Sign Up for Our Second Community Management Webinar: “How to Grow an Online Community”

You know you’ve had a successful webinar when you get this kind of feedback:

An excellent talk, extremely useful. Packed with concrete stuff and techno-babble-free. Great Q&A at the end.

We strive to be techno-babble-free, so it’s nice to hear we succeeded last week during Richard Millington’s first webinar with Ning, How to Increase Activity in Your Community.

The event was our most well-attended talk ever, and it’s already getting tons of replay on YouTube and Vimeo. We expect it will be a valuable resource that will reach a lot of people over time who are looking for straightforward advice about managing their community.

It’s even better to hear feedback like this:

Your wish is our command, James! Response to this first webinar was so positive that we’re going to do another one next week….


Community Management Webinar #2: How to Grow an Online Community

When: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 1 p.m. Pacific time

Richard Millington is back to coach Ning customers — and anyone else who needs advice — on how to genuinely make your online community a big success. In his first webinar for Ning, Richard talked about strategies for generating activity. This time around, he’s going to talk about growth. There are lots of things to think about when you think about growth:

  • Key steps to build your base.
  • You can grow too fast. Didn’t think that was possible, did you?
  • What is the total feasible audience size (TFAS) of your community?
  • If you only have limited administrative power to support the community, too much growth can actually hurt you.
  • If you already have a mature, happy, and highly engaged community, is an influx of strangers actually a good idea?

Whether you want to be the biggest community of sports fans in the world or just a private community of committed scrapbooking hobbyists, you want to find your ideal size — and getting there isn’t about papering email inboxes with a million invites. Smart community managers follow tried-and-true strategies. Richard will share some of the best.

Growth is just one way toward realizing a more valuable community, but it’s an important one — and one that nearly every Ning customer will be interested in. So, join us next Wednesday for another get-together with one of the experts in community management. We’ll start on time and pack as much into an hour as we can. We’ll stick around and answer some questions, too. Plus, Richard is giving away an excerpt of the e-book version of his new book “Buzzing Communities” to all attendees. It’s 50% of his book in handy PDF format. Free!


Help us reach every continent

Disappointingly, not a single person in Antarctica appears to have attended or watched the first webinar. So, we’re making it our personal goal with this second one to get the word out to at least one person in Antarctica. If you, um, happen to know anyone in Antarctica, we’d appreciate a little help. Or, if you just happen to know someone next door or a few cubicles down who manages an online community, let them know that this free session can help them do it better.

You can help us spread the word by pointing people to our Smore page for this webinar.


Buy the book!

Richard’s book is one of the best we’ve ever read about community management. He’ll be giving away half of the book at this webinar, but we think it’s definitely worth buying, either in physical or Kindle format. Buzzing Communities cuts through the fluff to offer a clear process for creating thriving online communities. This book combines a century of proven science, dozens of real-life examples, practical tips, and trusted community-building methods. This step-by-step guide includes a lifecycle for tracking your progress and a framework for managing your organization’s community efforts.

Ning Community Management Webinar: Online and Ready for Viewing

As community manager of our customer community, the Creators Network, I scour the Web looking for good advice on the subject of running online communities. It’s my goal to share the best things I find that can help our customers be better community builders, whether that is advice about how to design a Javascript slider or nuts-and-bolts tips for getting more responses out of community members by asking the right questions.

Pursuant to that goal, I subscribe to nearly every blog that’s remotely about community management, follow the most respected people in the field, and read waaaay too many blog posts about how social media is changing the world more than every other technological advancement since the printing press combined. There’s a lot of jargon and fluff (and frankly some nonsense) out there that’s masquerading as good advice for community managers. And there’s a lot of stuff that gets repeated endlessly. But every once in awhile, I find a few pearls of wisdom in this sea of advice. I find a voice that backs up common sense with data or very insightful reasons why a particular community strategy works. Richard Millington is one of those voices.

If you’re not familiar with him, Richard runs community management seminars, publishes a no-nonsense blog called FeverBee (which I strongly recommend you follow), and has a few books under his belt, including his newest, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

We were privileged to host Richard at a very well-attended webinar earlier this week: How To Increase Activity in Your Community. It was chock-full of useful advice, including a Q&A session where we gave out free copies of Richard’s new book. Even better, we gave every attendee 1/2 of his new book in PDF format. Totally free. Even better than that… you can still get a free copy for a limited time (even if you didn’t attend the webinar).

Want a free copy of the PDF?  Visit our S’More flyer page.


Did you attend? Enjoy it?

Thank Richard on Twitter for generously sharing his time with Ning Creators. Or…

 

How to Increase Activity in Your Community


Guest post by Richard Millington

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped over a hundred organizations develop successful online communities. His clients have included: The United Nations, Novartis, Oracle, EMC, The British Medical Journal, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, OECD, AMD, BAE Systems, Greenpeace, Autodesk and many other brands. 


The majority of communities struggle to sustain high levels of activity in their communities. We typically only hear about the rampant success stories. It’s fun to believe that a community will just attract members and explode to life.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, an understanding of why people participate in communities, some principles of activity, and a clear plan of action.

 Why do people participate in communities?

People participate in communities to satisfy their informational and social needs. The mistake most organizations make is they focus on the former and ignore the latter. The problem with the former is once someone has gained the information they need, they leave. Your challenge is to focus on their social needs.

To increase activity, you need to apply proven community building techniques. These techniques include content, moderation, relationship development, and events/activities. The best communities are able to use all four to sustain extremely high levels of activity.

Principles for high levels of activity

Before we get tactical, let’s cover some basic principles of successful activity:

  • Activity should be planned. Don’t wait for activity to happen by chance. Proactively drive the level of activity in your community. This means have a clear idea of what activity will take place when. Everything else is a bonus.
  • Good activity –vs– weak activity. Good activity is when members interact via discussions, blogs posts, or another medium where they can meaningfully share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with one another. Weak activity are poll votes, likes, clicks, and anything that doesn’t allow other members to know each other better. Focus on driving good activity.
  • Group identity. Communities with a strong group identity and sense of community also have sustained high levels of activity. If you can build a strong group identity, you will have high levels of activity.

Develop a community management plan

Put together a template community management plan that highlights what content, activities, and discussions will take place in your community over the next few months. Try to have some sort of sustained narrative or broad themes to cover. If you run the 50 Cent community and there is a new 50 cent tour/record coming out, then you might be planning 3 big discussions a week:

  • Monday: On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate 50 Cent’s New Album?
  • Wednesday: What’s your favourite song on the new album?
  • Friday: So who has tickets to see 50 Cent in {city?}

Then you might plan 2 online events that week. For example:

  • Tuesday: Live chat with tour manager (it’s not as hard to arrange these as you imagine).
  • Thursday: Community discussion of the week: Theme – best places to buy 50 Cent tour tickets

Then you might schedule regular content for example:

  • Monday: Interview with a community member
  • Tuesday: Community predictions for next 50 Cent album
  • Wednesday: Poll:What was the best 50 Cent song ever?
  • Thursday: 50 Cent crazy fan of the week…
  • Friday: Roundup of the week’s 50 Cent news
  • Saturday: Welcome the newcomers.

Note that the best content for a community is content about the community. You want content that involves you proactively going out there and interacting with members. Imagine yourself as a local reporter and the community being your local beat. Go out there and find stories about what your members are doing.

Now you have fresh activity taking place every day in the community. You’ve given members a reason to continually return and visit your community every day. You might need to individually nudge a few members in the beginning, but over time you will see it taking off.

Practical tips

In addition to having a great plan, there are also a number of practical tips you can implement to increase activity.

  • Remove the dead areas. The appearance of success is crucial. If you have posts with no replies, areas of the community that aren’t used, features that don’t get much activity then remove them. You want your community to appear as highly active as possible. This leads to…
  • Concentrate activity. Just because you can have blogs, pictures, chat boxes, groups (especially groups!), doesn’t mean you should. This dissipates activity throughout your community. This does a lot of harm. Initially you want to concentrate activity in as few areas as possible. For most communities, just a forum is enough.
  • Prioritize interactions over content. Too many communities prioritize content over interactions and then wonder why people come to read instead of participating. This is a mistake. Make sure the latest discussions between members occupies the key position in your community. The Rock And Roll Tribe does this well.
  • Highlight what’s popular. Social proof is a powerful thing. Members want to see what other members are doing. Make sure you highlight what’s popular in your community. If you have a popular discussion, turn it into a sticky thread for other members to see and participate in. Then send an e-mail out to members asking for their opinions/thoughts on the issue as well.
  • Highlight the contributions of members. Remember that members want recognition and the feeling they have influence over the community (or could have). If you regularly recognize the contributions of members (by name!) in content, blog posts, newsletters, e-mails, and discussions, you will encourage more discussions.

Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Community Consultancy, The Pillar Summit Professional Community Management training course, and the author of The Community Management Manifesto, The Proven Path, and his newest book, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

We’re giving some books!

Want to hear more from Richard? Ning is hosting a free webinar next Tuesday, November 27th, 1-2pm PST. Show up and you’ll receive half of Richard Millington’s new book “Buzzing Communities” as a PDF download. Submit a great question and you could win a hard copy of the book! Please join us. RSVP today! http://bit.ly/SZrMqy

Richard Millington + Ning Webinar: How to Increase Activity in Your Community


Why you should attend Tuesday, November 27th

  • Richard approaches community management from the point of view of social science. He focuses on data that shows what actually works — not anecdotes and hunches.
  • Richard is giving away an excerpt of the e-book version of Buzzing Communities to all attendees. It’s 50% of his book in handy PDF format.
  • Ning is giving away 5-10 free copies of the hardcover version of the book. If you ask a question that gets picked by the chat moderator in the Q&A, we’ll send you a book.


Ning is home to tens of thousands of communities that serve many millions of people every day. Every one of Ning’s customers has one question in common: How can I get people more involved and active in my community? Great question!

To help answer that question, we got the guy who has a lot of smart answers: Richard Millington. The author of the new book Buzzing Communities, Richard tackles some of the most-asked questions about growing and running online communities. He’s an expert that hundreds of companies and thousands of readers rely on, either in direct consultation or as readers of his influential blog about community management, FeverBee.

Whether you’re a brand-new Ning customer, an old hand who needs some fresh tips, or a community manager who’s never even heard of Ning before but wouldn’t mind hearing from one of the top experts in the field — this webinar is for you.

The webinar will explain how to increase activity in your community:

  • Why many communities struggle for activity.
  • Why members participate in community.
  • The principles behind sustaining highly active communities.
  • Practical tips you can *immediately* implement to increase activity in your community.

You’re busy, so we’ll start on time and pack as much helpful information as we can into an hour. We’ll even stick around after that to answer as many questions as possible to help you get the most out of your time.

Sign up here.


Title: “How to Increase Activity in Your Community”
Cost: Free
Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Time: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Pacific time
Hosted by: Richard Millington + Ning
Capacity: 500 people
Sign up now

Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Community Consultancy, The Pillar Summit Professional Community Management training course, and the author of The Community Management Manifesto, The Proven Path, and Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped over a hundred organizations develop successful online communities. His clients have included: The United Nations, Novartis, Oracle, EMC, The British Medical Journal, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, OECD, AMD, BAE Systems, Greenpeace, Autodesk and many other brands.

Book Communities: a Powerful Tool for Author Discovery and Promotion

The rapid growth of the Internet has painfully disrupted the music and newspaper industries, but there’s ample evidence book publishing is going to come out a winner in their digital transformation. Why? We think it’s because they’ve got community on their side. We’ve seen successful book-focused communities on Ning since we opened up shop, and we’re seeing them grow like no other category. It seems to mirror the wider trends in book publishing.

More books by more people, less from corporations and trees

According to Publishers Weekly, starting in 2008 more books were self-published than those published traditionally. The following year, the number rose to 76% of books being produced by self-publishers or micro-niche publishers. The trends are easy to spot: Online retailers such as Amazon give authors global distribution. The Kindle and iPad are radically changing the way people read. Social platforms offer powerful new ways for authors to efficiently reach a huge audience and for readers to discover new authors. The trends become even more radical when you consider the rise of ebooks. An estimated 3 million books were published in the US in 2011 – up from only 300,000 in 2003!

More people turning to communities to read and be read

These seismic shifts in publishing and reading options have forced emerging authors and their publishers to dream up innovative ways to reach new readers and cultivate the loyalty of existing readers. Increasingly they’re using community platforms like Ning to introduce themselves to new readers, celebrate their biggest fans, and in some cases, extend the philosophy or mission espoused in their books. For readers, these communities are a fantastic way to discover emerging authors, meet favorite authors up close and personal, and in some networks, role play their favorite characters.

 

Places to discover your next good read

Many of the first online book communities created on Ning were a place for authors to collaborate with each other and introduce themselves to readers. These have frequently focused on a single genre of books. A great example is CrimeSpace.ning.com, “a place for readers and writers of crime fiction to meet”. Daniel Hatadi has grown this community to almost 4,000 highly engaged members since launching it in 2007. Another highly successful community is Book Blogs with an astounding 19,000 author and reader members. Razorbill Books, a young-adult fiction division of Penguin Canada, launched Razorbill.ning.com in 2011. It’s a space where readers can find out about anticipated titles before they launch and get up close and personal with acclaimed authors. It’s a unique venue for Razorbill’s authors to promote their books.

A space to cultivate a fan base

Book communities on Ning have also naturally evolved to be places where individual authors can reach their readers. Gena Showalter, a leading romance novel writer, launched Genashowalter.com community as her main website in 2010.  Since then, over 16,000 of her most loyal fans have joined the community to interact with Gena and each other on a daily basis. They find out the latest news about upcoming novels, watch video interviews of Gena and join groups of other readers with similar interests.

Some authors take an if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach to community. Kit Berry, the successful young-adult author of the Stonewylde Series, began by building a loyal following of over 1,000 readers with her “home-grown social network site” — which then led to a book deal with the Orion Publishing Group. (Read about her smart community approach on Futurebook.) Kit is an active participant in her Stonewylde.net community – blogging, responding to discussion posts, and posting photos and videos.

It won’t be surprising to hear that a number of publishers have built online communities for individual authors to attract and cultivate fans.  Little, Brown Books has grown the Beautifulcreaturesnovels.com community to almost 5,000 fans of the series of novels written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Penguin Young Readers launched the Vampireacademybooks.ning.com community in 2010 and used it to build a loyal following for Richelle Mead of over 6,000 members.

Hachette Book Group has leveraged online communities to activate fans for several of their authors.  One of the most prominent is James Patterson. Myjamespatterson.com is an active community where over 51,000 fans of this mystery and thriller author can bond with each other and rave about the author. Max-dan-wiz.com is an even bigger community of over 68,000 fans focusing on his science fiction Maximum Ride, Daniel X and Witch & Wizard series and novels.

 

Fans who show up to play

One of the most interesting (and powerful) trends with online author communities encompasses role-playing and fan fiction. Stephenie Meyer’s Thetwilightsaga.com (managed by the Hachette Book Group) is a touchstone community that has spawned hundreds more communities. Many of the 500,000 members of Thetwilightsaga.com join a team and act out the lives of their favorite characters from the Twilight series of books. Twilight Saga readers can join the independent Twifans.com or Thecullensonline.ning.com communities to act out their favorite characters. Too young for Twilight? Harry Potter fans can join one of the four Hogwarts houses and have fun with 42,000 other fans on Mugglespace.com. Based on the massive success of these communities, it’s clear that a younger generation of readers sees books and reading as more than just reading books.

 

A broader mission

Online communities can be an even more powerful solution for authors when they use their writing as a springboard to a larger purpose.  Gabrielle Bernstein launched the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network just one year out of college and has been a motivational speaker since 2004. She self-published her first book, Add More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness, in 2010.  Her second book, Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, was published by Random House in 2011. At the same time her motivational books were achieving wide distribution, she built HerFuture.com into a vibrant community over 21,000 strong where Gabrielle shares her philosophy and works with other women to mentor, inspire and connect with each other.

After successfully battling a rare and incurable form of cancer through nutrition, Kris Carr made a documentary about her journey and published a companion book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips. Her Crazy Sexy attitude expanded with more books, including Crazy Sexy Diet, targeted at anyone looking for a healthier lifestyle. She launched My.CrazySexyLife.com as a companion to her books. Over 37,000 readers and adherents interact with this “wellness warrior” — and each other — on a daily basis.

One of the latest examples of using writing as a springboard is WANATribe.com,  a community launched by author Kristen Lamb. Kristen is the author of two best-selling books providing insights for authors to use social media to build a loyal fan base of readers. WANATribe.com brings together creative professionals who are dedicated to supporting one another. Since launching only 2 months ago, this community has quickly grown to over 1,300 members — proof that “We Are Not Alone” is a powerful idea!

All told, that’s 16 popular communities on Ning that are serving more than 650,000 members — and that’s not nearly all of the book communities on Ning! We expect this trend of book lovers and bookmakers using Ning for community will continue to mirror ongoing trends. Book publishing isn’t just being disrupted but being remade into something that genuinely incorporates the enthusiasm we all have for our favorite books — by giving us a place to share it.

Platform-wide scheduled maintenance on Friday, November 16

We will be performing maintenance on the Ning Platform on Friday, November 16, beginning at 10 PM Pacific Time. During this time, all Ning Networks will be unavailable for approximately 15 minutes.

We’ve been proud to offer a consistently high uptime and need to perform some crucial database updates to ensure that reliability continues.

During this time:

· Your Ning Network will display a maintenance page matching your current theme customization to let your members know that your community is temporarily unavailable.
· We will update the Ning Status Blog when this maintenance begins and ends.
· The Creators Network will also be down for maintenance. We will update on Creators when all is complete.

You may want to let your members know about this downtime in advance via a Broadcast Message or notice on the Main Page of your network. Feel free to make use of the language below, filling in your network details.

Formal: We will be performing maintenance on [network_name] on Friday, November 16, between 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Pacific Time. During this time, [network_name] will be unavailable. We hope this won’t be too much of an inconvenience as we work to perform some necessary upgrades.

Informal: Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that we need to perform some simple but necessary maintenance on [network_name] this coming Friday, November 16. We’ll need to take the site down at 10 pm Pacific for about 15 minutes, during which we’ll simply show a message asking folks to check back later. Thanks in advance for your patience while we tune up the site!

Talking Politics, Voting with Confidence

The debates are over and there’s just under a week until the U.S. makes its decision at the polls. More than 19 million people have already voted, either by mail or in person. But states including New York, Connecticut and New Jersey may have less of a voter turnout than originally thought due to Hurricane Sandy, and there’s even been a call for President Obama to postpone the elections. Since that’s unlikely to happen, now is a good time to ask yourself: Are you prepared to vote?

One of the best ways to ready yourself for the voting booth is to study up and get familiar with local and national issues. Voter guides are helpful, but nothing beats discussion and debate. Online communities can be an ideal place to get a better grasp on the policies up for debate in this election.

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We’ve heard a lot about taxes, the economy, jobs, Big Bird, and reproductive rights this election, but issues like climate change, the housing market, gun control, immigration, Medicaid, the war on drugs, foreign policy and the Euro crisis have gotten short shrift during the campaign. And then, of course, there are state issues to consider.

Ning communities can help you discover how certain policies might change in the coming years and how new government proposals could directly affect you and your neighbors. The Concord Square hosts discussions on the the economy and jobs, for example, and promises to get you up to speed on budget and deficit issues. Smart Girl Politics, a political network for conservative women, live streamed the debates and hosts an active chat room where members can discuss the issues in real-time. The First Coast Tea Party is counting down to election time and firing up its members by organizing local action groups to canvas and get out the vote. GovLoop, a popular network that connects government professionals and inspires public service, is currently discussing topics that run the gamut from social media policy for political professionals to new opportunities in public service and everything in between.

Connecting readers to resources and leading conversations that result in meaningful action is a trademark of many online communities, whether they are political by nature or embrace this theme seasonally. Wherever you are and whatever you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to join the conversation and broaden your perspective. And however you choose to vote, make sure you get out there and do it!

Images courtesy of Cain and Todd BensonDave Hosford and robertpalmer via Flickr

Nerd Alert! Nerdfighters Using the Power of Community to Increase Awesome and Decrease Suck

We were thrilled to hear a story about Nerdfighters on the radio this morning (WAMU in Washington, D.C.) about their ongoing campaign to make the world a better place using wonderful services like the micro-loan site Kiva. Take a listen:

Not familiar with Nerdfighters? It’s one of those online phenomenons that makes some people scratch their heads and wonder how it is that a rarified group of Internet celebrities can live their lives — and maybe even make a living — by simply existing on the Internet.

This list of Internet celebrities includes Rhett & Link, Smosh, Tobuscus, Freddy Wong and Ze Frank. They’re all masters of the video blog — speaking directly into the camera to anyone who will listen and making their videos as creative and pop-culture-rich as possible. Most of them release a new video out to the world once or twice per week, which helps them organically pick up new followers as people stumble onto their often hilarious and insightful observations about life. Such is the case with Hank and John Green, the two brothers who started Nerdfighters as a way to stay connected via videoblog (one lives in Montana; the other in Indiana).

All of these Internet celebrities use YouTube as their direct-to-the-Internet video broadcasting medium, but what makes them hugely successful is often what they do beyond their YouTube channel (which has an impressive 746,564 subscribers and 246,389,701 video views). The best ones are masters at nurturing communities of online followers in all kinds of locations online — including on Ning. They have over 81,000 members on their Ning site. Serious nerd alert!

In addition to their Ning community, which is one of the most trafficked on the Ning Platform, they have spawned fan Tumblr blogs like Eff Yeah Nerdfighters, Nerdfighters Don’t Fight Nerds, and Little Nerdfighter Things.

We wanted to give a shout out to Nerdfighters for all that they do to “increase awesome and decrease suck.” Their Kiva-raising efforts have resulted in a phenomenal 21,000+ loans totaling over 1 million dollars. Not bad for a bunch of nerds. Keep challenging your community and the world to be a better place!


Join them in donating on Kiva.

Not familiar with NerdFighters? Here’s a recent video:


 

Make an iPhone or Android App for Your Ning Network with ShoutEm

All those little apps on your phone are huge!

How huge? The Apple App Store reached a massive milestone this summer: They’ve served up over 30 billion apps to consumers. Of course, that’s just the apps that have been downloaded to Apple devices. Throw in Android and BlackBerry and other platforms, and it’s clear that the entire world has gone app crazy in the four years since the Apple App Store opened the door for everyone. People love them apps!

Ning Creators are no exception. While Ning offers a built-in version of every Ning Network that’s optimized for mobile devices, some communities can really benefit from having their own dedicated iPhone or Android app. If you have special branding needs or want to use the Ning API to do something unique, a dedicated app from our partner ShoutEm may be the way to go. Their platform allows just about anyone to make a beautiful iPhone or Android app without being a coding wizard.

Thinking of going the extra step and creating a dedicated iPhone or Android app for your own community? Want to see some examples of these apps in action? We’ve heard a number of requests from customers for examples of ShoutEm-created apps, so I’ve put together a few that will give people an idea of how Ning Creators are using ShoutEm to occupy the all-important real estate on mobile phones that is the dedicated app. Feel free to download these apps and try them out yourself. You should be able to access any public-facing pages as a visitor.


This Is 50: Exclusive Content + In-App Ads = Added Revenue

If you’re not just running a community but also building a brand, you probably want your mobile experience to match the look and feel of your site, your logo, etc. If you’re the type of person who knows the exact color of your logo down to the hex code color #, a custom app might be what you need to make sure your presentation is perfectly realized.

ThisIs50 is this type of brand. His team just built a brand-new app with ShoutEm that does a few neat things that builds on the brand while enriching the pocketbook:

  • The app offered early access to stream an exclusive snippet of the lead single from his upcoming album.
  • They include all kinds of rich video content to supplement the already attractive music content.
  • They’re running advertising directly in the app. Not just Google Ads, but visually rich Glam ads.
  • They’ve included deeper event integration. This is surely a good complement to a phone app’s ability to buzz out app notifications when members need to hear about something important.

Want to check out ThisIs50′s new app first-hand? Download it from the Apple App Store or get the Android version from Google Play.


GovLoop: Streaming Community News & Views

Ning Creators who have created their own iPhone apps with ShoutEm usually want an app that simply does more. Maybe you have a community that uses one or two features extensively and you need those features to have some extra options. Maybe you want to pull in some data about your members that exists on the desktop version of your site but not on the default mobile interface. Or, maybe you have something even more unique in mind. When you create an app with ShoutEm, you’re accessing the Ning API directly, which gives you many more options than you’ll see on your default mobile version.

Case in point: GovLoop. They have a wonderful iPhone app that offers something very unique: not just relevant news but streaming podcasting for on-the-go listening. What’s really neat about this ShoutEm integration is that they’ve combined more than one service on their iPhone app to create these podcasts. They’re streaming Soundcloud files and pulling in Ning data into the same iPhone app, and it works seamlessly. It’s a great-looking app that has some of the best content from their Ning site. Not just podcasting, but the news and discussions and blog posts that drive their particular community.

Browse around their public community with their dedicated iPhone app.


Trucker Social: Now, *That’s* Mobile

We’re hard pressed to think of a Ning community more mobile than Trucker Social. It makes total sense for them to have a dedicated iPhone app. Their members probably rely on accessing the Internet from their smartphones way more than they do on a laptop over Wi-Fi or a dedicated desktop computer.

They’ve really created a unique app with their ShoutEm/Ning integration. They offer what you might expect: member interaction and a feed of activity from their desktop site. But, they’ve gone a lot further and are offering content that really is tailor-made for their community: the latest trucker-related news, trucker job listings, and geolocation features to help their members spot nearby food options, shopping opportunities, entertainment choices — you name it. Dial up the nearest truck stop, get directions, and even see who’s tweeting nearby. Want to check in when you get there? This dedicated app offers full-featured geolocation-friendly social networking.

Download their iPhone app and see for yourself.


Those are just a few of the ShoutEm apps we’ve seen being created by Ning customers. Let us know if you’ve created one for your community.

Want your own? ShoutEm doesn’t require you to deal with any of the technical aspects of compiling and submitting apps, and you don’t even have to enter a credit card to get started. Just enter your Ning Pro API Key and start choosing which features you want to include in your app. When you’re ready to publish, pick a monthly plan that suits your needs.

A prescription for community and success

Chris Paton is a medical doctor, consultant and researcher. He specializes in the area of “Health Informatics,” which is all about using technology to enhance the provision of healthcare. One of the ways that Chris has been using technology over the years is to create online eLearning communities to help health professionals with their continuing education. The first community he created is called New Media Medicine and has been running for about 10 years, now with over 100,000 monthly users.

More recently, Chris has created the Health Informatics Forum Ning community and is running a Health Informatics Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) using curriculum resources created by 5 leading US universities through a $10 million grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
 

Tell us about yourself.

I trained as a doctor in the UK and have worked clinically in the NHS and the NZ health service and academically at Cambridge University, Otago University and most recently at the University of Auckland at the National Institute for Health Innovation. I recently completed an Executive MBA at the University of Auckland.

My research area is “Health Informatics” and I’m particularly interested in how we can use social media for eLearning and knowledge sharing. Over the years I’ve created about 80 eLearning courses as an eLearning consultant for the healthcare sector.

When and how did you get started with creating social communities?

The first community I created was New Media Medicine (NMM) about 10 years ago. This was before Ning. I set it up as an addition to an anatomy eLearning course I created for medical students. I found that the students really enjoyed chatting on the community and it grew over time to become one of the largest communities for medical students with over 100,000 monthly users.

New Media Medicine has been running for almost 10 years. That’s awesome! What are the most profound changes you’ve seen in that time?

The biggest change since I created NMM has been the rise of non-specific networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These weren’t around when I created the community and I have found that many of our members now also have accounts on these sites, and even use their Facebook accounts to continue discussions started on NMM and vice versa. More recently, the shift to mobile platforms has been significant, with more and more users using iPhones and tablets to access the site.

Despite all these innovations, the basics of running a community have changed surprisingly little over the last decade. People use the forum at NMM in pretty much the same way as they always have in the past.

And what are the other communities you manage?

My main other community is the Health Informatics Forum (HI). I started the site a few years ago as there really wasn’t a good online community for people like me interested in using technology in healthcare. Health has been a little bit slow to adopt new information technologies and therefore HI has only really taken off as a speciality for doctors in the last few years. In fact, it’s only since last year that US doctors could be “Board Certified” in Clinical Informatics as a sub-specialty.

I’ve also created a Ning community for eLearning professionals called eLearning Talk that aims to fulfill a similar role to the Health Informatics Forum for the eLearning industry.

I’ve also started Ning communities for other organisations. I created the Health Innovation Exchange (HIVE) for the Ministry of Health in New Zealand and I’m working an number of new communities for organisations in the health sector.

Your communities are becoming important resources for thousands of people. Given your audience, how are you managing these communities simultaneously?

I rely on the communities themselves to help me manage them. We get lots of volunteers offering to help with moderation and we have a policy of fairly strict moderation that tends to limit problems that can happen with unmoderated forums.

What are the main things you’ve learned since being in this online space?

I’ve learnt a lot over the last 10 years, but the main thing is have patience and persistence!

What’s the primary way people are using your Ning communities? Is it to learn, consume, discuss — or a mix?

Most people just browse an online community. Compared to the number of registered users, the number of people just browsing without logging in is huge. However, once they are signed up and logged in, most people use the sites to ask questions and to help their colleagues by providing answers. The discussion forum is where the action is on my Ning sites.

What are people doing on your Ning community they aren’t doing elsewhere?

On the Health Informatics Forum we get a lot of people who are interested in Health Informatics as a career, which is something reasonably unique. There are sites where people discuss the technical or business side of health informatics, but our community is very open to new-comers and we’re trying to encourage people into the industry as there is a real need to build the health informatics workforce.

Are there any inspiring or health-related success stories that have come about because of your communities?

We have many success stories on New Media Medicine. One of the main uses on the site is to help people become doctors. Many medical students come from relatively affluent backgrounds and are able to pay for assistance and tutoring through the various entrance exams and the interview process. For people without these resources or family support, our site offers a wealth of free advice and support from other users to help them through the process. We’ve had many users who have tried unsuccessfully to become a doctor for several years before coming to our community and getting help from medical students and doctors on the site. It’s great to read their blogs on the site as they finally graduate from medical school and start practicing medicine.

For someone looking to get started with building a community, what’s the first piece of advice you’d offer?

The key to building a successful community is to have the passion to keep going over time and find other people that are willing to contribute to your community. Once you have a good base of users, things start to self-generate.

What’s next for you?

I’m interested in working with a wider range of organisations through my eLearning Consultancy service to help them make the most of social media in their eLearning offerings. I recently gave a talk at a corporate eLearning conference and there was a lot of interest in how organisations can go “beyond the LMS” and provide more modern and innovative tools to help their employees learn.

From a research point of view, I’m interested in exploring in more detail how using social media technology enable more effective learning experiences. This is a fairly difficult question to answer but my intuition is that, by providing a means of communication and trust building between learners, social media communities offer some real advantages over “traditional” methods of delivering online training.