Whether you’re inviting a group of colleagues to a private online space or starting up a social network that’s wide open to anyone and everyone, we want to make it easy for you to get going. Our best advice is to tackle these three things first.
Choose the Right Features
Creating a Ning community is a little different than creating a website with a typical web hosting service. Ning revolves around features, not pages. This means you don’t need to build out pages of your site one-by-one. You also don’t need to dig into the details of HTML (unless you want to). Just choose the features you want from the Features Layout section of your dashboard, and those features will begin dynamically populating content on your Main Page based on activity generated by your members. Don’t want a feature or don’t like where it’s located? Move a feature. Remove it. Experiment when Setting Up Your Main Page.
Start simple, stay flexible
Choose the 3 or 4 features you know your members will want to use and start with those. As you grow, you’ll inevitably make changes, including changing how everything is organized and what features you want to focus on. Online communities are organic, growing things — kind of like a plant. Start with a wireframe support and shape its growth. Don’t try to force things into a rigid container!
Slap a Fresh Coat of Paint on Your Site
Your site is plain vanilla right out of the box, but you can quickly turn it into rainbow sherbet. Choose a theme, decide on a two- or three-column layout, pick your favorite font, and color away. Got a logo? Add it! Don’t like that shade of blue? Change it! You’ve got tons of choices with The Design Studio.
Create a custom header
You don’t have to create a unique header design (plenty of Ning communities don’t), but we think it helps. If you’ve already got a logo and a brand, great! Use the assets you already have. But all you really need is a nice image and a few minutes to create something that you think will appeal to your community. Any image will do as long as it’s 955 pixels wide. It doesn’t have to be drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, some of the most attractive and effective headers are basic and to-the-point. Ready to create one? Here’s How to Make a Custom Header.
Invite Charter Members to Seed the Initial Content for Your Community
Adding your first bits of content can feel like a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to. One easy way to get content on your page without having to empty out your creative tank is to invite a few friends or family members to be guest contributors.
- Give specific directions: Ask guest contributors to set up a profile. Ask them to perform two or three things you expect of new members (add 3 photos, ). Encourage them to comment on your initial discussions or start new ones. Just be specific about you want them to do; chances are, they’d love to help by taking 10 minutes out of their day to help you get going.
- Ask for feedback: This is the best group and the best time to lay it all out there and see what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they like and don’t like — or how they’d do it better.
- Thank them profusely! Consider making these initial collaborators “charter members” and feature them on a custom page or with their own member category. Whether they’re around for one day or far into the future, let them know that your success is driven by their time and advice.
All of this advice speaks to the point that you’ll need to spend at least a little time “seeding” content to Acquire Your First Members. By doing that, newcomers will be able to see where they can jump in and engage with others.
Got a Twitter account? Include a #ning hashtag or mention a #ning #milestone your community has reached, and we’ll do our best to retweet it. Whatever we can do to spread the word and help you succeed!
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