Monthly Archives: March 2012

Member categories and badges are here!

Not too long ago, we laid the groundwork for our member categories feature by streamlining the management of your existing and prospective members. This feature is now live and we wanted to share with you the details and how it works.

You can create up to 50 categories and assign members to them. All of your members will begin in the default category, called “Members.” You can create and edit new categories via the Member Categories tab in the Member Management section. A couple of important limitations to note: the default category can’t be edited, and members can only belong to one category at a time.

When you create a category, you have an option to create a listing page exclusively for the members in that category, and you can create listing pages for up to 10 categories. When you do this, a new submenu item for the category will appear in the submenu items for Member pages. You can choose the text for the submenu listing, so that you can pluralize or customize it. This is a great way to highlight specific members within your community.

Image and Text Badges
Each category that you create can also have an optional image or text badge that gets added as an overlay on a member’s profile picture. Whether you create badges of honor or badges of shame, this is an excellent way to identify admins, reward special members, or just make it easy for visitors to identify different types of members. Text badges are based on the category name, and can be placed at the top or bottom of the profile picture. You can set the text color, background color, and the background opacity for each badge, so you can get as creative as you like!

Images badges can be positioned in one of the four corners of a member’s profile picture. We’ve included over 20 badges to get you started, and you can upload and manage up to 50 of your own custom badges!

CSS Tricks
Designers and Ning Creators comfortable with CSS will be pleased to know that each category made is associated with a CSS class added to the #xg_themebody div in profile pages. This means you can create CSS styles that will be applied to the profile pages of members in a category. This will let you do things like adjust the background or color scheme of every member of your network who’s in a specific category.

Once you’ve assigned your members to categories, you can use new functionality in the Broadcast Message feature to send a broadcast message to just those members. Choose any category you’ve created and proceed from there.

A few ways you might use this

Suggested use for categories: Teachers & Students
You run a community for karate enthusiasts and want to reward members with the best zen advice; spotlight the admins who help you run your community; and identify long-time masters who practice as professional teachers and run their own expertise-based groups on your community (sensei).

  • Create a category for members who say smart zen-like things and surprise them with a zen-circle icon badge in the bottom-right area of their profile picture.
  • Create a category for admins. Then, make a text badge that says “Admin” and slap it on your admins’ profiles by assigning them to the category. Instant authority. Create a listing page of your admins so new members can easily see who they are.
  • Show the teachers on your community some respect with a Japanese two-character sensei logo — in the upper right-hand corner of their profile picture because kanji reads from top to bottom!

Suggested use for badges: Marathon Masters
You run a sporty community of long-distance runners who regularly keep track of the number of marathons they’ve tackled. You always encourage them to post a summary blog post after each new marathon describing how they overcame the toughest moment of the race. It’s not a totally competitive network, but there sure is something awesome about rewarding people who have run 1, 5, 10, or even 20 marathons in a lifetime! Set up categories for each one of these designations and reward them with I, V, X, and XX text badges — old school Ancient Greece marathon style.

Suggested use for messaging categories: Quiet Targets
Your nonprofit community for animal lovers doesn’t have a hierarchy — everyone is equal and respected in their own way. But… you wouldn’t mind sending them targeted broadcast messages from time to time. Create a batch of categories for owners of dogs, cats, birds, lizards — you name it. Remember: You don’t have to expose these categories to members if you don’t want. If you have a special promotion you only want to send to lizard lovers, lock and load a broadcast message.

Suggested use for CSS category class: Classy Profile Pages
You run a community of educators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders all focused on spreading the gospel of e-learning. You rely heavily on both experts and sponsors to make your site run. They don’t want to be seen as behaving in a crass, commercial way in forum conversations, and you don’t want to be seen as unwittingly enabling unknown advertising to your members. Set up categories to transparently identify them, and you can even go a step further (if you have the CSS chops) and give their profile pages special headers, colors, and treatments. Expert profile pages!

Let us know how you’re using member categories and badges within your community!

5 Years strong on Ning: Benefitting from the shared experiences of others living with diabetes

©2010 Obert Houser

Manny Hernandez is a nonprofit leader, a recognized social media author and a passionate diabetes advocate. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences about health, diabetes and social media and has been interviewed by The NY Times, NPR, Fox News Health and Bloomberg News on these topics. He authored ‘Ning for Dummies’ and has collaborated in other books on social media and health 2.0.

Manny heads the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit that connects, engages and empowers people touched by diabetes through its social networks on Ning, (in English) and (in Spanish) and programs like The Big Blue Test and No-Sugar Added Poetry. DHF offers information and support to more than 200,000 people around the world every month.

In March 2007, we started TuDiabetes because we saw that too many people with diabetes were feeling isolated instead of benefiting from the shared experience they could have by connecting to other people touched by diabetes.

Today, Diabetes Hands Foundation‘s networks allow members to find support locally and globally. Our more than 23,000 members describe the TuDiabetes family as a lifeline, a source of guidance, a sanctuary, and even a college education! We proudly connect advocates, artists, dreamers, thinkers, and people touched by diabetes of all types so that all of us may live a more expansive life with diabetes.

I sit back and reflect on where we were 5 years ago and where we are now:

  • I have learned to stay flexible, both about my diabetes (not pretending to be perfect) and in the way we do things on TuDiabetes and the Diabetes Hands Foundation (adapting to changing circumstances, challenges, and signals along the way).
  • I am more hopeful than ever: I have had the opportunity to talk with (and share the conversations on video) with some of the world’s most brilliant minds working to make our lives better and one day have diabetes be a thing of the past.
  • I have witnessed the power of social media beyond socializing: seeing how connected people touched by diabetes now feel better understood and more empowered. Who would have imagined this when MySpace was the big thing?

On our fifth birthday, please help us keep going strong in our mission to improve the lives of people living with diabetes worldwide.

If all members of TuDiabetes donate $5, we will raise more than $100,000. Our goal is less ambitious: we are seeking to raise $20,000 before the end of March. So we ask you to give us 5 dollars, or more if you can.

Thank you for your support! And here’s to another 5 years!


College admissions: Building community, helping prospective students choosing schools

Do you remember the anxiety and stress of the college admissions process? Many questions loom: When will I find out? Is this the right school for me? How can I hear from current students? How can I afford this education? What will my life be like there?

These are just some of the questions top of mind for high school seniors (and parents) as they wait to hear from schools and decide where to attend for the next chapter in their lives. This got us thinking. How are colleges and universities using Ning to build community around their prospective students and what are schools doing to make a student’s decision on matriculation more informed and less stressful?

We came across Providence College’s Ning Network, PC Perspectives. Based in Rhode Island, Providence College (PC) is a small liberal arts college that decided to build their community with Ning to supplement their presence on Facebook and Twitter. Their goal was to share a true PC student-perspective to high schoolers. “We wanted prospective students to have a space to learn about PC that was a step beyond the packaged marketing materials,” said Scott Seseske, PC’s Assistant Dean of Admission. “We wanted a place where these students could come and hear from PC students, and ask them questions directly.”

The Ning community is completely open, meaning that anyone can see student blog posts, photos and profiles by PC’s student ambassadors (pictured below). Current students highlight everything from study abroad opportunities, roommates, sports, picking a major and their impending graduation. In total, PC Perspectives has 10 dedicated students representing the college on a regular basis through the community (and many more chiming in along the way).

Ambassadors offer their candid experiences at PC to the nearly 10,000 students applying each year. Seseske highlights that for student ambassadors, many contribute because the Ning community made an impact on them during their own college searches, and they’re paying it forward by volunteering their time within the site. Having a presence within the community also serves as a tangible portfolio as student ambassadors think about their graduation from PC and post-college employment opportunities in fields like the press and media, tech, education, advertising, and writing.

Since the group is open to everyone, PC Perspectives serves to help high school students at any stage in the admissions process — meaning that if someone wants to join as a member, and gush about how excited they are to attend PC, they can absolutely do so, or if they’re more comfortable checking out what PC is all about without becoming a full-fledged member of the site, they can do that too. By being a destination where prospective students can visit online, connect with other high schoolers, current students and the college, PC Perspectives offers students just that: an authentic perspective on what it’s like to attend Providence College. And more importantly, they’re helping high school students find the right school.