Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Future Of Web Apps Is Social

Next week, Ning will be leading a conversation at Carsonified’s Future Of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas. I’ll be delivering a talk to entrepreneurs and speaking about my own experiences at Ning as we transitioned from a freemium model to a top-tier paid social platform empowering community organizers to build custom and powerful social websites. My goal is to shed light on ways entrepreneurs can make their customers happier, and their e-businesses and ventures successful, using the lessons learned by Ning over the past year.

Since we’re all about fostering a dialogue around community, we’ve also teamed up with Carsonified as they’ve launched their own Ning Network, Future of Community. Ning’s presence at this event is part of our ongoing belief that the future of the web is social; as the world finally breaks in their online shoes, we’re starting to use those shoes to travel along offline paths too. This presents an immense opportunity for everyone, and especially entrepreneurs looking to connect with their customer bases in new and highly engaging ways.

The future of the web is brighter than ever, and we couldn’t be more excited about the social movement on our heels. Join me at 3:20 – 3:40 p.m. (Pacific) on Tuesday, June 28. See you at the Future of Web Apps conference!

The Power of Community – iPad 2 Giveaway

Here at Ning, we stand behind the power of community. With over 90,000 social websites hosted on Ning’s platform, spanning categories such as education, entertainment, business, causes, and politics, we’ve seen how communities spark meaningful action and activity. Everyday, we hear stories that inspire us. Today, we want to hear yours. Please take a minute to tell us what community means to you – and be automatically entered to win an iPad 2!

    The iPad 2 16GB model is perfect if you want to surf the web, check out your favorite Ning Network, download the Ning app to update and manage your community, watch HD movies, store your favorite music, and check email. Complete with Wi-Fi, this iPad is ideal when you have a wireless high-speed Internet router in your home, or if you’ll be using your iPad near a wireless hotspot.

    For every friend you invite who enters into the promotion, you get 5 extra entries into the promotion!

    2nd Prize

    Three (3) second prize winners will receive a free 6-month “Plus” subscription to a Ning Network.

    Sweepstakes Starts
    June 21, 2011 @ 09:00 am (PDT)
    Sweepstakes Ends
    July 29, 2011 @ 11:59 am (PDT)
    Click here to enter
    Need more Details?
    Read the Official Rules

    Product Roadmap Update: Full Steam Ahead

    Over the past year, we started doing something new: publishing a public Product Roadmap for our customers. This is a way to follow along with what we’re working on right now, what’s coming next, and  offers a quick glance in the rear-view mirror to see what we’ve created so far this year. We update it from time to time, and we’re updating it again today.

    Looking back, we’ve released a majority of the features we put on the roadmap in January. We kept up the momentum in core feature improvements and continued to innovate and deliver new features. Both of these are heavily influenced by your input. I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to let you know what to expect throughout the rest of this year and beyond.

    Mobile Browsing

    The world is quickly adopting the idea of viewing the Internet on small screens carried in back pockets. Phones are primary, and we know tablets are increasingly important, too. We want your communities and members to have a great, seamless experience on any device. To that end, we’re working on an optimized version of your social sites that will allow anyone with an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry (to name a few) to easily interact on your network. You’ll still have the option of creating a custom iPhone app from one of our partners, but this new mobile version will be available to all Ning Networks. It will include many of the most popular features: Status, Activity Feed, Photos, Profiles, Forum, Videos, Groups, Blogs, as well as the ability to easily message other members.

    Help Center improvements

    We’ve steadily expanded your support options over the past year, including adding billing support for everyone, dedicated phone support for Ning Pro customers and email support for Ning Mini. We want to expand on that and put Help Center ticket details directly in your Dashboard for easy access, with detailed status information right there. Simply put: We want to give you more information at your fingertips to answer questions immediately, and when you do reach out to us, ensure that we are more available and responsive than ever.

    Chat

    Some Ning Networks don’t use the Chat feature at all, but those who do use it a lot and have asked for robust improvements. We are very (very!) excited to let you know that you’ll soon see a brand new and improved chat feature. This new chat will be a step up in just about every way, from interface to capabilities. This is one of the first features you’ll be able to try out in the next few months.

    Events

    Some Ning Networks are heavily focused on Events, both online and offline. We’ve heard lots of great feedback about how we can make the Events feature even more useful for both Ning Creators and their members. A long standing request is the ability to copy events, and we’re committed to making that a reality. It’s now on our calendar.

    Paid-Access added options

    We recently announced our eagerly awaited Paid-Access feature, which allows you to charge your members to join and/or access valuable content on your network. You can do so with a fixed price or ask for donations. The next phase of this project involves adding recurring subscription payments and offering even more options for how to pay for and use it.

    Better Pages

    You’ve always been able to add standalone pages to your network. We’re going to make them a lot more valuable by adding privacy controls for Pages, the ability for you to customize your URLs, and the option for one-column (full-width) pages. If you’re interested in SEO, you’ll be happy to hear that you will soon have control over the meta tags for a page, as well as being able to add custom code to the <head> tag.

    Theme Marketplace

    The Design Studio we released earlier this year has been a breakthrough change, offering Ning Creators the ability to highly customize their network. People love the new themes and the ability to quickly and easily preview and change them. In fact, they’ve asked for more themes, and we’re going to provide that in the form of a Theme Marketplace. This will provide Ning Creators, as well as outside designers, the ability to submit themes they’ve created. It will even allow people who submit themes to charge for those themes, if they choose.

    Internationalization

    It may not be apparent to all of you, but we’ve started making some extensive language-specific improvements to the Ning platform. It will become more visible over time, with the ultimate goal being to offer your members a way to view your network in their native language. A few things you will begin to see include: a decrease in the amount of time between when a new feature is released and having it offered in all languages; translations of popular Help Center articles to major languages; and language-specific community support groups.

    Ning Extension: Aviary

    Members love to share photos. What if they could edit those photos right on the site? We’ll be rolling out a nifty palette of tools and effects to add text, crop, and even drag-and-drop fun and funny stickers on those photos. It’s a great way to get your members engaged, and you’ll see it soon with our upcoming Aviary Extension. We’re calling it Photo Effects and Stickers.

    These are just some of the things we’re working on for the remainder of 2011 and into next year. We have a few additional things to add to this Product Roadmap that we aren’t quite able to reveal yet, but we think you’ll be very excited about them. We’ll keep you updated here on the Creators Network as they get confirmed.

    Thanks for your continued feedback and support of the Ning platform!

    Phone Support for Ning Pro and Other Additions to Ning Customer Service

    I’m excited to announce several major improvements to how we support you with questions and issues as you launch, grow and manage your communities on the Ning platform. Over the last six months, we’ve made significant investment in customer service. We’ve expanded our advocacy team by 200%, maintaining the same high standards for product knowledge, technical troubleshooting and customer service. As we expanded the team, we rolled out new levels of support for you:

    1. Phone support for all billing questions and issues, including cancellations. When we are dealing with your money and you have an issue, we understand that you need to resolve it immediately. Since we rolled out billing phone support in April, we’ve helped over 2,000 Ning Creators. If you have a billing-related question, call us 9 am – 5 pm Pacific time, Monday through Friday. You can find the billing phone number by signing in to www.ning.com – the same location where all of your account information is located (including downloadable invoices).
    2. Dedicated phone support for Ning Pro customers. We assembled an elite team of our advocates and rolled out this service in May. Since we launched that service, we’ve already heard from several hundred Ning Pro customers, and our team is really enjoying getting to know them and their Ning Networks on a more in-depth level. Pro phone support is available 9 am – 5 pm Pacific time, Monday through Friday. If you are a Ning Pro customer, you can find the phone number by going to your network Dashboard, clicking on the “Support” link at the bottom left, then clicking “Contact Support.” We look forward to hearing from you soon!
    3. Email support for Ning Mini customers. When we launched Ning Mini last summer, we offered Mini Ning Creators community-based support. Since then, we’ve heard loud and clear that this wasn’t enough for many of you – you need more responsive, higher-quality service.  The launch of billing-related phone support in April was a big improvement for your payment and subscription questions, and several weeks ago we launched Mini email support for all other questions and issues. Just go to your network Dashboard, click on the “Support” link at the bottom left, then click “Contact Support” to submit your request.
    4. Welcome calls for new customers. Beginning in January, we started calling customers who recently created a new network to offer tips and help with any questions or issues they might have. We don’t reach every new Ning Creator – we’re not reaching accounts without a valid phone number or those who aren’t home when we call — but we’ve gotten a great reception from new customers to whom we’ve spoken. We plan to continue to ramp-up new trial and new subscription coaching over the next few months. If your phone rings and you see “Ning” as the Caller ID, please pick up!

    We will continue to expand and refine how we help each of you with your Ning Network. To help us focus on services that will most help you, please give us feedback. We’ve sent out four surveys over the last eight months to Ning Creators who have contacted our support team. Your feedback is incredibly valuable and helps us deliver even better service. So, if you get a survey, please answer it.

    Thank you for building your community on Ning. We look forward to helping you out soon!

    The Ning POV: How Custom Social Communities Can Change the World

    There are over 90,000 social websites on Ning worldwide. As a social platform that integrates with major social tools, Ning is in a unique position to observe patterns across the entire social ecosystem. The new Ning Point of View (POV) Report examines trends in community engagement across the ever-changing social ecosystem that all inspired organizations and businesses can apply to spark change with as few as 20 people.

    20 = The Magic Number

    You may have 1000 “friends” who never visit but it only takes 20 people to evolve from one-way broadcasting from the community leader to meaningful many-to-many interactions. This is an encouraging finding especially for small businesses and non-profits with resource constraints. With as little as 20 people, you can bring an online community to a significant level of activity – when members spend an increasing amount of time on the site, and visit more regularly.

    The Unique Combination of Social Tools Builds Engaged Communities

    Nearly 50 percent of Ning sites integrate with external social applications. Facebook and Twitter tie for the most popular external social media platform integration and nearly one in five Ning sites integrate with Facebook Like. The most popular features on a Ning community are the ones that facilitate dialog and engagement – Inbox and Forum in addition to Blog, and Photo / video sharing.

    What makes a Ning community successful is not one particular social tool, but rather, the unique combination of social tools that each site employs, presented in a visually stunning way that draws members in, inspire them to participate and keeps them coming back.

    Creating Communities That Change the World

    Social communities within Ning span a diverse interest set—from education, entertainment, business, cause, religion, to health and politics. The common thread running through all of the sites is a goal of community creation that sparks meaningful action and activity.

    Of the top 20 social categories we looked at on Ning, the Education and Business & Brands categories took the first and second spot, respectively:

  • As natural community builders, educators are taking the lead on the social web, connecting with students in new ways and amplifying the power of their message.
  • Businesses see the power of building strong communities with their customers. They mobilize fans to be their ambassadors, creating private customer communities and collect product feedback.
    • Want to dig deeper in the Ning POV report? Check out our report and infographic. What do you think transform people on your Ning site from a community of shared interest to a community of action?

      Introducing Paid Access – Transform Your Community into a Social Business

      Today we are announcing one of the most requested features on Ning – Paid Access. Paid Access gives Ning Creators new ways to monetize their communities with complete flexibility. You can set a fixed price or ask for donations for site access, premium groups and content within a Ning site.

      In a matter of clicks, you can transform your community into a social business. Because Paid Access is an integrated payment system, you can create a seamless charging experience and collect payments in real-time. Members of Ning sites are the most passionate you can find online – they care, participate, and provide their support both on and offline. They create fan fiction in their spare time for Twilight, buy every t-shirt from Linkin Park, and organize grassroots movements to rally support for their cause. These grassroots supporters and avid fans seek new content and a premium experience on over 90,000 Ning sites.

      Ning has done the heavy lifting behind the scenes – handling the infrastructure and implementation – so that it is a breeze to set up and use. There are a variety of ways to use this feature:

      • Paid Membership: Collect membership fees from a community.
      • Paid Groups: Create exclusive spaces for premium members to network, have a deeper conversation, and access special content.
      • Paid Content: Provide a destination for members to access premium content such as reports, articles, webinars, videos and music.
      • Donations: Ask for member donations to keep your community going or to benefit your site or a cause.

      Here is an example of what Paid Access looks like in action:

      Charge for Paid Group:

      Ask for Member Donations:

      With Paid Access, you can easily run VIP fan clubs, publish exclusive reports, create professional networking groups or organize special webinars. There are endless possibilities to take advantage of this feature.

      Want to be among the first to try this powerful feature? Starting on June 30th, we will roll it out to a limited number of Ning Creators to gather feedback before broadening this to all Creators in mid July. Sign up now - the first 20 NCs selected will be able to try Paid Access free for a month and get dedicated support from the Ning Team to help you get up and running.

      Over the next six months, the Ning Team will continue to innovate and provide more ways to harness the power of custom social experiences. Check out our Creators Network to learn more about Paid Access and share your thoughts by leaving your comment below.

      Ustream and Ning – Bringing the Power of Streaming Video to Your Community

      Today, we’re rolling out a new Ning Extension: Ustream. Ustream lets you record and broadcast video with just about any camera — including one you may already have built-in to your computer. The Ustream integration with Ning is designed to be easy to use so you can be up and running within minutes and play streaming video directly to visitors and members on your Ning social site. This is an excellent tool for Ning Creators who want to harness the power of video, and it’s now available for all Ning Plus and Pro subscribers.

      To get started, simply navigate to the Ning Extensions section of your Dashboard and click “Activate” next to the Ustream listing. Yes, it’s that simple to turn it on. If you don’t already have a Ustream account, you’ll need to create one, but the process is very easy. Once it’s activated, Ustream will live as a pull-out tab on the side of your Ning social site. When your Ustream channel is live, you’ll see a green indicator dot. When it’s dormant, you’ll see a red indicator dot. Your members can click on the tab at any time to watch live or recorded video from your channel in a pop-up window that is easily dismissible. You can even have live chats during videos in the Ustream Extension window, making this an excellent way to get your members engaged in a unique, live event no matter where everyone is located around the world.

      Whether you want to use video to run a workshop, talk through a tutorial, or broadcast a live party, you’ll find the Ustream Ning Extension easy to set up and use. If you’re a music artist, what better way to do a live pre-show warm up to get fans around the world pumped for your upcoming concert? If you teach a class remotely (or want to), this could be just about the best thing that could happen to you. Maybe you just want to run a live Q&A session to get closer with your community members. The possibilities are ripe for experimentation. Best of all, it’s free for Ning Plus and Pro.

      So how will you use it? Feel free to share your ideas below.

      Ning, Mogwee and Dispatch

      Dispatch is kicking off their 2011 tour today at Red Rocks, and both Ning and Mogwee are proud to be official sponsors of the band’s Amplifying Education initiative.

      Amplifying Education efforts include restocking New Orleans libraries with Better World Books, pre-show service projects, hosting Community Conversations with the United Way and raising money for organizations like Teach For America and City Year.

      You can head over to the Ning-powered AmplifyingEducation.org to learn how to get involved in your local community, and take action to unlock a free download of Dispatch’s 2009 acoustic performance at the Kennedy Center!

      In addition, the band members will be participating in weekly VIP Mogwee Hangouts to chat live with fans and share exclusive backstage photos. Each week, twenty lucky AmplifyingEducation.org members will be selected to receive an invite to that week’s exclusive Hangout. If you’d like to throw your hat in the ring, just follow these steps:

      1) Join AmplifyingEducation.org

      2) Download the Mogwee app

      3) Cross your fingers!

      Good luck, and we hope to see you on the tour!

      Mogwee at Live 105′s BFD Festival

      If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, we hope to see you this Sunday at Live 105′s BFD festival, featuring performances from artists including Linkin Park, Snoop Dogg, The Strokes, Cage the Elephant and many more.

      Ning and Mogwee are proud to be sponsors, and Menace (a Live 105 on-air host) has been holding a contest to win invites to his exclusive Mogwee Hangout on the day of the event. Check out the radio spot from Live 105′s Menace:



      If you’re headed to the festival, we invite you to use Mogwee on your iPhone or Android phone to stay coordinated with your friends in a private group and share real-time photos of the action.

      Rock on!