes, campaigns and much more.

After a little more than one year, yogapad.de is counted among the most frequently visited German yoga sites on the Internet (sources: Google, Alexa). Sponsors like to participate in the concept and promote their shops, yoga retreats or DVDs by banner.

Of course, there are other yoga communities, which have a similar concept. However, because of the intensive connection to our members (every member is personally welcomed) and because of the presence of brands, yogapad.de is becoming a synonym for the yoga community in Germany.

Justin Bieber, The Fold and Only5 connect with fans

NoiseTrend

So long to the days of a stodgy fan club where fans send a check away in the mail and eagerly await news of an upcoming concert or ticket promotion. Today’s musicians know that their fans want immediate connections and news, so they turn to places like Friends or Enemies or NoiseTrend for 24-hour access.

While all members of NoiseTrend can contribute, the bands and musicians with a presence on the Ning Network get featured member status. Fans interested in connecting with teen heartthrob and Usher protege Justin Bieber and head to his personal page to learn how to snag tickets to an upcoming show. With almost 100 artists, there’s musicians across every genre for members to discover.

Making real connections through pickup soccer

Spoccer-1

Spoccer.com is the pickup soccer community, where members get together and make real connections through the world’s most popular sport. And with winter in full effect, indoor soccer is the game of the season. On the Richmond, VA group, members put together an indoor team to compete in their league.

Spoccer makes great use of groups to get locals together. Charleston, Boston, and College Station, Texas are some of the most popular groups, but members are always creating new ones and finding people in their area. With new years resolutions to “get in shape” just around the corner, there’s no time like the present to find your own pick-up soccer game.

Engaging freshmen before and after arrival at Humboldt

Last Monday, we talked about a trend we’re seeing on Ning; admissions offices creating Ning Networks for their admitted students to connect with each other before arriving on campus. Today we’re posting the final interview we’ve completed with a Network Creators of one of these Ning Networks. Up today, we chat with Charles Klein of Humboldt State University.

HSU Class of 2013

Charles Klein is the university web manager at Humboldt State University. He set up a Ning Network for Humboldt State University’s class of 2013 — it’s centennial class. With the school already extending its presence to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, setting up a Ning Network was the logical next step in extending their social media presence.

Here’s what Charles had to say about setting up a Ning Network.

How are students using the network to connect differently than past years?
In the past, the only means incoming students had to meet one another was during one of the mandatory orientation sessions over the summer. This was fine since students had time to connect, though the goal of these events is to orient them to the campus and register for their classes. The network has proven more beneficial on a number of levels. Students have more time to interact and get to know each other in a low pressure environment. The network was setup in February, which was before the application deadline and the housing deadline.

This year we had undecided students whose decision was based completely their experience with the network and the people they met. We also had a large number of students meet and decide to become roommates in the residence halls. A nice anecdote — one student contacted our counselors and told them that he was deciding between HSU and Sonoma State, and the network pushed him over to choose HSU. Then he met two other guys on the network who lived in the L.A. area near him, they met up IRL, decided to be roommates, contacted housing to assign them to a triple, etc. This anecdote proves the value of the network not only for enrolling new students, but these three students are far more likely to stay at HSU after their freshmen year — retention is a difficulty we have because of our remote location, and the more connections these students have when they arrive (or before), the better.

Have you seen any particular events or interactions that have really surprised you?
I think my greatest surprise was the civility of the network, and the respectfulness students show one another. We opted to keep the network as hands-off as possible, and let them start their own groups/forums/blogs, etc. The “on task” nature of the network has survived, students realize that it’s setup and run by the University and use it to talk about the Univ. We knew that a social network would be a success for this generation of students, but were surprised by just how popular it has been. The students discuss their personal feelings about moving and coming to a place that is, in many cases, several states away from their homes. I’m surprised by the collegial atmosphere, considering these are high school students venturing out on their own for the first time.

What feedback have you heard from students about the social network?
The anecdote in my first response is just one of many. We’ve also heard from parents who are relieved that their student will know not just one other person when they arrive here, but many. Incidentally, because of the feedback from the parents, we’re planning on starting a new network just for parents and families to use…

What features are your members using?
We allow free-reign over groups, forums, chat, blogs and their profiles. We chose not to allow photos and music. Our staff uses RSS feeds and Notes in the right hand column to show news, events, our Flickr feed, and upcoming deadlines.

Is the network open to parents, professors or current students? If so, how are they interacting?
This network is only open to the incoming freshman class, though they’ll have access to it for their time at Humboldt State. We think introducing profs or parents, or even current students who are in a different maturity space, would dilute their experience at this point.

What have you learned about the class of 2013 from running HSU Class of 2013?
Research shows that these students are technologically savvy, and they definitely fit that description. They easily figured their way through the interface to use the features, with no explanation from us. They also proved to be thoughtful about their decision to go to college, and concerned about academic quality, institutional reputation, financial aid, housing, etc — things that we assumed parents only wanted to know. They had great discussions with each other about these topics, and it was enlightening and refreshing.

What are you or the staff getting out of the experience?
I think the most important take away for our staff, especially the Admissions counsellors, has been the value of keeping their hands off the process. Our goal in creating the network was to increase our yield of admitted students who actually come to campus. This is a passive and highly successful way of accomplishing that task, without bombarding them with e-mails, brochures, post cards, etc. Most of the staff was open to letting it run itself, and after a few weeks the others came to appreciate the importance as well.

Do you think this is influencing your accepted students’ decisions to attend Humboldt?
Absolutely. Aside from the dozen or so anecdotes, we also have our admitted students complete a survey during their orientation. This year we’ve included the Ning network in our list of things that affected their decision to attend so that we can track and get statistical evidence to reinforce the anecdotal.

Santa moves from the North Pole to the Internet

Happy holidays from the Ning Team! While many people have today off, not all Ning Network members do. For instance: the members of MAPS (Michigan Association of Professional Santas), a Ning Network for Michigan-based Santas and their “counterparts” — elves, Mrs. Clause, etc. Members can take advantage of special offers for members (use of a reindeer, for examples).

Sometimes Santa needs a little help spreading the Christmas spirit. That’s where Operation Santa Claus comes in.

Operation Letters To Santa presents this venue for one simple purpose – to bring public awareness to the USPS volunteer program “Operation Santa Claus”. By working together we can celebrate Christmas in its purest form by bringing Christmas to a child who with only hope in their heart, writes a letter to “Dear Santa” each year with eager anticipation that Santa does exist, does care, and that they will indeed have a merry Christmas.

To help drive new members, Operation Letters To Santa recently held a contest; new subscribers to their enewsletter and members of their Ning Network were eligible to win an iPod Touch.

Waggleforce: Working together to get back to work

WaggleForce

A waggle is the dance that an individual honey bee does, as he works for the greater good of the whole colony. Within a group of people working together, if each one does their own “waggle”, then a waggle force has been created. The Waggleforce Ning Network helps members collaborate with each other to create career clubs and get communities back to work.

Members can join a club to network and support other job seekers. Or, they can take on additional responsibilities by becoming club leaders; club leaders receive training, materials and support from Good Morning America’s Tory Johnson and the rest of the WaggleForce team.

One way the Ning Network is helping members is with free resume reviews. Members can submit their resumes, and then receive constructive feedback on what to update or correct. And while it isn’t easy to put yourself out there and say you need help finding work, the members of Waggleforce career clubs are stepping up to ask for help, while offering to help others. Judging from the testimonials, it looks like it’s working.

A new way of reaching out for Immaculata University

On Monday, we talked about a trend we’re seeing on Ning; admissions offices creating Ning Networks for their admitted students to connect with each other before arriving on campus. Today we’re posting the second of three interviews we’ve completed with Network Creators of three these Ning Networks. Up today is Derek Luther of Immaculata University.

Immaculata University - Immaculata University

Derek Luther is the assistant director of admission of at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pa. We spoke with him to learn why he set up a Ning Network and how his students have benefited.

Why did you set up a social network for your incoming students?
We setup the network because we know that students live and breath by social media. They are more connected than ever before. We wanted to meet them on their terms, but were scared to use Facebook. We’ve seen the data that says that they don’t want to talk their Admissions Counselor on Facebook, but they like social networks.

How are students using the network to connect differently than past years?
This year, we’re launching a photo contest. Each accepted student has been given a doll replica of our mascot, Mac. Prizes will be awarded in several categories for pictures that students take with Mac. Best location… Furthest from campus… Closest to campus… etc. We hope it will be as popular as our scholarship contest in the past.

Have you seen any particular events or interactions that have really surprised you?
We had great success with a scholarship competition our first year.

What feedback have you heard from students about the social network?
No formal feedback yet… thinking about incorporating some feedback into a survey that the students complete upon arrival in the fall.

What features are your members using?
Students are posting pictures and videos. They are also using the forum and groups to meet each other. We usually post some prompts in the forum, but leave the group to let them chat about whatever they wish!

Is the network open to parents, professors or current students? If so, how are they interacting?
We have some currently enrolled students who are members. The network isn’t open to parents… but we’re thinking about creating a second network just for them.

What are you or the staff getting out of the experience?
Web 2.0 is all about relationships, and this network has helped us tremendously to reach out in a different way to accepted students.

How you think this is influencing your accepted students’ decisions to attend Immaculata?
We hope that this opportunity to learn more about Immaculata is paying off! Every interaction matters, and we’re developing great relationships with the students through our network.

Is there life after New York?

Is There Life After New York

A recent study found that New Yorkers are the unhappiest residents of the U.S., coming in dead last in a study of all 50 states. So what’s a New Yorker to do? For some, there’s a simple answer – leave. But how do you find the strength to leave a city that inspired the quote: “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”?

With help from friends and those who have been there already on Is There Life After New York, a Ning Network for New York ex-pats. LifeAfterNYC was launched after two friends moved out of the city, but then realized their bond to NYC was stronger than the previously realized.

One of the reasons people move to New York — and then ultimately may decide to leave — is the insane assortment of jobs, everything from finance to entertainment and everything in between. Those who have already left the city are looking back on their former employment with nostalgia (former gigs include ushering at the 92nd St Y, scooper at a boutique ice cream store, and personal assistant to a Bear Stearns exec.)

Like any good New Yorkers, the members of LifeAfterNYC love reminiscing with other ex-New Yorkers about their old hangouts and haunts. The Boulder branch of this Ning Network had a meet-up a week ago. They may never move back to the Big Apple, but these members are always remembering their New York roots, wherever they may ultimately end up.