Author Archives: Casey

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.

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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.

Nerd Alert! Nerdfighters Using the Power of Community to Increase Awesome and Decrease Suck

We were thrilled to hear a story about Nerdfighters on the radio this morning (WAMU in Washington, D.C.) about their ongoing campaign to make the world a better place using wonderful services like the micro-loan site Kiva. Take a listen:

Not familiar with Nerdfighters? It’s one of those online phenomenons that makes some people scratch their heads and wonder how it is that a rarified group of Internet celebrities can live their lives — and maybe even make a living — by simply existing on the Internet.

This list of Internet celebrities includes Rhett & Link, Smosh, Tobuscus, Freddy Wong and Ze Frank. They’re all masters of the video blog — speaking directly into the camera to anyone who will listen and making their videos as creative and pop-culture-rich as possible. Most of them release a new video out to the world once or twice per week, which helps them organically pick up new followers as people stumble onto their often hilarious and insightful observations about life. Such is the case with Hank and John Green, the two brothers who started Nerdfighters as a way to stay connected via videoblog (one lives in Montana; the other in Indiana).

All of these Internet celebrities use YouTube as their direct-to-the-Internet video broadcasting medium, but what makes them hugely successful is often what they do beyond their YouTube channel (which has an impressive 746,564 subscribers and 246,389,701 video views). The best ones are masters at nurturing communities of online followers in all kinds of locations online — including on Ning. They have over 81,000 members on their Ning site. Serious nerd alert!

In addition to their Ning community, which is one of the most trafficked on the Ning Platform, they have spawned fan Tumblr blogs like Eff Yeah Nerdfighters, Nerdfighters Don’t Fight Nerds, and Little Nerdfighter Things.

We wanted to give a shout out to Nerdfighters for all that they do to “increase awesome and decrease suck.” Their Kiva-raising efforts have resulted in a phenomenal 21,000+ loans totaling over 1 million dollars. Not bad for a bunch of nerds. Keep challenging your community and the world to be a better place!


Join them in donating on Kiva.

Not familiar with NerdFighters? Here’s a recent video:


 

Make an iPhone or Android App for Your Ning Network with ShoutEm

All those little apps on your phone are huge!

How huge? The Apple App Store reached a massive milestone this summer: They’ve served up over 30 billion apps to consumers. Of course, that’s just the apps that have been downloaded to Apple devices. Throw in Android and BlackBerry and other platforms, and it’s clear that the entire world has gone app crazy in the four years since the Apple App Store opened the door for everyone. People love them apps!

Ning Creators are no exception. While Ning offers a built-in version of every Ning Network that’s optimized for mobile devices, some communities can really benefit from having their own dedicated iPhone or Android app. If you have special branding needs or want to use the Ning API to do something unique, a dedicated app from our partner ShoutEm may be the way to go. Their platform allows just about anyone to make a beautiful iPhone or Android app without being a coding wizard.

Thinking of going the extra step and creating a dedicated iPhone or Android app for your own community? Want to see some examples of these apps in action? We’ve heard a number of requests from customers for examples of ShoutEm-created apps, so I’ve put together a few that will give people an idea of how Ning Creators are using ShoutEm to occupy the all-important real estate on mobile phones that is the dedicated app. Feel free to download these apps and try them out yourself. You should be able to access any public-facing pages as a visitor.


This Is 50: Exclusive Content + In-App Ads = Added Revenue

If you’re not just running a community but also building a brand, you probably want your mobile experience to match the look and feel of your site, your logo, etc. If you’re the type of person who knows the exact color of your logo down to the hex code color #, a custom app might be what you need to make sure your presentation is perfectly realized.

ThisIs50 is this type of brand. His team just built a brand-new app with ShoutEm that does a few neat things that builds on the brand while enriching the pocketbook:

  • The app offered early access to stream an exclusive snippet of the lead single from his upcoming album.
  • They include all kinds of rich video content to supplement the already attractive music content.
  • They’re running advertising directly in the app. Not just Google Ads, but visually rich Glam ads.
  • They’ve included deeper event integration. This is surely a good complement to a phone app’s ability to buzz out app notifications when members need to hear about something important.

Want to check out ThisIs50’s new app first-hand? Download it from the Apple App Store or get the Android version from Google Play.


GovLoop: Streaming Community News & Views

Ning Creators who have created their own iPhone apps with ShoutEm usually want an app that simply does more. Maybe you have a community that uses one or two features extensively and you need those features to have some extra options. Maybe you want to pull in some data about your members that exists on the desktop version of your site but not on the default mobile interface. Or, maybe you have something even more unique in mind. When you create an app with ShoutEm, you’re accessing the Ning API directly, which gives you many more options than you’ll see on your default mobile version.

Case in point: GovLoop. They have a wonderful iPhone app that offers something very unique: not just relevant news but streaming podcasting for on-the-go listening. What’s really neat about this ShoutEm integration is that they’ve combined more than one service on their iPhone app to create these podcasts. They’re streaming Soundcloud files and pulling in Ning data into the same iPhone app, and it works seamlessly. It’s a great-looking app that has some of the best content from their Ning site. Not just podcasting, but the news and discussions and blog posts that drive their particular community.

Browse around their public community with their dedicated iPhone app.


Trucker Social: Now, *That’s* Mobile

We’re hard pressed to think of a Ning community more mobile than Trucker Social. It makes total sense for them to have a dedicated iPhone app. Their members probably rely on accessing the Internet from their smartphones way more than they do on a laptop over Wi-Fi or a dedicated desktop computer.

They’ve really created a unique app with their ShoutEm/Ning integration. They offer what you might expect: member interaction and a feed of activity from their desktop site. But, they’ve gone a lot further and are offering content that really is tailor-made for their community: the latest trucker-related news, trucker job listings, and geolocation features to help their members spot nearby food options, shopping opportunities, entertainment choices — you name it. Dial up the nearest truck stop, get directions, and even see who’s tweeting nearby. Want to check in when you get there? This dedicated app offers full-featured geolocation-friendly social networking.

Download their iPhone app and see for yourself.


Those are just a few of the ShoutEm apps we’ve seen being created by Ning customers. Let us know if you’ve created one for your community.

Want your own? ShoutEm doesn’t require you to deal with any of the technical aspects of compiling and submitting apps, and you don’t even have to enter a credit card to get started. Just enter your Ning Pro API Key and start choosing which features you want to include in your app. When you’re ready to publish, pick a monthly plan that suits your needs.

Ning Mobile: A New Interface Designed for Modern Smartphones

We’re happy to report that by the end of this week a new mobile experience will be rolled out to all Ning Networks. This upgrade is a complete re-write of the old Ning mobile experience. It’s built-in, completely free, and offers a lot more options for driving activity.

The contrast between the old and new couldn’t be more different. The old mobile interface was originally released around the same time Apple unveiled their App Store. We’ve been upgrading the mobile version regularly over time, but we knew it was high time for a thorough rebuild and redesign. We chose future-friendly HTML5 because it allows us to create a great-looking experience across numerous mobile devices. We were able to create something that’s high quality and that provides a frictionless experience for users. And it’s an excellent base for adding more to the mobile version down the road. Let’s take a look at a few things the new Ning Mobile offers.

A better app-like experience for your members

The old and new are radically different, but the look of the new probably won’t throw you for a loop. It’s designed in a familiar app-like way. It provides the same kind of swiping and tapping gestures most people are used to performing with their iOS and Android devices. It’s optimized for smartphones so your members can access it easily with the devices they already use every day. You won’t need any advanced design skills or a $100 Apple App Store developer’s license to publish, either. The new mobile version will be consistent and running in the background all the time. Most important: It’s very stable.

More pages, more options, new choices

While the old version didn’t provide many options for customization, the new Ning Mobile lets Ning Creators choose which features and pages they want to appear — in the order they prefer. There’s also many more features available in the new mobile experience. You can add pages to display Latest Activity, Members, Blogs, Photos, Forum, a member’s Profile Page, Groups, Events, an RSS feed, and even custom HTML pages. This greatly expands a Ning community’s mobile presence and possibilities, and we’re excited to watch as the entire Ning Platform adopts this new mobile version.

Most of the administrative settings will probably be pretty self-explanatory. A few details to keep in mind:

  • Design details: The Ning Mobile site is standardized for design consistency, but there are a few branding options for Ning Creators to take advantage of. You can upload a logo to replace the name of a network in the header or change the background color of the header. A preview mode is also provided to see what it all looks like before committing to a change.
  • Choose your pages: Ning Creators can choose the pages they wish to display and how the data on the pages is sorted (e.g., by “Latest Activity”). Some pages include choices about whether to show or hide preview-style content. Don’t like the order of pages? Ning Creators can drag and drop them and reorder them to their satisfaction. The first one listed will function as the “Main Page.”
  • Opt-out option: Don’t want a mobile version? We’ve got you covered. If a Ning Creator removes all of the pages from the Mobile section of the dashboard, visitors will instead be shown the desktop version of your Ning Network.
  • Back-out option: We’ve included a “Desktop View” for any member or visitor who wants to switch off the mobile version and rely on the standard desktop view.

As always, we’re big fans of our customers’ opinions, so let us know what you think about the new mobile version, either here or on the Creators Network. How have your members used the mobile version of Ning in the past? What can we do to help make their mobile experience even better going forward — and make your community even more vibrant and active?

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.

Platform-wide scheduled maintenance this Friday, December 2

We will be performing maintenance on the Ning Platform this coming Friday, December 2, from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) Pacific Time. During this time, all Ning Networks will be unavailable for 2 hours.

We’re proud to have been able to realize a consistently high uptime over the past year. To keep this consistent record high, we need to perform some crucial upgrades to hardware, systems and databases. We want to ensure your Ning Network stays online and speedy for the next year and beyond.

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.
  • We’ll also provide ongoing updates during this maintenance period on the Ning Status Blog and on our @Ning Twitter account.
  • The Creators Network will also be down for maintenance. We will update on Creators when all is complete.

We recommend advising your members of this downtime in advance via a broadcast message and/or other notices on your Main page. We’ve put together some boilerplate language you can use for messaging by simply copying and pasting. Or, tailor it for your community:

    • Formal: We will be performing maintenance on [network_name] this Friday, December 2, from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) 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, December 2. We’ll need to take the site down from 10-midnight (Pacific). During these 2 hours, we’ll simply show a message asking folks to check back later. Thanks in advance for your patience while we tune up the site!

We know that maintenance like this can be an inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience while we perform it!