Monthly Archives: May 2012

Social: In the veins of your Ning community

At Ning, we’re all about social. It’s in our veins. We play well with others like Twitter and Facebook; and we focus on how other services like them can best be implemented into the Ning Platform to give you a seamless and awesome experience for building and contributing to a Ning community, and sharing content elsewhere.

We encourage Ning Creators to take full advantage of other social platforms as they build a social strategy and online presence to reach their goals. Here are 8 ways your Ning community works with other social platforms, making your Ning site an integral part of that strategy:

Adding Social Sign-In to your Ning site allows people to sign-up and sign-in with their social identity on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, WindowsLive and LinkedIn. It’s 1 less login account to remember, and allows for 1-click access and engagement. Learn more.

 
 

Track web traffic and see how people discover your Ning site and its content with full support of Google Analytics. It’s simple to add, and gives you the valuable insights you need to make informed decisions on where else to focus your marketing and social efforts. Learn more.

 

Use our Social Feeds feature to automatically pull in the activity from your social channels into your Ning site. Easily add streams from your Facebook page, multiple Twitter accounts and custom searches, and RSS feeds. It just works. Learn more.

 

Members can post their status updates from your site directly to Facebook and Twitter, a simple way to share what’s important across multiple social profiles. Learn about sharing to Facebook and Twitter.

 

Add Ning Apps and Extensions to enable full integration with other social services. Support for YouTube, WordPress, Ustream and SoundCloud add a streamlined and slick interface for you and your members, giving you options for pulling in content from across the web into your Ning site. Learn more.

 

Big into photos? There’s no reason to be uploading photos in 2 places if you use Flickr. We give you an easy way to import content added to your Flickr account directly into your Ning site. Learn more.

 

The share and Like buttons you want are always available to you. Add buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Or use the Network Like option to have the likes live within your community. Either way, get your members engaged with no coding needed. Learn more.

 

Constant Contact is a great platform for email marketing and communicating externally of your Ning site. You can synchronize your members’ contact information to your constant contact account, automatically. Learn more.

 

Since we’re on the topic, be sure to follow and stay connected with us:


 
 

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day — and we’re a work in progress. What features and services do you want to see added to the Ning Platform?

A Brand-New Help Center

This week, we’re excited to be rolling out a revamped Help Center. Huzzah! This is a project we included in the 2012 Ning Product Roadmap, and one that is very much a group effort by the Ning advocacy team.

When our product managers and engineers prepare to roll out a new feature for the Ning Platform, it’s the Ning advocacy department’s job to document the nitty-gritty details. We dive in and quiz everyone involved about nearly every detail of the upcoming product release. We take the answers to our many “okay-but-can-it-do-this” questions and marry it to the wealth of content that lives on our internal wiki. We combine it all — from first spec to wireframes to release notes — to create articles for our knowledgebase; a.k.a., the “Help Center.”

This is the fourth incarnation of the Ning Help Center. The previous Help Center has served us very well — and for a long time. For the past three or four years, it’s been a highly trafficked site visited by tens of thousands of Network Creators each month. The previous Help Center had an understated elegance to the design that encouraged customers to search and find what they needed. Over time, though, the content in the knowledgebase grew. Finding helpful articles through search wasn’t enough. This has been especially true for brand-new Network Creators, who have often requested a way to browse content based on their skill level. First-timers, in particular, are better served by introductory videos, a list of Top 10 Newbie Questions, and a downloadable PDF launch plan. They need guidance and friendly advice more than they need to find out if the new Chat lets you block out swear words. (BTW: It does!)

Here are a few of the high-level goals that guided the Help Center redesign:

Make it more friendly

First and foremost, we wanted to make the home page and everything that sits beneath it much more visual. We needed visual cues, FAQ lists for complex articles, asides and tips, the ability to put different types of content on a page, etc. It needs to reflect the always-changing document it actually is, and it should have the personality and “Ning Voice” that we’ve always cultivated in our Creators community and elsewhere.

Better navigation, better organization

We absolutely knew customers would enjoy more options for discovering content, and we definitely wanted a step up from asking customers to search and find. We created an understandable top navigation scheme; an always-available feature list for drilling down by feature; quick access to our often-used troubleshooting articles; exposed tags for those who use them; inviting landing pages for special topics; an attractive home-page slider with revolving content that can easily be changed to announce new product releases; and much more. Most important: We now have the flexibility to change all of this as needed.

Consolidate our content

We took this opportunity to unify our popular Best Practices articles, Inspiration gallery, and Getting Started guide under one umbrella. Previously, this content was distributed in different locations. Now, nearly everything that isn’t part of the Creators Community is located in the Help Center. Long-time Network Creators may have seen some of this additional content, but now it’s all in one place for everyone to access.

Unleash our advocates’ expertise

Our old system was a bit of a bear for us to update, so we wanted to make it incredibly easy for every Ning advocate to jump in and make a quick change on the fly. Further, we want to encourage our advocates to get creative and really share their expertise. They speak to customers every day, and we want to give them more power to immediately add new content to the Help Center based on specific feedback from our customers.

Those were a few of our main goals, and we think we’ve got a great start on making the Help Center more friendly and usable. Take a look at the old and new home pages, side-by-side:

And, take a gander at one of our most popular articles, which covers the complex task of setting up a custom domain:

It’s a marked improvement. Of course, this migration to a new Help Center is just a beginning and not the end. We still have more to create. Now that all of our advocates can get in there and add new content, here’s a few more things we may be doing going forward:

  • Add more examples of super-succesful networks to the Inspiration gallery and divide it into deeper categories (e.g., education, business, craft niches, etc.). Sometimes, people like to just browse through other networks to see how other people do things.
  • Incorporate some of the best tips from the Creators Network into the Help Center. Every Friday afternoon, we send out a newsletter to all members of the Creators Network that includes the top tips of the week from the community. This is the type of content we think can be graduated to the Help Center so everyone can reap the benefits of these excellent shared tips.
  • Our screencasts have always been well-received, and we’d like to create new ones for more complex topics like adding a custom header, fooling around with CSS, or setting up Google Webmaster tools. Screencasts are time-intensive to create, but by watching closely how people use the new Help Center, we can surely identify spots where a video walk-through would be useful.
  • Include articles about using outside tools like Google Alerts, Firebug, free online image editors, outside polling services, etc.; anything we can “review” for you and show you how third-party tools can be easily used in conjunction with your Ning Network.
  • Provide ready-made content for Network Creators to take and use like a “Welcome Center” or “About Us” HTML page; Broadcast Message templates you can copy and paste; and perhaps a Mini Help Center for your own network that’s as brand-free as possible and that covers the basics for your members; things like that which can make creating content easier for you.

Those are just a few of the ideas we have for this next generation of the Help Center. Feel free to let us know your thoughts and feedback, particularly about how those last few things should work — or whatever else you think would help you find and get information you need to help you build and grow your Ning Network.

Finding and creating community to get a beach body

Summer is fast approaching. Have you kept that New Years Resolution to get that beach body you’ve always wanted? If not, that’s okay. There’s still plenty of time to do just that, and there are many Ning communities out there to help you reach your goal!

Health and fitness sites are nothing new, but finding a place that motivates and connects us to others with the same fitness goals is something of a foreign concept for many people. After all, we can’t all be on the The Biggest Loser and who wants to publicly share their weight loss goals?

The beauty is that people naturally feel more comfortable sharing this type of thing with like-minded people around them. We see this extending to the online world. In many ways, Ning Communities serve as the social lubricant, getting people to open up and share their story — for support, motivation and to highlight their successes to encourage others. With that in mind, we wanted to point out a few Ning communities making an impact on people’s health:

Move Nourish Believe

iAmTRI

Runners For Life

Strength Performance Network

Adelaide Cyclists

Russian Kettlebells UK – Helping Fellow Kettlebellers Come Together. Learn, Connect and Grow.
Russian Kettlebells UK - Helping Fellow Kettlebellers Come Together. Learn ,Connect and Grow.

30 Bananas a Day!

NJ Hiking: Connect – A Social Network for New Jersey Hiking Enthusiasts
NJ Hiking: Connect - A Social Network for New Jersey Hiking Enthusiasts

www.DiscGolfersR.Us – The Community of Disc Golfers and About All Things Disc Golf
www.DiscGolfersR.Us - The Community of Disc Golfers and About All Things Disc Golf

Richmond Road Runners – Supporting running in the metro Richmond area
Richmond Road Runners - Supporting running in the metro Richmond area

Outdoor Baby Network – An information sharing site for families who enjoy the outdoors!

 

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, bulk up, or simply interested in mixing up your dietary habits, there’s likely a Ning community filled with people aspiring to achieve the same results as you. And if there’s not, create your own community today and you can help improve the lives and health for thousands of people out there seeking the same fitness and health goals as yourself.

Beach-goers worldwide will thank you.

What to get Mom for Mothers Day?

If you’re like me, you might be at a loss what to get your mom for Mother’s Day. This year, skip the flowers and cheesy greeting cards and instead find a great Ning community for her to join. Does she have a love for knitting or is she a compulsive runner? Addicted to coffee or a travel buff? There’s likely a Ning community out there just for her! With over 100 million people part of Ning communities today, she might already be a part of a Ning community and not even know it!

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Introducing the Ning VIP Plan

like buttons Today, we’re rolling out a new Ning plan for customers who need extra special treatment: the Ning VIP plan.

Ning has become known as a flexible, powerful social platform. Within minutes, anyone can create an online community that’s completely custom. A wide range of individuals, organizations and companies depend on Ning to bring people together – right down to the smallest groups that may only have a few dozen members.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen Ning Creators take the platform to a whole new level. Many successful communities with big audiences are generating significant revenue. Others use Ning as a co-publishing platform to fuel social conversations for their brand and products. These customers are demanding more from Ning. They need to be confident that their network won’t go down. And, if something serious does happen, they need to know Ning will respond quickly, even at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning. They need an account manager who understands their objectives, the progress they’ve made with their network and the challenges they face – someone who can provide a high level of service and advice. They also need deeper metrics to understand how members are interacting on their network and sharing content on the social web.  And, they need professional design services so they can launch a community that communicates their brand and values.

We frequently receive inquiries for this higher level of service and premium SLA (service level agreement) from prospective customers as well. Up until now, we haven’t offered a subscription plan or a dedicated team who can address these needs. In several cases, we’ve negotiated a special deal and tasked a number of internal support and engineering resources to deliver this special treatment. With others, the customer either purchased a Ning Pro subscription or we lost out on their business.

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Ning VIP Plan:

  • Guaranteed uptime
  • Point-in-time recovery back-ups
  • 24/7 IT support for urgent issues
  • A dedicated account manager
  • Monthly social engagement reporting
  • Launch consultation and training
  • Professional design and development
  • 1 Terabyte of storage and 10 Terabytes per month of bandwidth

Due to the location and time zone of our VIP account managers, we can initially only deliver the VIP Plan to customers in the U.S., Canada and Germany. If you’re interested in the new Ning VIP plan, please give us a call at 1-866-992-0971 (U.S. and Canada) or 0800-101-4903 (Germany).