Monthly Archives: November 2012

Ning Community Management Webinar: Online and Ready for Viewing

As community manager of our customer community, the Creators Network, I scour the Web looking for good advice on the subject of running online communities. It’s my goal to share the best things I find that can help our customers be better community builders, whether that is advice about how to design a Javascript slider or nuts-and-bolts tips for getting more responses out of community members by asking the right questions.

Pursuant to that goal, I subscribe to nearly every blog that’s remotely about community management, follow the most respected people in the field, and read waaaay too many blog posts about how social media is changing the world more than every other technological advancement since the printing press combined. There’s a lot of jargon and fluff (and frankly some nonsense) out there that’s masquerading as good advice for community managers. And there’s a lot of stuff that gets repeated endlessly. But every once in awhile, I find a few pearls of wisdom in this sea of advice. I find a voice that backs up common sense with data or very insightful reasons why a particular community strategy works. Richard Millington is one of those voices.

If you’re not familiar with him, Richard runs community management seminars, publishes a no-nonsense blog called FeverBee (which I strongly recommend you follow), and has a few books under his belt, including his newest, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

We were privileged to host Richard at a very well-attended webinar earlier this week: How To Increase Activity in Your Community. It was chock-full of useful advice, including a Q&A session where we gave out free copies of Richard’s new book. Even better, we gave every attendee 1/2 of his new book in PDF format. Totally free. Even better than that… you can still get a free copy for a limited time (even if you didn’t attend the webinar).

Want a free copy of the PDF?  Visit our S’More flyer page.

Did you attend? Enjoy it?

Thank Richard on Twitter for generously sharing his time with Ning Creators. Or…


How to Increase Activity in Your Community

Guest post by Richard Millington

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped over a hundred organizations develop successful online communities. His clients have included: The United Nations, Novartis, Oracle, EMC, The British Medical Journal, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, OECD, AMD, BAE Systems, Greenpeace, Autodesk and many other brands. 

The majority of communities struggle to sustain high levels of activity in their communities. We typically only hear about the rampant success stories. It’s fun to believe that a community will just attract members and explode to life.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, an understanding of why people participate in communities, some principles of activity, and a clear plan of action.

 Why do people participate in communities?

People participate in communities to satisfy their informational and social needs. The mistake most organizations make is they focus on the former and ignore the latter. The problem with the former is once someone has gained the information they need, they leave. Your challenge is to focus on their social needs.

To increase activity, you need to apply proven community building techniques. These techniques include content, moderation, relationship development, and events/activities. The best communities are able to use all four to sustain extremely high levels of activity.

Principles for high levels of activity

Before we get tactical, let’s cover some basic principles of successful activity:

  • Activity should be planned. Don’t wait for activity to happen by chance. Proactively drive the level of activity in your community. This means have a clear idea of what activity will take place when. Everything else is a bonus.
  • Good activity –vs– weak activity. Good activity is when members interact via discussions, blogs posts, or another medium where they can meaningfully share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with one another. Weak activity are poll votes, likes, clicks, and anything that doesn’t allow other members to know each other better. Focus on driving good activity.
  • Group identity. Communities with a strong group identity and sense of community also have sustained high levels of activity. If you can build a strong group identity, you will have high levels of activity.

Develop a community management plan

Put together a template community management plan that highlights what content, activities, and discussions will take place in your community over the next few months. Try to have some sort of sustained narrative or broad themes to cover. If you run the 50 Cent community and there is a new 50 cent tour/record coming out, then you might be planning 3 big discussions a week:

  • Monday: On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate 50 Cent’s New Album?
  • Wednesday: What’s your favourite song on the new album?
  • Friday: So who has tickets to see 50 Cent in {city?}

Then you might plan 2 online events that week. For example:

  • Tuesday: Live chat with tour manager (it’s not as hard to arrange these as you imagine).
  • Thursday: Community discussion of the week: Theme – best places to buy 50 Cent tour tickets

Then you might schedule regular content for example:

  • Monday: Interview with a community member
  • Tuesday: Community predictions for next 50 Cent album
  • Wednesday: Poll:What was the best 50 Cent song ever?
  • Thursday: 50 Cent crazy fan of the week…
  • Friday: Roundup of the week’s 50 Cent news
  • Saturday: Welcome the newcomers.

Note that the best content for a community is content about the community. You want content that involves you proactively going out there and interacting with members. Imagine yourself as a local reporter and the community being your local beat. Go out there and find stories about what your members are doing.

Now you have fresh activity taking place every day in the community. You’ve given members a reason to continually return and visit your community every day. You might need to individually nudge a few members in the beginning, but over time you will see it taking off.

Practical tips

In addition to having a great plan, there are also a number of practical tips you can implement to increase activity.

  • Remove the dead areas. The appearance of success is crucial. If you have posts with no replies, areas of the community that aren’t used, features that don’t get much activity then remove them. You want your community to appear as highly active as possible. This leads to…
  • Concentrate activity. Just because you can have blogs, pictures, chat boxes, groups (especially groups!), doesn’t mean you should. This dissipates activity throughout your community. This does a lot of harm. Initially you want to concentrate activity in as few areas as possible. For most communities, just a forum is enough.
  • Prioritize interactions over content. Too many communities prioritize content over interactions and then wonder why people come to read instead of participating. This is a mistake. Make sure the latest discussions between members occupies the key position in your community. The Rock And Roll Tribe does this well.
  • Highlight what’s popular. Social proof is a powerful thing. Members want to see what other members are doing. Make sure you highlight what’s popular in your community. If you have a popular discussion, turn it into a sticky thread for other members to see and participate in. Then send an e-mail out to members asking for their opinions/thoughts on the issue as well.
  • Highlight the contributions of members. Remember that members want recognition and the feeling they have influence over the community (or could have). If you regularly recognize the contributions of members (by name!) in content, blog posts, newsletters, e-mails, and discussions, you will encourage more discussions.

Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Community Consultancy, The Pillar Summit Professional Community Management training course, and the author of The Community Management Manifesto, The Proven Path, and his newest book, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

We’re giving some books!

Want to hear more from Richard? Ning is hosting a free webinar next Tuesday, November 27th, 1-2pm PST. Show up and you’ll receive half of Richard Millington’s new book “Buzzing Communities” as a PDF download. Submit a great question and you could win a hard copy of the book! Please join us. RSVP today!

Richard Millington + Ning Webinar: How to Increase Activity in Your Community

Why you should attend Tuesday, November 27th

  • Richard approaches community management from the point of view of social science. He focuses on data that shows what actually works — not anecdotes and hunches.
  • Richard is giving away an excerpt of the e-book version of Buzzing Communities to all attendees. It’s 50% of his book in handy PDF format.
  • Ning is giving away 5-10 free copies of the hardcover version of the book. If you ask a question that gets picked by the chat moderator in the Q&A, we’ll send you a book.

Ning is home to tens of thousands of communities that serve many millions of people every day. Every one of Ning’s customers has one question in common: How can I get people more involved and active in my community? Great question!

To help answer that question, we got the guy who has a lot of smart answers: Richard Millington. The author of the new book Buzzing Communities, Richard tackles some of the most-asked questions about growing and running online communities. He’s an expert that hundreds of companies and thousands of readers rely on, either in direct consultation or as readers of his influential blog about community management, FeverBee.

Whether you’re a brand-new Ning customer, an old hand who needs some fresh tips, or a community manager who’s never even heard of Ning before but wouldn’t mind hearing from one of the top experts in the field — this webinar is for you.

The webinar will explain how to increase activity in your community:

  • Why many communities struggle for activity.
  • Why members participate in community.
  • The principles behind sustaining highly active communities.
  • Practical tips you can *immediately* implement to increase activity in your community.

You’re busy, so we’ll start on time and pack as much helpful information as we can into an hour. We’ll even stick around after that to answer as many questions as possible to help you get the most out of your time.

Sign up here.

Title: “How to Increase Activity in Your Community”
Cost: Free
Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Time: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Pacific time
Hosted by: Richard Millington + Ning
Capacity: 500 people
Sign up now

Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Community Consultancy, The Pillar Summit Professional Community Management training course, and the author of The Community Management Manifesto, The Proven Path, and Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped over a hundred organizations develop successful online communities. His clients have included: The United Nations, Novartis, Oracle, EMC, The British Medical Journal, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, OECD, AMD, BAE Systems, Greenpeace, Autodesk and many other brands.

Book Communities: a Powerful Tool for Author Discovery and Promotion

The rapid growth of the Internet has painfully disrupted the music and newspaper industries, but there’s ample evidence book publishing is going to come out a winner in their digital transformation. Why? We think it’s because they’ve got community on their side. We’ve seen successful book-focused communities on Ning since we opened up shop, and we’re seeing them grow like no other category. It seems to mirror the wider trends in book publishing.

More books by more people, less from corporations and trees

According to Publishers Weekly, starting in 2008 more books were self-published than those published traditionally. The following year, the number rose to 76% of books being produced by self-publishers or micro-niche publishers. The trends are easy to spot: Online retailers such as Amazon give authors global distribution. The Kindle and iPad are radically changing the way people read. Social platforms offer powerful new ways for authors to efficiently reach a huge audience and for readers to discover new authors. The trends become even more radical when you consider the rise of ebooks. An estimated 3 million books were published in the US in 2011 – up from only 300,000 in 2003!

More people turning to communities to read and be read

These seismic shifts in publishing and reading options have forced emerging authors and their publishers to dream up innovative ways to reach new readers and cultivate the loyalty of existing readers. Increasingly they’re using community platforms like Ning to introduce themselves to new readers, celebrate their biggest fans, and in some cases, extend the philosophy or mission espoused in their books. For readers, these communities are a fantastic way to discover emerging authors, meet favorite authors up close and personal, and in some networks, role play their favorite characters.


Places to discover your next good read

Many of the first online book communities created on Ning were a place for authors to collaborate with each other and introduce themselves to readers. These have frequently focused on a single genre of books. A great example is, “a place for readers and writers of crime fiction to meet”. Daniel Hatadi has grown this community to almost 4,000 highly engaged members since launching it in 2007. Another highly successful community is Book Blogs with an astounding 19,000 author and reader members. Razorbill Books, a young-adult fiction division of Penguin Canada, launched in 2011. It’s a space where readers can find out about anticipated titles before they launch and get up close and personal with acclaimed authors. It’s a unique venue for Razorbill’s authors to promote their books.

A space to cultivate a fan base

Book communities on Ning have also naturally evolved to be places where individual authors can reach their readers. Gena Showalter, a leading romance novel writer, launched community as her main website in 2010.  Since then, over 16,000 of her most loyal fans have joined the community to interact with Gena and each other on a daily basis. They find out the latest news about upcoming novels, watch video interviews of Gena and join groups of other readers with similar interests.

Some authors take an if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach to community. Kit Berry, the successful young-adult author of the Stonewylde Series, began by building a loyal following of over 1,000 readers with her “home-grown social network site” — which then led to a book deal with the Orion Publishing Group. (Read about her smart community approach on Futurebook.) Kit is an active participant in her community – blogging, responding to discussion posts, and posting photos and videos.

It won’t be surprising to hear that a number of publishers have built online communities for individual authors to attract and cultivate fans.  Little, Brown Books has grown the community to almost 5,000 fans of the series of novels written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Penguin Young Readers launched the community in 2010 and used it to build a loyal following for Richelle Mead of over 6,000 members.

Hachette Book Group has leveraged online communities to activate fans for several of their authors.  One of the most prominent is James Patterson. is an active community where over 51,000 fans of this mystery and thriller author can bond with each other and rave about the author. is an even bigger community of over 68,000 fans focusing on his science fiction Maximum Ride, Daniel X and Witch & Wizard series and novels.


Fans who show up to play

One of the most interesting (and powerful) trends with online author communities encompasses role-playing and fan fiction. Stephenie Meyer’s (managed by the Hachette Book Group) is a touchstone community that has spawned hundreds more communities. Many of the 500,000 members of join a team and act out the lives of their favorite characters from the Twilight series of books. Twilight Saga readers can join the independent or communities to act out their favorite characters. Too young for Twilight? Harry Potter fans can join one of the four Hogwarts houses and have fun with 42,000 other fans on Based on the massive success of these communities, it’s clear that a younger generation of readers sees books and reading as more than just reading books.


A broader mission

Online communities can be an even more powerful solution for authors when they use their writing as a springboard to a larger purpose.  Gabrielle Bernstein launched the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network just one year out of college and has been a motivational speaker since 2004. She self-published her first book, Add More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness, in 2010.  Her second book, Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, was published by Random House in 2011. At the same time her motivational books were achieving wide distribution, she built into a vibrant community over 21,000 strong where Gabrielle shares her philosophy and works with other women to mentor, inspire and connect with each other.

After successfully battling a rare and incurable form of cancer through nutrition, Kris Carr made a documentary about her journey and published a companion book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips. Her Crazy Sexy attitude expanded with more books, including Crazy Sexy Diet, targeted at anyone looking for a healthier lifestyle. She launched as a companion to her books. Over 37,000 readers and adherents interact with this “wellness warrior” — and each other — on a daily basis.

One of the latest examples of using writing as a springboard is,  a community launched by author Kristen Lamb. Kristen is the author of two best-selling books providing insights for authors to use social media to build a loyal fan base of readers. brings together creative professionals who are dedicated to supporting one another. Since launching only 2 months ago, this community has quickly grown to over 1,300 members — proof that “We Are Not Alone” is a powerful idea!

All told, that’s 16 popular communities on Ning that are serving more than 650,000 members — and that’s not nearly all of the book communities on Ning! We expect this trend of book lovers and bookmakers using Ning for community will continue to mirror ongoing trends. Book publishing isn’t just being disrupted but being remade into something that genuinely incorporates the enthusiasm we all have for our favorite books — by giving us a place to share it.

Platform-wide scheduled maintenance on Friday, November 16

We will be performing maintenance on the Ning Platform on Friday, November 16, beginning at 10 PM Pacific Time. During this time, all Ning Networks will be unavailable for approximately 15 minutes.

We’ve been proud to offer a consistently high uptime and need to perform some crucial database updates to ensure that reliability continues.

During this time:

· Your Ning Network will display a maintenance page matching your current theme customization to let your members know that your community is temporarily unavailable.
· We will update the Ning Status Blog when this maintenance begins and ends.
· The Creators Network will also be down for maintenance. We will update on Creators when all is complete.

You may want to let your members know about this downtime in advance via a Broadcast Message or notice on the Main Page of your network. Feel free to make use of the language below, filling in your network details.

Formal: We will be performing maintenance on [network_name] on Friday, November 16, between 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Pacific Time. During this time, [network_name] will be unavailable. We hope this won’t be too much of an inconvenience as we work to perform some necessary upgrades.

Informal: Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that we need to perform some simple but necessary maintenance on [network_name] this coming Friday, November 16. We’ll need to take the site down at 10 pm Pacific for about 15 minutes, during which we’ll simply show a message asking folks to check back later. Thanks in advance for your patience while we tune up the site!

Talking Politics, Voting with Confidence

The debates are over and there’s just under a week until the U.S. makes its decision at the polls. More than 19 million people have already voted, either by mail or in person. But states including New York, Connecticut and New Jersey may have less of a voter turnout than originally thought due to Hurricane Sandy, and there’s even been a call for President Obama to postpone the elections. Since that’s unlikely to happen, now is a good time to ask yourself: Are you prepared to vote?

One of the best ways to ready yourself for the voting booth is to study up and get familiar with local and national issues. Voter guides are helpful, but nothing beats discussion and debate. Online communities can be an ideal place to get a better grasp on the policies up for debate in this election.


We’ve heard a lot about taxes, the economy, jobs, Big Bird, and reproductive rights this election, but issues like climate change, the housing market, gun control, immigration, Medicaid, the war on drugs, foreign policy and the Euro crisis have gotten short shrift during the campaign. And then, of course, there are state issues to consider.

Ning communities can help you discover how certain policies might change in the coming years and how new government proposals could directly affect you and your neighbors. The Concord Square hosts discussions on the the economy and jobs, for example, and promises to get you up to speed on budget and deficit issues. Smart Girl Politics, a political network for conservative women, live streamed the debates and hosts an active chat room where members can discuss the issues in real-time. The First Coast Tea Party is counting down to election time and firing up its members by organizing local action groups to canvas and get out the vote. GovLoop, a popular network that connects government professionals and inspires public service, is currently discussing topics that run the gamut from social media policy for political professionals to new opportunities in public service and everything in between.

Connecting readers to resources and leading conversations that result in meaningful action is a trademark of many online communities, whether they are political by nature or embrace this theme seasonally. Wherever you are and whatever you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to join the conversation and broaden your perspective. And however you choose to vote, make sure you get out there and do it!

Images courtesy of Cain and Todd BensonDave Hosford and robertpalmer via Flickr