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As we covered in The Perfect Social Network, your Latest Activity feature shows all the activity happening across your social networks as soon as it happens.

It is the single most important feature you can add for driving recurring usage by your members on your social network, especially as you get bigger. And by bigger, we actually mean everyone should use this feature. It’s how people quickly find the best, brightest and most recent stuff on your social network.

We’ve seen the Latest Activity used most effectively in two ways:

1. Front and center on your social network’s Main page.
Adgabber provides a great example of this placement:

Why Your Network's Latest Activity Matters 1

2. On the right column so that it is persistent across every page of your network.
The Offbeat Bride Tribe uses the Latest Activity feed this way:

Why Your Network's Latest Activity Matters 2

Why do some people remove the Latest Activity feature?
Here’s a few reasons we’ve heard and a few solutions:

I have a small network and the Latest Activity makes my social network look empty.
We can totally appreciate this dilemma but there are a few things you can do to use your Latest Activity feature to keep things moving as you’re getting off the ground.

First, you can add network stats and network messages directly into your Latest Activity feature. Just go to your Manage page and choose Latest Activity, under Spread the Word. Then, throw in a message or choose from the network trivia that you can add into the stream directly. As you can tell, you can also decide on this settings page what shows up in your Latest Activity feature. Here’s the screenshot of the page:

Why Your Network's Latest Activity Matters 3

Second, (and this is something we’d encourage you to do regardless), you have to give to receive. Use your Latest Activity feature as your own tracker of things you and your friends are adding in the early days of your network. Adding photos, videos, blog posts and music daily while you get things off the ground will make your social network a hit. The Latest Activity feature will help get people to everything you’re adding.

What’s the Latest Activity feature?
Ok, if this is you, then shame on us. It means we’ve done a bad job explaining the Latest Activity feature and its value to you. Hopefully, this blog post helps a bit along those lines.

The Latest Activity feature is the best way for your members to get a real-time snapshot of everything happening across your social network on Ning. While some services focus on friends, what we’ve found is that for people joining social networks on Ning, they want to know what is happening on the social network as a whole. It’s the best way to discover new stuff as well as keep track of the things you care about (ok, second to following the things you care about after email notifications you get when you “follow” something. We’ll be adding a filter for things that you care about later this Spring.)

What other reasons for removing the Latest Activity feature do you have? If we’ve convinced you to add back your Latest Activity feature with this post, also let us know how it goes. We’re curious if you too see a marked improvement in traffic and activity on your social network on Ning. Enjoy!