Scott Sandland talks about what he puts front and center on his network and how he encourages people to get involved in conversation. Visit Hypnothoughts.com.
Tony Ideem talks about what features they focused on when they started — and what they ended up sticking with after seeing and hearing what their community really wanted. Visit BlackTree TV.
My Modern Met started as a social network and then evolved over time to focus on their blog and showcasing compelling artistic content. Visit My Modern Met.
Have you ever walked into a store with too many choices — an electronics store with 75 big-screen TVs or 22 different wireless network routers? What did you feel? Confusion? Paralysis? The urge to walk right back out the door? Your Ning Network offers dozens of features, hundreds of third-party applications and limitless ways to customize it. Your first impulse might be, “I should add all of these!” If you can… resist that urge. Make the experience easy for your members by keeping it simple.
Critical mass is another important reason to keep it simple. If you only offer a couple of features, all of your members will congregate in those areas — posting content and commenting on other members’ posts. This member engagement feeds on itself, encouraging still more activity. If instead you offer 15 features and apps, your members will be spread across them. Activity around any single feature will be lower, and members will likely be less engaged.
- Focus on 2-3 features: If you haven’t defined your hook for your Ning Network yet, read this article. Focus on the natural ways your members can contribute and interact around the passion or interest defined by your hook. For example, WeLoveBirds emphasizes photos and videos.
- Activity Feed top-center: If you have members and activity, consider switching to a two-column layout and placing your Activity Feed at the top of the wider colum. This focuses member attention on the latest posts, comments and new members on your network.
- Use your Leaderboards: Your Leaderboards let members get quickly caught up and indicates what’s hot. Survive France positions their Leaderboard at the top-center of their Main Page and titles it “most viewed content” which is a simple (and very effective) way to draw people deeper into the site.
- Use photos and videos to your advantage: Data shows these are two of our most popular features. By adding both, you’re giving your members a quick and easy way to add content. One Day on Earth, although focused intently on videos, also accepts photo submissions contests to encourage members to contribute even more.
- Forum vs. blog?: The Forum feature is designed to encourage members to post new topics and discuss topics with each other, but Blogs are a more rich way to publish content to your community and generate comments. Some networks, like Navy for Moms, thrive on community-led discussion, while others, like My Modern Met, are focused almost exclusively on blogging.
Don’t do this
- Forget to edit yourself: Just because a feature is available, doesn’t mean you need to use it. Start simple, and make sure what you have is working. If a feature has little or no activity, remove it!
- Go overboard with Ning Apps: The many third-party apps that are available add new functionality, but it’s best to add only one or two — the ones that truly fit your Ning Network.