Monthly Archives: December 2012

Looking Back at 2012: Identifying Success

As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to look to a few Ning Networks that have had great success throughout 2012 for inspiration. We asked Network Creators on our Creators Network to let us know how their year went, and we received some exciting stories of success and lessons learned.

These Ning Networks were led by creative, hard-working teams and have achieved their own forms of success due to their dynamic leadership. Using the words of Network Creator, Armani Rouse: “There isn’t a hack for had work and creativity!”


The eCoronado team showing off their schwag! is the most popular newspaper website and online community resource for Coronado, Calif. During 2012, the eCoronado team looked beyond their online tools and developed successful strategies to incorporate their community with offline events/ giveaways/ discount cards/ sponsors/ pretty-much-anything-they-set-their-mind-to.

In brief, they hired two paid writers, a site admin, and interviewed many candidates to bring on their 13th intern. They now have 20+ paid sponsors and have launched over 40 physical photo/scavenger hunt contests to drive activity. In their spare time, they hosted an anniversary party and bought hundreds of local members ice cream, created a local discount card in partnership with public schools and started rewarding top photo contributors with badges and company schwag.

We’re not sure when the team finds time sleep between advancing their development strategy and hosting ice cream giveaways!


iava-logoSome networks define their success by the number of members they attract, while has amassed 24,500+ members, this is not where they see their triumph. The IAVA community is part of the largest nonprofit organization helping Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

The IAVA community team sees their triumph in the very real resources they have developed for their members. They implemented a Crisis Response SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) this year which was used to connect members with suicidal urges to life-saving resources. As Jason, the Network Creator, puts it: “Running a mental health / veteran network provided endless excitement. It’s been a crazy year on our network.”

They also had the opportunity to personally officiate a wedding of two long-time and active members of the community — who actually met because of the network — and secure a couple of grants to get some part-time support and a redesign for 2013. We look forward to continue to hear inspiring stories from this community in 2013. If you’d like to support an organization that Time magazine says remains the most important organization representing the new generation of veterans, please head to their donate page.


sound check

Image by Riccardo Rossini

Italian photographer network defines its success by the elegant, clean and efficient community they have created thanks to their decision this year to enable the option to have all new photos approved by administrators before they become visible. Riccardo believes this enables to deliver the highest quality photos to enrich the member experience. “We are proud to offer in Italy something different about photography site, thanks to approval photo.”

Check out some of their featured photos; they truly are stunning. We’ll be keeping an eye on their network to see them grow and to enjoy more of their masterful shots in 2013.


parent chat is looking for founding members.

Three weeks ago, self-proclaimed web novice Jennifer realized her dream of managing an online parenting community with Having no experience whatsoever, she set about getting her network up and running and now has a solid founding-member base. The Network Creator, Jennifer, promises: “I am only related to 5 of them!” Creating something tangible from an abstract idea is definitely a great leap forward, so we’d like to congratulate for launching their network in 2012!

Defining Success for Your Community in 2013

It’s important to remember that each community defines success differently. The end of the year marks a great point to look at your own community and decide what you define as success. Whether it is defined by page views, engagement, or financial profit, we wish you the best of luck in 2013!

“How to Grow an Online Community” — Recorded for Those Who Missed It

This week, we held the second webinar in our series with Richard Millington, one of the most respected voices in the field of community management. The first one was about increasing activity, and it was definitely the most successful webinar Ning has ever held. If you missed it, you can find it on YouTube or Vimeo. I absolutely recommend sitting down with a cup of something and watching it if you want to hear about increasing engagement in your community. It was a good one.

This one was a good one, too! And, like the last one, Richard gave away a PDF version of half of his new book, Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities. I’ve been reading the book (and online reviews of the book) and it’s getting a great reception, as it should. It’s got a lot of advice that no one tells you when you start out managing a community, but even better than that it points to a lot of social science studies that put data behind ideas and hunches. Richard has a knack for pointing out things that question conventional wisdom and make you realize that conventional wisdom can be completely bogus. Simply put: His book is an excellent resource, and we’re thrilled to have Richard sharing his expertise with Ning Creators.

Or anyone else! Richard’s talks aren’t specific to Ning. Whether you’re a Ning customer, someone who runs a community on some other platform, or just someone who’s curious about how community works — or should work — we hope you’ll get something good out of this talk. Give it a watch!

How to Grow an Online Community from Ning on Vimeo.

A few things covered in this talk:

  • Should you grow your online community? You might be surprised to hear a contrary view from Richard when it comes to some kinds of communities.
  • Assuming you can answer that last one in the affirmative, Richard gives you 5 reasons you should grow and 4 channels you should use.
  • Word of mouth, promotion — and how to make sure all that effort isn’t wasted.
  • Very few people are able to effectively convert visitors into members. Richard shows you how to ensure more registered members participate.


Decorating Your Online Community for the Holidays

If you run an online community, what are you doing to mark the season? The last candle of the Menorah will be lit on Saturday, and many are eagerly awaiting a visit from St. Nick. Historically, there is a sharp downturn in web traffic for non-ecommerce websites around Christmas time. A jolly atmosphere that reflects shifts in your real-world environment creates new potential to bridge this lull and may even boost engagement in your community. Give members a reason to spread the joy with you.

Brick and mortar establishments don’t have a monopoly on holiday decorations. You can break out the twinkly lights, poinsettias and dreidels and set your online community ablaze with winter warmth and merriment.

Consider your community, however—you’ll want to update the look of your network in a way that adds holiday spirit but doesn’t overshadow your members’ main reason for visiting. Adding animated auto-play carolers to the main page could scare some people off, but including a festive banner, virtual mistletoe or twinkly lights can be charming and memorable.

Ning Network holiday design main page CSS and JavaScript

Twinkly lights with CSS

Ning Superstar soaringeagle shared the following CSS code that you can use to make twinkly lights brighten up your community.

#xn_bar,.xg_theme .xg_module_head {background-image:url(“”);background-repeat:repeat-x;}

See the festive holiday decoration live here.

Snowstorm with JavaScript

Scott Schillman has been “bringing snow to the web since 2003.” Even if you’re in Australia this December, you can enjoy a light snowfall with Schillman’s JavaScript hack. To add the snow effect to your network, you’ll need to upload the original file, grab the new URL for the snowstorm, paste it into the code (see below), and then add that code to the Custom Code section on the dashboard of your network. If this sounds complicated, head to our Creators community for some extra guidance.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”Replace-this-text-with-the-snowstorm-URL”></script>

Seasonal header or banner images

Don’t want to introduce a cold front or controlled blizzard into your community? You’ve got options! You can pack quite a holiday punch into a banner or redesigned header image.

If you’re not already using the Instant Ad Boxes on your network, you can repurpose them for just about anything—holiday banners included. The Instant Ad Boxes are as versatile as a text box and up to three times as wide. To open up space above and below the header on your network, head to Dashboard > Settings > Features Layout. The, check the box(es) next to Instant Ad Boxes (at the bottom of the page) and click “Save.”

Next, you’ll need to find your holly jolly imagery. Creative Commons has a great search tool that will help you find images licensed for commercial reuse and modification. Christmas Stock Images is another helpful resource this time of year. If you want these graphics to stretch across the width of the page, resize them to 960px.

You can thread season’s greetings throughout your community by adding similarly themed images to text boxes elsewhere on the main page. Or, maybe try this: Update the default member profile image to a snowman.

Holiday-themed discussions

Invite your members to share tidbits of their own. Most embarrassing holiday moments? Most magnificent holiday moments? Favorite holiday cookie recipes? Point visitors to these timely discussions by linking directly to them from a text box on the main page. If you’ve already got a tight-knit group, you can use the Forum or a Message Broadcast to start a gift exchange or mobilize a charitable event.

When you’re taking down the decorations this year, leave a little something behind. The new year is a great opportunity to thank all your members for making the community what it is today. You can hang a ‘Best Wishes’ note to express your gratitude and issue one more gesture of good will before it’s back to business as usual.

Custom NingBot holiday cards

Head to to assemble your own NingBot holiday card. Choose a backdrop and dress up your NingBot with a rosy nose, elf shoes, a corncob pipe, nerdy glasses, angel wings, bunny slippers…the list goes on. Include a personal note and send season’s greetings to friends and loved ones who make your spirit bright.

Happy holidays!

Images courtesy of sammydavisdog and Christmas Stock Images

Earth: The Biggest Community of All

One of our absolute favorite movements/sites/events/unique-things-that-can’t-be-pigeon-holed-into-a-simple-category is One Day on Earth. If you haven’t heard of it, it involves many thousands of people (anyone who wants to participate, really) from all over the world filming snippets of video on one single day. People record what they think, what they do, what they need, what they love — whatever’s on their mind. Then, everyone uploads their clip to create a compelling time capsule that may just live forever. After the big day is done, the people behind the One Day on Earth project get to work editing it all into a movie masterpiece. It’s a brilliant idea that we look forward to at Ning every year.

I first stumbled across this Ning-driven site in 2010. I thought 10/10/10 was a very neat and brilliant idea. Since then, they’ve kept going. It’s no flash in the pan. On 11/11/11, they expanded their reach by sending 1,000 video cameras to places around the world where cameras are hard to come by. This year, they’ve gone even further and created a full-length film that compiles the past two years’ footage, which debuted on Earth Day earlier this year.

One Day on Earth is only going to get bigger, and you can be part of it. There’s still plenty of time to join in and participate (6 more days, in fact). Chances are you can accomplish this by simply taking video footage with your phone.

So, what are you waiting for? Take 15 minutes out of your day next Wednesday to film something extraordinary — or even just plain ordinary. Show the world who you are, where you live, what you do, what you care about — anything that’s important to you. If you’re a Ning customer, we’ve got an even better idea: Why not encourage your community to join in and film yourselves doing whatever it is all of you do best.

Everyone who contributes at least one minute of footage gets to watch the final film! But more importantly, everyone who participates gets to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s community on the grandest scale imaginable. And it only costs a little bit of creativity.

One Day on Earth – Film on 12.12.12 from One Day on Earth on Vimeo.

Are you an educator? Get the toolkit and make this happen!

Sign Up for Our Second Community Management Webinar: “How to Grow an Online Community”

You know you’ve had a successful webinar when you get this kind of feedback:

An excellent talk, extremely useful. Packed with concrete stuff and techno-babble-free. Great Q&A at the end.

We strive to be techno-babble-free, so it’s nice to hear we succeeded last week during Richard Millington’s first webinar with Ning, How to Increase Activity in Your Community.

The event was our most well-attended talk ever, and it’s already getting tons of replay on YouTube and Vimeo. We expect it will be a valuable resource that will reach a lot of people over time who are looking for straightforward advice about managing their community.

It’s even better to hear feedback like this:

Your wish is our command, James! Response to this first webinar was so positive that we’re going to do another one next week….

Community Management Webinar #2: How to Grow an Online Community

When: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 1 p.m. Pacific time

Richard Millington is back to coach Ning customers — and anyone else who needs advice — on how to genuinely make your online community a big success. In his first webinar for Ning, Richard talked about strategies for generating activity. This time around, he’s going to talk about growth. There are lots of things to think about when you think about growth:

  • Key steps to build your base.
  • You can grow too fast. Didn’t think that was possible, did you?
  • What is the total feasible audience size (TFAS) of your community?
  • If you only have limited administrative power to support the community, too much growth can actually hurt you.
  • If you already have a mature, happy, and highly engaged community, is an influx of strangers actually a good idea?

Whether you want to be the biggest community of sports fans in the world or just a private community of committed scrapbooking hobbyists, you want to find your ideal size — and getting there isn’t about papering email inboxes with a million invites. Smart community managers follow tried-and-true strategies. Richard will share some of the best.

Growth is just one way toward realizing a more valuable community, but it’s an important one — and one that nearly every Ning customer will be interested in. So, join us next Wednesday for another get-together with one of the experts in community management. We’ll start on time and pack as much into an hour as we can. We’ll stick around and answer some questions, too. Plus, Richard is giving away an excerpt of the e-book version of his new book “Buzzing Communities” to all attendees. It’s 50% of his book in handy PDF format. Free!

Help us reach every continent

Disappointingly, not a single person in Antarctica appears to have attended or watched the first webinar. So, we’re making it our personal goal with this second one to get the word out to at least one person in Antarctica. If you, um, happen to know anyone in Antarctica, we’d appreciate a little help. Or, if you just happen to know someone next door or a few cubicles down who manages an online community, let them know that this free session can help them do it better.

You can help us spread the word by pointing people to our Smore page for this webinar.

Buy the book!

Richard’s book is one of the best we’ve ever read about community management. He’ll be giving away half of the book at this webinar, but we think it’s definitely worth buying, either in physical or Kindle format. Buzzing Communities cuts through the fluff to offer a clear process for creating thriving online communities. This book combines a century of proven science, dozens of real-life examples, practical tips, and trusted community-building methods. This step-by-step guide includes a lifecycle for tracking your progress and a framework for managing your organization’s community efforts.