Monthly Archives: September 2011

Make Money Online! Experts Only Need Apply. (That’s You)

Do a quick search on Google for “make money online”, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the only people making money on the Internet are selling dubious pyramid schemes, questionable stock tips, and pharmaceutical-grade, Canadian Viagra. Where are all the small businesspeople — the folks with a great idea, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the drive to succeed? How are they going about it? We’re happy to report that some of these people are succeeding quite well on Ning — by simply shaping a business model around their expertise.

As expected, we’ve seen a frenzy of entrepreneurial activity by Network Creators in the first three months since the optional Paid Access add-on was released. Many of the early success stories are of Network Creators using either Paid Groups or Paid Membership to monetize their expertise. Richard Robinson and Kay Petal were already offering local and video workshops for a fee. Paid Access enabled them to offer their expertise to a broader online audience in a rich, interactive way. Ariel Meadows Stallings has achieved great success in building the 20,000+ member Offbeat Bride Tribe community and was searching for new ways to generate income from the network. We want to share their stories so other entrepreneurs can get an idea of the possibilities that exists for monetizing a Ning Network.

Offbeat Bride Tribe

It all started with one fiercely independent bride who wanted to do things her own way. When it came time to get married, Ariel Meadow Stallings realized she didn’t want to blindly go through with all the trappings of a traditional wedding. Instead, she forged her own path and wrote about her experience in a book called Offbeat Bride. The blog she launched to promote the book grew to include daily updates of “wedding porn” — irresistible photos from real-life, offbeat weddings — along with advice and inspiration to over 200,000 readers. In late 2007, she created a private Ning Network for members of her rapidly growing Offbeat Bride Tribe who are actively planning their weddings. The network has since grown to over 20,000 members.

To provide even more personalized guidance to Tribe members, Ariel began offering Bridechilla, a six week course to “help you tackle your wedding planning with grace, sass and authenticity.” For $79.99 ($59.99 for early sign-ups), members join a private group where they receive weekly emails and worksheets, participate in discussions and join video chat sessions with the instructor, Kirsten.

Members raved about the first course, so Ariel scheduled a second. She’s generated $2,600 in revenue from these first entrepreneurial forays. “The Paid Access feature is making it super easy to facilitate the eCourse. We went from concept to execution in about one week, and set-up only took 10 minutes! With the built-in Paid Access features, setting up the paid group was as easy as entering my PayPal info, setting the membership rate, and clicking Publish. We made $1,000 in the first 48 hours, effectively covering our costs for both Ning Pro and the Ning Paid Access feature for the year.”

The Complete Artist

Richard Robinson has been a professional painter since 2001. His paintings are inspired by the natural beauty near his home town of Ruakaka in Northland, New Zealand. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Ruakaka, you can experience it through his landscape paintings at his online gallery. Teaching is also important to Richard: “I’ve been teaching painting as long as I’ve been learning, and I enjoy helping others along the path as much as I enjoy learning from other artists.” For those lucky enough to visit, he hosts outdoor workshops. For the rest of us, he produces video lessons – and over 500,000 aspiring artists around the world have viewed them.

In late 2008, he launched The Complete Artist  network to share his painting blog posts and engage with aspiring artists. With the release of Paid Access in July, he began offering an online workshop on the network. For $20, members join a private group where they enroll in the monthly painting challenge, view or download a video demo, and then have their painting critiqued by Richard and others in the group. As a bonus, they also get a chance to win an original painting by Richard. In the one month since Richard began offering the workshop, 178 members have enrolled, and he’s grossed over $4,000 in additional revenue.

The Needle Felters Workshop

Kay Petal grew up in a small Alaskan town in a large, artistic family. She discovered needle felting by chance in 2007 while searching on the Internet for crafty things to do with old wool sweaters. As she describes it, “After my great discovery, I never really got back to my sweaters – needle felting sort of took over my life.” She quickly gained recognition for caricature art dolls. You can check photos and videos of these dolls online at Flickr and YouTube.

Her passion with needle felting extends to teaching others – helping them grasp the fundamentals and discover the magic she learned on that weekend in 2007. She teaches felting workshops locally, including volunteering her time at local schools, as well as through DVDs and online videos on her Feltalive website.

When Ning launched Paid Access in July, 2011, Kay decided to launch an online needle felting studio on Ning, The Needle Felters Workshop, and charge for membership. As Kay promotes it, “If you want to master the craft of sculptural needle felting, this is the place to be.” For a $49.95 fee, members get 12 months of access to video blogs in which Kay shares tips and new techniques, the complete library of Felt Alive video workshops, support forums to get help from Kay and other members, first-look at new Li’l Celebrity Dolls as they come to life in Kay’s studio, needle felting challenges, and forums to promote and market their work. In just 2 months since Kay launched her studio, she’s attracted more than 100 members and earned over $2,500 in revenue. She plans to end her introductory offer at the end of this month and increase the membership fee to $79.95.

What’s your expertise?

What are you an expert at? Can you leverage that expertise to teach others in an online setting? Let us know in the comments how you think you could take your expertise in a particular subject and turn it into a genuine, money-making enterprise.

Ready to get started with Paid Access and start generating revenue? Read all about it in our Help Center.

The Future of Social Is Here…

Today is a big day for the Ning team. We’ve just announced that we’ve signed an agreement to be acquired by Glam Media. I couldn’t be more excited about the future for Ning and the massive achievements our combined teams can reach together.

Glam is the leader in vertical media, bringing the world’s brands online through their premium advertising and publishing platforms. By combining Glam’s vision for brands with Ning’s leading position in creating custom social experiences, the two companies will change the way brands intersect with social. Glam + Ning will bring the context and relevancy that brands are looking for in the way they interact with audiences online.

For Ning Creators, this builds upon our goal of creating new ways to drive value and monetize the communities our customers build. We know that access to premium ad experiences has been something that many of our customers would like, and I am excited that many of them will be able to leverage Glam’s strength in this area. Some of our Ning Creators are already part of the Glam community of Publishers, and we believe many more will have the scale, content and context that would make them ideal Glam Publishers.

Leveraging Ning’s powerful platform, Glam will be able to accelerate its social vision – and create a unique approach for brands to deeply engage with passionate consumer audiences. Authentic conversation, influence and trust have been core elements to Ning communities, and we believe that our Creators represent the type of passionate influencers that are key to premium brands.

Upon closing the acquisition, Ning will become a new division of Glam Media that I will run, and Marc Andreessen (our chairman and co-founder) will join the Glam Board of Directors. For his perspective, check out Marc’s post here. Our vision to make social and mobile core to every web experience will be strengthened. Together, we have an opportunity like no other, and I am fired up for what we’ll deliver to our customers, partners and the world.

PARK(ing) Day: Transforming metered parking spots into parks

Today is PARK(ing) Day, an annual event inviting people around the world to transform metered parking spots into temporary mini parks for the public good.

Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, started the endeavor in 2005 when they converted a single parking space into a 1-day public park in downtown San Francisco.

Since then, PARK(ing) Day has yielded 850 parks in 183 cities, 30 countries and 6 continents! To help inspire more people to set up shop with a park(ing) spot in their local community, the organization uses its Ning community as the repository and go-to place for DIYers looking to make an impact.

In turn, people from around the world are also sharing, in real time, photos, videos and blogs of their creative park(ing) spots made today. It’s truly a spectacular example of the ways people are sharing with the world the impacts they’re making locally.

It’s a (parking) spot-on way communities are using Ning to share, inspire and positively shape their real world communities. Are your members finding creative inspiration and making an impact? We’d love to hear about it!

Social Media Nonprofit Best Practices: Grassroots Strategy

9 Killer Ways To Mobilize Action Without Burning A Hole In Your Wallet

There are tens of thousands of social-powered sites for non-profits on Ning that are the grassroots campaign headquarters for making a change. This presence online isn’t just a channel for broadcasting information but non-stop destinations that bring people together, facilitate conversations, spark excitement, and inspire action. Social media levels the playing field for non-profits where community building and creativity become more important than running expensive promotional campaigns.

Here are the 9 powerful tips we learned from the successful non-profits on Ning on how to mobilize action without burning a hole in your wallet.

1. Tell the story

Every day, we are bombarded by a ton of noise and information. To capture people’s attention, there is nothing more powerful than storytelling. Stories promote active listening and interaction, meaning that your message is much more likely to be digested and repeated to others. As Mother Theresa once said, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” So start connecting with your audience by telling the story of one person in need, instead of facts and figures about the issue.

2. Design matters

Let’s face it – often people judge by appearance and the same goes for non-profits. An unprofessional, disorganized site certainly wouldn’t inspire confidence, let alone getting people involved or inspired to donate. Thanks to new design tools and technology, anyone (not just professional designers or non-profit organizations with big marketing budget) can create a stunning online / social experience. So invest the time in understanding your audience and designing the right experience for them.

3. Make it fun

Rallying support for a cause doesn’t mean you need to be all serious and boring. TuDiabetes, one of our Ning Creators reached out to its community to create the first-ever poetry book on diabetes. To promote early testing for diabetes, TuDiabetes put together a Big Blue Test awareness campaign which is positioned positively and doesn’t appear intimidating. So don’t forget to make it fun to do good.

4. Make social media work for you, not the other way round

Social media is mainstream and having presence on the social web – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning, Foursquare, and more isn’t just important, it’s a pre-requisite. The online presence of your organization should be completely integrated with your social media campaigns to convert lightweight engagement into action for moving toward your goals. And when supporters take online action on your site, broadcast the action to their social graphs to maximize reach.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask

Being aware of an issue doesn’t necessarily imply action. Think about your campaign goals (note: be sure they are measurable) and translate them into actions people can take. Tell people what you need and be specific. Having people take the first step usually is the hardest part, soconsider lightweight actions (e.g. Tweet or “Like”) to make it easy for supporters to get involved.

6. Get 20 influencers to get the word out

According to the recent Ning Point of View Report, you may have 1000 “friends” who never visit, but it only takes 20 people to evolve from one-way broadcasting from the community leader to meaningful many-to-many interactions. Identify the small group of quality influencers within your support base and focus on nurturing those relationships to get your community kick started.

7. Encourage content creation

One of the challenges non-profit organizations face is generating fresh content to inform people on what’s happening. You don’t need to shoulder that burden alone. Encourage your community to be content generators – let them blog about why they’ve become involved, share videos from fundraising events, and more. Not only is the workload is distributed, it also sparks dialogue and opens the lines of communication within your active support base.

8. Use different approaches to keep people engaged

Everyone’s learning style is different, meaning the best way to keep people engaged varies. When you put together a non-profit awareness campaign, think about different ways to deliver information. Use different methods to present your story – videos, photos, forums, and blogs all encourage participation.

9. Reward participation

A highly effective way to drive participation is with rewards. Often, what your audience values often may not be monetary in nature. For instance, Amplifying Education – the philanthropic group on Ning formed by a Boston-based band, Dispatch – rewarded fans who donated books, volunteered, or took online action for the education crisis in America with the ability to unlock exclusive song downloads. Think about what your audience values. Frequently, the powerful incentive that makes your campaign viral isn’t something with a hefty price tag but rather just a simple, creative idea.

Your tech company job offer – Ning wants you!

This week, Ning employees are heading to colleges and universities throughout the U.S. to recruit for the company. We’re looking for students and fresh graduates to make an impact at Ning HQ in Palo Alto and remotely.

This Wednesday, September 14, we’ll be at the following schools:

On September 19, we’ll be at University of Texas at Austin – Natural Sciences Fall 2011 Career Expo in Austin, TX, and we’ll be at even more schools in October!

If you’re interested in building something great alongside the rest of the Ning team, come say ‘Hello’ and introduce yourself – we can’t wait to meet you! If you can’t make it to these events, we invite you to check out our open positions and be in touch if anything piques your interest.

Digital empathy: 9/11 communities bringing us closer together

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001. We wanted to highlight 2 amazing Ning communities that have sprouted as a result of that fateful day.

In May, we first mentioned Prepare New York, a community initiative bringing together 6 different interfaith organizations. We recently spoke with the Ning Creator, Kierra Parlagreco, about what plans they had for this anniversary and how their community has brought all walks of life together through conversations and an open dialog. Over the past several months, they have promoted Lunchtime Chats happening online within the community and Coffeehour Conversations, happening in person around the country. For Parlagreco, “the whole thrust behind Prepare New York is about having a more constructive dialog” in a safe environment. They have archived the online conversations, and Parlagreco notes feedback from one member participant: “I always feel so much better after these lunchtime chats.”

Today, Prepare New York is also commemorating September 11 through its community-created art project, Ribbons of Hope. Through September 12, anyone can visit the art project alongside the Gardens of Remembrance in Battery Park, Manhattan. Visitors are welcome to add a ribbon to the art project, helping with the “creation of a multi-colored, multi-cultural, tapestry of prayers, wishes, dreams, memories, and celebrations.”

Prepare New York - Ribbons of Hope

    Shifting gears, the Original 9-11 Memorial Run was set up to unite thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts, fundraise for 9/11-related charities and military personnel, and “to ride out east to pay respect for the fallen heroes of 9/11 at the Pentagon, Shanksville and Ground Zero.” Ning Creator, Bob Kress, along with nearly 2,000 bikers, embark on motorcycle runs throughout the country on every anniversary of September 11. They use their online community to share photos of their rides, the non-profit’s mission statement, and to encourage registration and donations. This year, they’re fundraising for the Maimonides Cancer Center in Brooklyn, NY, which helps treat emergency workers turned cancer patients exposed to smoke and toxic dust from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

      While these Ning communities exemplify the inspiring uses of the Ning Platform, they are both tips of the iceberg in terms of how we see people taking advantage of building a community with Ning, positively helping friends and family, casual acquaintances, and strangers from around the world.

      Ultimately, these Ning communities are encouraging digital empathy, by bringing people together through common connections, spanning everything from alumni and hobbyist groups to chronic illnesses and world-changing events.