Monthly Archives: October 2011

Halloween costume tips and tricks à la Ning communities

If you’ve slacked on getting a Halloween costume put together to dawn on this spooky evening, you’re not alone. The good news is that you still have time to pull one together! We’ve heard from many Ning Creators and Ning community members about how they’ll be celebrating Halloween, so if you’re fresh out of ideas or are looking for a creative and unique spin to your costume, décor or Halloween meal, here are some ghoulish posts on Ning communities that can help you out:

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas on Spartanburg Moms:

Halloween artists and DIYers share on

Dinner In A Pumpkin Video on Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers:

Low-Fat Pumpkin Pie Topped with Spiced Pecans on Gen’s Guiltless Gourmet:

3 Wickedly Fun Ways To Celebrate Halloween! on Natural Mothers Network:

Halloween Costumes Designed For the Cold on Book Blogs:

Happy Halloween from Ning HQ!

Strictly speaking, it’s been an exciting year at Ning!

We’ve had quite the year at Ning! Most notably, Glam Media, a premium digital brand advertising and platform company, acquired us in September. On the product front, we’ve introduced add-on features, built-in support for Google+, Twitter, Ustream and Aviary, paid access, the Ning Design Studio, and launched Mogwee, a new mobile social communication service. We’re continuing this momentum into the rest of 2011.

In November, Ning will be at a number of conferences and speaking engagements, and we’d love to see you there! We remain laser-focused on offering the #1 platform for creating custom and powerful social communities, currently spanning some 100,000 customers ranging from brands, marketers, organizations, non-profits, educators, and interest groups. We’re looking forward to sharing what we’ve learned in building Ning along the way, and next steps for the product and company. We’ll be speaking at the following events:

Who & What? Anne Driscoll, Ning’s Vice President of Business Operations, will be at the Social Media World Forum. She’ll be speaking on social and mobile, exploring the impact of mobile apps on social media. Specifically, she’ll discuss:

– How are mobile apps impacting the social space?
– How is user behavior changing as a result of social media apps – and how should marketers and community managers be adapting their approaches to the new environment?
– Popular features of social media apps and potential future developments
– Case-studies of social apps in practice for community management

Where & When? Tuesday, November 1, 10 AM in Manhattan, New York.

Who & What? Ning Product Manager, Nick Barr, and UI Design Engineer Ken Kubiak, will discuss social design at the Future of Web Design Conference. They’ll explore lessons from the platform trenches, highlighting insights, trends and things learned at Ning since being in the social community marketplace for 5+ years.

Where & When? Monday, November 7 in Manhattan, New York.

Who & What? Christina Lee, Ning’s Director of Marketing, will be speaking at Next Steps Conference organized by the California Small Business Development Center. She’ll be speaking on a social media and marketing panel alongside other social platform companies, including Yelp.

Where & When? Tuesday, November 8, 9 AM in Fortuna, CA.

We’re incredibly excited about what’s next for us and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming speaking engagements! Let us know if you’ll be attending any of these events.

Starting a non-profit community, helping breast cancer patients online

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. More than ever, breast cancer patients, survivors, friends and family members, and organizations are sharing stories, raising awareness, and gathering support through online channels.

We heard about The Pink Daisy Project, a non-profit online community and all-volunteer Ning Network started by breast cancer survivor Debbie Cantwell. The organization is dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer cope with the hardships of their treatment by providing them care and comfort, and a hopeful online place to share their stories of survival. Debbie was also featured as a CNN Hero in July for her work with the community.

Debbie started The Pink Daisy Project on her own, as a way to thank all the people who helped her during her treatment and to pay it forward. Through the Ning community, women undergoing cancer treatment lean on the bravery from others around the world, forging lasting friendships, sharing their stories of treatment and survival, and receiving positive support from the greater community.

The national organization also provides financial help and relief to women during treatment – from sending groceries for a month or having someone come clean their house, seemingly little contributions make a positive difference while undergoing cancer treatment.

Debbie has built and managed The Pink Daisy Project while juggling a full-time job, and busy life with her husband and 2 children. “It’s been very easy for me, without any technical experience, to maintain the community, keep it running, and make changes,” Debbie highlighted. “The website we had previously was really static. It wasn’t dynamic and it wasn’t engaging; there was no interaction. So, people would look at it, and then they’d leave. Using Ning gave me the capability of having the interaction we wanted to see on The Pink Daisy Project.”

You can donate to the Pink Daisy Project through their Ning community. How is your Ning community making a positive impact in people’s lives? We’d love to hear about it.

Introducing Add-On Features: More Flexibility To Create The Community You Need

One consistent theme we’ve heard from our Ning Creators is how important it is to be able to create the social experience that’s right for their communities. We have a diverse customer base and every Ning Network is unique – some may center around community listening while others may focus on event organizing or revenue generation.

Back a few months ago, we launched Paid Access as our first optional add-on feature to provide Ning Creators with more options to customize their social experience. Today, we’re taking a further step to give you more flexibility to add features that are important to your community without requiring you to upgrade to a more expensive plan. Four Add-On features are now available individually for a set monthly fee: Groups, Events, Branded Music Player and Branded Video Player. If you’re a Mini customer, you now have the option of adding one or more of these features to your current plan. If you’re a Plus customer, you already have access to Groups and Events; you’ll now have the option to add a Branded Music Player and / or a Branded Video Player.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the new “Add-Ons” link on your Dashboard menu. We have more Add-On features planned, so let us know which additional features you’d like to see in the comments below.

Ning: Facebook Alternative for Building a Real, Custom Community

Establishing a solid foundation for your social community is core to the success of any organization or brand today. You want to foster a two-way dialog with your audience, grow customer loyalty and increase organic word of mouth marketing through the power of the social graph. The problem? It has become increasingly challenging to get control over the valuable data you’ve accumulated on your social channels.

For example, Facebook Groups provide an easy way for lightweight group interactions. But in May, Facebook updated its Groups feature, phasing out and archiving many legacy groups created over the years. While the goal was to shift groups and organizers to its new Groups feature, what actually happened was that Facebook group admins were left without options to migrate their data elsewhere, and there’s been no clear solution allowing admins to maintain groups or group membership.


Similar situations have happened before. Remember Geocities? In 2009, the Yahoo!-owned service abruptly deactivated all 38 million user-built pages on Geocities. This left Geocities publishers with no access to the pages they created.

Must-Haves For Your Social Community

More and more savvy organizers and marketers are embracing social autonomy by having greater ownership over their online presence. Having a social media presence essentially means nothing if you can’t make use of the assets you’ve gathered from social channels to drive your business or organization goals.

As you craft your social media strategy to map back to your goals, it’s important to holistically evaluate the options you have in front of you and identify the ones that can scale as you grow. Some questions to help you get started in making that choice:

  • Do you have complete control over critical data, such as access to contact information like email addresses?
  • Can you always access data you have solicited from your community, like responses to polls and profile questions?
  • Can you download information added and hosted on your community site and do you retain the ownership to this content?
  • Do third-party analytics tools like Google Analytics integrate with the service?
  • Do you need to jump through hoops to use and develop third-party applications and services to run simple promotions and contests?

At Ning, we believe in giving you the flexibility and toolset to manage your community as you see best suited for your goals, at all times. You are always in full control of your community — not only can you tailor the social experience with features that fit your unique needs, you also have complete ownership of your social community — you’re empowered to take it to the next level.

Diversify Your Social Media Efforts

More than anything, it’s important to diversify your presence across the social media channels and platforms best suited to address your community needs. No one social media service is created equal: Facebook is great for lightweight user reach; Twitter is excellent for real-time broadcasting; Yelp provides a quick sounding board for local businesses; and Ning is known for enabling people to create and manage custom social communities.

Ning communities allow you to easily aggregate and pull in your presence from services across the web, and likewise extend your Ning community to the rest of the online world. From photo editing via Aviary’s easy–to-use tools, WordPress plug-ins enabling posting on Ning websites, social sign-in integration to enable simplified login through services like Google and Facebook or 1-click sharing via Twitter, we recognize that being a part of the social ecosystem is what really matters — and all on your terms.

Now What?

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand your audience. Think about what they are looking for in their interactions with your organization, brand, community or group, and how best to serve them. Within social, there are a myriad of tools and services that can meet these needs, and it’s good measure to take a minute to evaluate the best way to achieve these goals, not simply settling for the status quo or following the crowd.

Ning in education: Social media today

Ning was recently mentioned in Dan Klamm’s Mashable article, 6 Best Practices for Universities Embracing Social Media, as a tool for colleges and universities looking to build communities and embrace social media in a content-rich world.

As highlighted in our June 2011 Ning POV, education is our largest social category of communities on the Ning Platform. And it’s been very humbling to see the amazing ways educational institutions and teachers are actually using Ning to further education and learning for students, worldwide.

Here are just a few communities we wanted to highlight:

We’d love to hear from more educators using Ning! We invite you to share how you’re using Ning in the classroom or educational institute to enrich your students’ lives, or you can comment below.