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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!