Monthly Archives: February 2011

Meet Mogwee


Hey everyone I wanted to share with you some big news from Ning!

Today we’re launching a new mobile social communication service, called Mogwee. In January, I talked to you about the custom social revolution that is fueling our business as more and more customers come to us to create powerful, custom social websites for their group, band, cause, classroom or business. Since then we launched the Ning Design Studio, major enhancements to the Ning Engagement System, and are in beta with our next killer feature, Paid Access. We have more on the way as Jonathan shared in his recent roadmap post, and I can’t wait to see Ning help even more customers bring their websites and brands into the social age.

With our roadmap defined, our business growing and the team focused on execution – I spent some time last fall working with Diego Doval, our CTO and Marc Andreesen, our Chairman, to think about the next major area for Ning to tackle. We have this awesome team, a deep bench of talent, and 5 years of experience in group and social dynamics. We also believe that over the next 3 years, the combination of mobile and social will be transformative for our industry.

Enter Mogwee – Mogwee is a new social communication service that brings together all of the things you love to do with your friends and family on your phone. From chatting live and sharing photos, to planning a night out or playing a game, with a single tap, Mogwee gives you instant access to everything that makes life fun.

With a very small team (just 2 at first) we began work on a new product – it would be both mobile and social at its core – not an adaptation of an old service for mobile. It would rethink the modes in which we communicate for the modern age – a native app with chat as the backbone, real time and asynchronous sharing, additional mobile services built right in, and some cool social actions that let you express yourself in new ways.

I’ve been asked a few times – how does this relate to Ning? I believe that innovation (not the word, the act) is critical to making Ning a great company, not just building one great product, but a host of amazing new products for the future. Is Apple just the iPod? Google just Search? HP just a printer? At Ning we have an amazingly talented team with a burning desire to invent new breakthrough products – and reinventing the way people communicate on their smart phones is a huge opportunity for us.

After several months of preparing we take Mogwee on its maiden voyage, launching today in Apple’s App Store with versions for Android, the Web, and Mobile Web to follow shortly. Please go to the app store today and start connecting with your friends and family. I can’t wait for you to give Mogwee a try!

To get updates on Mogwee be sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow @mogweehq on Twitter.

Coming: Sign up with Twitter

Another popular sign-up option will soon be available on your Ning Network. Along with signing up via Facebook, Google or Yahoo, Network Creators will be able to allow members to sign up and sign in with Twitter, starting later today.

The addition of Twitter sign up has been a long-time Network Creator request, and it represents the next-most popular third-party sign-up service after Yahoo. According to Janrain, the leading provider of Social Sign On services on the web and Ning’s partner for this feature, 86 percent of users prefer to use their Facebook, Google, Yahoo or Twitter accounts when signing up via external authentication.

How to set it up
Just as with the other Social Sign On services, Twitter sign up will need to be enabled first by Network Creators before it appears as an option on your sign up page. If you’ve already created a Twitter app for sharing on your Ning Network, it’s as simple as checking a box on the Sign up/Sign In management page. For those that haven’t taken that step, you’ll need to create a Twitter app for your Ning Network, by following the instructions we’ve added to our Help Center.

If you don’t already have an app for sharing, creating a Twitter app for sign up will allow the app to be used for Twitter sharing as well.

Using Twitter Sign-Up
Unlike Facebook, Google and Yahoo, Twitter does not share users’ email addresses when they sign up with Twitter on any website. Not only was this the reason we had to wait until the Custom Network ID project was complete to add support for Twitter, but visitors who sign up with Twitter will be asked for their email address when signing up. They will not need to create a password, though, and signing in with Twitter will be just as easy as with Facebook, Google or Twitter — all it takes is a single click!

We hope to add more services in the future. For the moment, enjoy using Twitter for sign up.

Now live: Delete unwanted members

Starting today, administrators will have another great tool to add to their community management belt: Deleting a member.

For years, administrators and Network Creators have been able to suspend unwanted members. This allowed them to prevent these people from accessing the network (unless the suspension was lifted) and, more recently, to even keep their content around after suspending a member.

There are many cases, though, where administrators may want to remove a member but not permanently suspend them. Or, they may not want to keep a record of the account in the member management area. A member may have joined with a duplicate email address or perhaps a Network Creator just wants to clear out inactive accounts. Network Creators have made it clear they want the additional option of just deleting a member, and that’s what you’ll see appear on your Ning Network starting today.

From the Moderation page (and, coming shortly, members’ profile pages as well), administrators will see a new “Delete” option. Deleting a member will remove their account and their content from the Ning Network. Additionally, there will be no record of deleted members; they will not appear in any of the tabs on the Members Moderation page.

Deleting a member is not reversible, so use it with caution. It should add a great new tool to administrators’ arsenal, and we’re excited to deliver this long-standing request.

Ning Creators Network: a case study for building a thriving online customer community

From time to time, we like to share interesting Ning Network examples — and best practices that we’ve learned from them — on this blog. Today, I’d like to focus on the Ning Creators Network, a community for our customers, the people who build Ning Networks. By sharing our path to getting where Ning Creators Network is today, we hope to provide inspiration for other businesses trying to build online customer communities.

NING CREATORS NETWORK TODAY

First, some quick stats about this vibrant community. At the time I write this post, Ning Creators Network has 18,867 members. Over the last year, these members have posted 12,601 discussion topics, which is the primary way members interact in the community. Members have also created 68 groups, with “Ning Networks En Espanol” being the largest and most active group at 553 members strong. Last week, members visited Ning Creators Network 27,866 times and created 367 new discussions topics. 237 new members joined.

This high member activity validates the value our customers find in participating on the Ning Creators Network. They can learn tips and tricks and best practices, ask advice, find out if others are experiencing similar issues or challenges, report problems, provide product feedback or suggestions, or simply bond with other creative, innovative people like themselves. Many of our customers spend significant time on Ning Creators Network contributing content, providing advice, and helping guide discussions. The health and vibrancy of the community is a testament to your efforts. Thank you!

Ning certainly benefits from this network in multiple ways: We’ve established strong relationships with many of our customers; we receive frequent, unsolicited product feedback, as well as directed feedback on upcoming and recently released features; it has taught us valuable best practices that we’ve formalized and published for all of our customers; it’s a critical channel to communicate company plans and get instantaneous feedback; and customers even give us real-time alerts about platform issues.

KEY LEARNINGS

As many of our Ning Creators know, building a vibrant community takes careful planning, high commitment, and close collaboration with members. Our first attempt at a customer-focused Ning Network (2007 – 2009) didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, so we shut it down. We hadn’t achieved our goal of creating an interesting, safe, and productive place for customers to have conversations about how to build, grow, and manage Ning Networks. We learned from the experience, solicited a lot of customer feedback, and launched Ning Creators in late 2009.

Here are a few key things we did differently the second time around:

  • Lock in company commitment. A full-time community manager, Eric Suesz, puts his heart and soul into Ning Creators Network 24/7, and a second community manager, Garnor Morantes, backs him up. We encourage all employees to actively participate, particularly our product managers and advocates. Everyone on our exec team monitors the network on a daily basis. I often get late-night email from our CEO pointing to customer posts.
  • Set the right tone and culture from the start. We recruited the help of eight Ning Creator Guides and launched in private to give us time to add initial discussions and blogs that set the right constructive tone. After public launch, the Guides helped us actively moderate early participation. They were also the most prolific contributors early on. We held biweekly conference calls for the first three months to get feedback and advice from them and plan adjustments to the network.
  • Establish clear guidelines and consistently enforce them. We’ve refined our community guidelines over time. They are simple and intuitive. We message members early when they start to violate them. And we occasionally ban members if they continue this behavior.
  • By the customers, for the customers. Ning Creators Network is first and foremost a place for our customers to interact with and help each other. Ninety-nine percent of the discussion topics are posted by customers. Superstar customers like Jen, ThunderX, Kris, the PnL team and many others spend hours each day helping to provide advice and answer questions.
  • Feed a virtuous communication cycle. The more you communicate with your customers, the more they want to communicate with you. Ning Creators Network activity reached record highs over the last two weeks because we’ve had a lot to talk about recently: a public product roadmap, a new Known Issues page, the new Ning Design Studio, and the Like button beta (among others!). We strive to communicate frequently and program content for Ning Creators Network in multiple ways. We believe it strengthens customer satisfaction over time.

ONGOING CHALLENGES

Alas, it’s not all sunshine and flowers. We continue to face challenges as Ning Creators Network grows:

  • How do we prevent individual customer support posts from crowding out customer-to-customer collaboration? Although we offer email support to Ning Plus and Pro customers, they often find they’ll get a quicker response by posting on Ning Creators Network. A quick scan of discussion topics on the Main Page right now shows 50% are individual issues. How do we both provide responsive support and facilitate collaboration?
  • How do we surface valuable older content? As we continue to grow, the sheer volume of new discussions quickly pushes older threads off the Main Page and out of sight of members. Many of these buried threads include valuable, thoughtful insights.
  • How do we continue to make new members feel at home? With over 18,000 members and 12,000 discussion topics, it’s easy for new members to feel overwhelmed and intimidated to start a new discussion or jump into an existing one.

I would love to get your feedback, ideas or advice! Share your thoughts by adding your comments below.

Ning at Social Media Week: Trends and the Future of Social Media

Last week, Ning was at Social Media Week in San Francisco, driving great conversations with thought leaders in the social media space. We had the opportunity to curate a series of panel sessions designed to identify and discuss emerging trends and topics that have an impact on the way we use social media today.

From left: Hermione Way, Michael Brito, Jason Rosenthal, and Ben Parr

The discussions proved to be insightful and instructive, and I think everyone in the room, including myself, heard something they could begin using right away to ramp up their social strategies. Here’s a selection of our favorite, most thought-provoking, quotes and takeaways as demonstrated by the influx of tweets and retweets to #NingSMW:

THE FUTURE OF THE SOCIAL WEB (download the podcast)

Moderated by Ben Parr from Mashable, featuring panelists Hermione Way, Journalist at The Next Web, Michael Brito, Vice President of Social Media at Edelman Digital and Jason Rosenthal, Ning’s own CEO.

  • “2011 will be a breakout year for mobile intersecting with social.” – Jason Rosenthal
  • “Once Facebook figures out search, we’ll be logged into it 24/7.” – Michael Brito
  • “What will happen when everyone can get a Harvard education on their mobile phone?” – Hermione Way
  • “When will we see a war caused by social media?” – Michael Brito
  • And our favorite (albeit, most biased) quote of the day: “Show of hands: Facebook users (all). Would you use Facebook as your exclusive web presence? (almost none) – Jason Rosenthal

THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS IN SOCIAL (download the podcast)

Moderated by Athena von Oech, Cofounder + Partner at Red Magnet Media, featuring panelists Babette Pepaj at BakeSpace.com, Rick Bakas at Rickbakas.com, Sean Timberlake at PunkDomestics.com and Alexa Andrzejewski at Foodspotting.com.

  • “Growing a successful community doesn’t happen overnight– it takes nurturing, building relationships with key people, and a genuine passion for your topic, whether it’s food, wine or anything else.” – Athena von Oech
  • “Please remember, it’s not your community – it’s their community! Be the mayor of the town and give them freedom to discover.” – Babette Pepaj
  • “Use tweets to create a call-to-action back to your site.” – Sean Timberlake
  • “Contests should be transparent. And change them up!” – Babette Pepaj
  • “We use Facebook and Twitter to express that we’re real people, too.” – Alexa Andrzejewski

USHERING YOUR BRAND INTO THE SOCIAL ERA (download the podcast)

Moderated by Ning’s own Anne Driscoll, VP of Business Operations at Ning, featuring Gareth Hornberger, Digital Marketing Manager at Levi’s, Blake Cahill, Principle at Banyan Branch and Joanne Wan, Senior Digital Strategist at Ogilvy Public Relations.

  • “Social media at its core is all about having a dialogue with your customers – it’s about people investment.” – Blake Cahill
  • “Social media consultants are not the way to go – get them fully hired into your company” – Gareth Hornberger
  • “When hiring a social manager, look at their social footprint and their personality. Are they a fit with your customers and company? – Joanne Wan

Finally, a big thanks and shout out to @Krystal at Social Media Week for helping us organize such a stellar lineup of events and to @amywhiggins for capturing the most memorable quotes on Twitter.

Talk about conversation starters! Let’s keep it going – share your perspective with us by commenting below.

Ning Design Studio & Instant Ad Boxes Are Live!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve gotten incredible feedback from 500+ Ning Creators on the Ning Design Studio. Today, we’re thrilled to make the Ning Design Studio available to everyone — you can enable it from the Ning Labs page.

Enabling the Ning Design Studio gives you access to these features:

  • Choose from 50+ hot new themes at launch
  • See a live preview of changes as you make them
  • Set a 2- or 3-column layout and choose navigation and sidebar locations
  • Tweak 80 dials and knobs for your site appearance
  • Re-publish any other theme you’ve used in the past
  • Access Developer Mode, where design gurus can access the Ning CSS and create their own themes

Here are just a few great ways Creators are already using the Ning Design Studio:

Everything about the Ning Design Studio is 100% opt-in. If your Ning Network already looks perfect, don’t worry — your current theme and customizations won’t be affected at all. (Also, congratulations!) In the coming days, we’ll make the Design Studio your default editor, but this still won’t change the appearance of your Ning Network, and you’ll be able to revert back to the old editor if you like.

Instant Ad Boxes

In addition to the Ning Design Studio, we’re introducing the Instant Ad Box feature.  Instant Ad Boxes are similar to Text Boxes but are designed to seamlessly integrate advertisements with your Ning Network. You can place Instant Ad Boxes above the header, above the canvas, or below the footer. This has been a long-requested feature, and we’re pumped to release it with the Ning Design Studio. Whether you enable a new theme or not, you’ll be able to use this feature.

Ning on the Road: Social Media Week in San Francisco

Social Media Week is the platform that connects people, content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media.  As a driving force in evolving the Social Web, we are psyched to be playing a key role at this event.  On Friday, Ning will be in San Francisco hosting an informal breakfast with designers, three panels with the thought leaders in the social space, and the official closing party:

Feb 11, 8:30 – 10:30 A.M.
Topic: Designing for the Social Web
Meet the peeps who designed social sites for Linkin Park, Tony Hawk and The Twilight Saga. Check out the latest Ning Design Studio, learn more about the upcoming design competition, and see how you can earn revenue in the Ning Theme Gallery.  Breakfast is on us!

Feb 11, 11:45 – 12:45 P.M.
Topic: Ushering Your Brand into the Social Age
Our panel of social pioneers will lead a discussion around how to build a holistic social experience using all the major social channels in a way that works for your customers.

Feb 11, 2:30 – 3:15 P.M.
Topic: The Recipe for Success in Social
Our panel of distinguished food bloggers and community organizers will share the secret ingredients for turning your passions and interests into a thriving customer community.

Feb 11, 3:30 – 4:15 P.M.
Topic: The Future of the Social Web
Our panel of social visionaries will share their predictions about the big social trends for 2011. Find out what’s hot and what’s not for 2011, and learn about the social tools and technologies your company can’t afford to go without.

Feb 11, 5:30 – 7:30 P.M.
Social Media Week Official Closing Party – Join us at Bar Adagio for complimentary Ning-tini’s and appetizers.

Admission is free of charge and the panels are filling up fast. RSVP by clicking on the links above. We hope you can be a part of these great conversations.

SoundCloud and Ning

We’re excited to announce that we’ve worked with SoundCloud to offer a brand-new integration for our Ning Creators. SoundCloud offers a fantastic platform for sharing and listening to music across the web and mobile devices. Upload your audio to one place, then play it back wherever you’d like. Their Ning App integration offers the following features:

  • A customizable music player that can appear as a dedicated navigation tab, on your network’s main page and on member profile pages
  • Automatic access to previously-uploaded SoundCloud audio files
  • The ability for Ning Creators to review uploaded tracks from members prior to posting

Example #1: Music & Entertainment-Themed Ning Networks
Our friends at ThisIs50.com are using the app to power their new indie music section. Members are encouraged to submit their songs for review by the G-Unit A&R team, with the possibility of being featured on the network’s main page:

Example #2: Artist Websites
Jones Street Station has also made great use of the app as the main “Music” page and player on their site:

We’re excited to have SoundCloud on board as a partner, as is clear from the following photo:

You can install the free Ning App here. Happy listening!

Safer Internet Day

Here at Ning, we’re celebrating Safer Internet Day, an annual occasion organized by Insafe to promote safe and responsible use of the Internet. Originating from the European Union four years ago, it’s now celebrated globally by organizations in more than 60 countries today. This year’s theme revolves around our virtual lives: “It’s more than a game, it’s your life.”

Ensuring the safety of Ning Creators and their members is extremely important to us, so we’ve always made it a priority to build the appropriate privacy and safety options into your Ning Networks, as well as provide resources on how to use Ning safely. We hope that everyone is staying safe online each and every day, but Safer Internet Day is a great reminder for us all to step back and evaluate what we’re doing online. To get the most out of your Ning Network’s safety and security options, take a look at our Network Creator Safety and Policy Resources and Safety Center.

We’d also like to point you to additional resources about internet safety, generally:

ConnectSafely
The Family Online Safety Institute
iKeepSafe
OnGuard Online
NetSmartz
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
Web Wise Kids
Cyber Angels
Childnet International
National Crime Prevention Council

The message of safety and responsibility is especially important as children and young people are living more and more of their lives online. Join us in celebrating Safer Internet Day and spread the word about how to stay safe!

How ya “like” me now?

Today, we’ve rolled out the beta for our Ning Like Button and the Facebook Like Buttons, two features that enhance the Ning Engagement System. “Liking” is a lightweight interaction that has proved to be incredibly powerful. Now, you can bring that power to your Ning Network with either a customized Like Button, a Facebook Like Button, or both. Try them out today by going to your Beta Page.

If you enable the Ning Like button, members can “Like” photos, videos, and blog posts right from the Main Page, in addition to detail pages:


This gives people an incredibly easy way to interact with content on your network. Additionally, anything your members Like gets added to a brand-new My Likes page, which is a handy way to archive interesting stuff:

The Ning Like button comes with a ton of customization options. You can choose the default icon, as well as the default name for the feature, on the Like Button Settings page. This is also where you can re-enable “Rating” and “Favorite” if you want to hang on to those features.

If you enable the Facebook Like button, it will behave just like other Facebook Like buttons you’ve seen elsewhere. Unlike the Ning Like button, you don’t have to be a member to like something on Facebook. So the Facebook Like button is a great option if you want the maximum number of people to Like network content and make it go viral.

One awesome addition is that we hooked Facebook up to your network’s engagement system too. This means that if your content gets a ton of Facebook “Likes,” it will still rise to the top of the Leaderboards and other popularity sortings.

Naturally, you can enable the Ning Like Button, the Facebook Like Button, both, or neither. It’s up to you!