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We’re an American Band
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americanband_revised.jpg

We’re closing in on 20,000 new social networks on Ning in one month and the diversity of these networks has amazed us. It is so beyond our expectations.

As one example, I discovered We’re an American Band a few days ago and there’s a few of things I thought I’d highlight about this network:

A unique purpose

One of the keys to creating a great social network is a purpose, especially when you’re creating something from scratch without a built-in base of fans. Not that a built-in fanbase is a bad thing. In fact, that’s pretty awesome, too.

We’re an American Band makes their purpose clear in their HTML Text Box on the homepage:

We are a Los Angeles based independent TV production company developing a show that showcases unsigned bands and gives them their shot at the big time. This site will be used in a pitch to a major TV network very soon, so your music will be heard! Help us out, this is no BS. We love good music and know the entertainment business, this is your chance to rise above the crowd! So post your videos and songs, build your own page and help us out!

When I first saw this, I was like, “OMG! I want to be on TV!” and I don’t even have a band.

The purpose of this network was clear in the first five seconds of being on it.

A clear perspective how they want you to use the network

So it was a bit hidden, but I thought in this discussion about updates they did a great job calling out a specific action for both fans and bands:

MAKE SURE YOU GO TO THE BAND PAGES AND SEND THEM A “FRIENDS REQUEST” !!!!!

Adding specific things people should do on your network – ideally making it unique to your network – is pretty powerful.

We’ve seen other networks use surprise contests (via broadcast messages you, as the Network Creator, can send from your Manage page) to drive a network into a frenzy of activity.

In terms of contests, you could do things like “you are the 100th member of our network!” or “you have the most friends on our network!” or “you have posted the most today!” and do something as simple as feature a link to their profile page from your network’s homepage in your HTML Text Box.

A nice logo and coordinated design

We have a post brewing right now about how to make your network look awesome using the Appearance options you have on your network.

We’re an American Band has done a really nice job of taking their logo and coordinating the rest of their network to match it.

Choosing a coordinated theme or set of colors goes a long way in creating a great social network.

Great use of standard features

We’re an American Band is using photos, videos, the discussion forum, and blogs to provide different options for both bands and fans to participate.

Bands like The Lift have customized their Band page (so that it looks different from other band pages on We’re an American Band) and added performances and music videos branded for We’re an American Band. They might also want to watermark their videos and photo slideshows as these are great ways to spread the word about We’re an American Band and The Lift on MySpace and blogs.

Gratuitous video of The Lift…

Creative use of RSS, external widgets, and HTML Text Boxes

We’ll be releasing a music/audio player brandable for your social network on Ning in the coming weeks.

Ahead of our release, We’re an American Band added a beautifully integrated external music player using Odeo in a HTML Text Box on their homepage. On Odeo, find music or podcasts that you want to add to your network and then customize the look of your embedded player on a page like this.

As a Network Creator, you can add as many HTML Text Boxes as you’d like to your network’s homepage to take advantage of the widgets available from external services.

We’re an American Band has also done a nice job using RSS to customize their network. For example, they’ve taken an RSS feed of All Videos on We’re an American Band and now display that on the homepage. This is in addition to our standard Video feature display on the homepage.

They’ve added RSS feeds from another music-related social network they created on Ning, ProgRock, as well as PureVolume for merchandise, and Topix.net for additional music news.

RSS feeds on your social network enable you to offer fresh new stuff without lifting a finger. Plus you can set them up very easily on your social network on Ning.

Kyle has a nice write-up on Network Creators about other external widgets you can add to your HTML Text Boxes.

Fresh discussions, videos, photos, and feeds make it feel “live”

There’s no substitute for kicking things off with a lot of new stuff every few hours on your network. We’re an American Band is a new network but has gotten up to 72 people (as of this writing) in less than a week by taking advantage of the features offered on their new social network plus a few really cool unsigned bands adding a ton of great stuff.