Author Archives: Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger: HootSuite

Hoot Hoot Ning Creators. HootSuite is excited to be part of the Ning Extensions Program through the integration of Ning into the HootSuite dashboard. In case you aren’t familiar, HootSuite helps brands and organizations use the social web to launch marketing campaigns, identify and grow audience, distribute targeted messages across multiple channels and more.

This means you can now monitor your Ning Social Website from the same place you manage your other social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Foursquare. You will also have access to some great tools and resources to make managing your social media activities simpler and more efficient, and to help you expand your network’s reach.

We at HootSuite want to make sure you get the most out of this integration, so here are five things you can do with HootSuite today to help build your networks and communities:

  • Broadcast over Multiple Services – with HootSuite you will have the ability to send messages to multiple social services at once.
  • Monitor Member Activity – track and monitor your community members’ activities through various channels; track brand mentions, product enthusiasts, campaign feedback, competitive insight, industry info/news and more.
  • Better Manage Multiple Services – the HootSuite dashboard offers multiple tabs and streams that make managing social media and multiple services simpler and more efficient.
  • In-Depth Analytics – HootSuite offers a number of ways to analyze your networks and communities. Basic users have access to Social Stats. In addition to Social Stats, Pro and Enterprise users enjoy Google Analytics and Facebook Insights integration and Custom URL Parameters.
  • Collaborate with Teams – HootSuite gives you the ability to securely invite teams to share streams, assign and respond to tasks, collaborate on messaging, track follow-ups and more.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the cool stuff you can do with HootSuite – there are many more tools and resources waiting for you. And now, with this integration of Ning into the HootSuite dash, you can post messages to your Ning site, monitor your networks and communities, view profiles and images in-dash and more, in much the same way you would for other popular social networking services.

I encourage you to check out all the things HootSuite can do for your networks and communities. Network Creators can activate the extension, then head over to for more information and to learn more about the integration with Ning. Happy Hooting!

– Dave Olson, HootSuite Community Director

Guest Blogger: Double Dutch

Hey, Network Creators! You may have heard about the recent Ning Everywhere launch, which for most of you will mean more options for building mobile apps for your networks. I wanted to introduce you to DoubleDutch. We’re one of the new Ning partners, and our service is all about bringing you the opportunity to make your network geosocial.

As many have pointed out in many different contexts: Mobile is the future. If you’re on board with that idea, a mobile app for your Ning Network may become a key component to your network’s future growth and engagement. As our CEO Lawrence is fond of saying, “location changes everything.”

A great example of that statement applied to a Ning Network is She Writes. They’ve created a Double Dutch iPhone app that allows their community of women writers to view their friends and fellow writers’ locations, and even meet up serendipitously or schedule meetings in advance. Because their community is grown around a very specific, shared interest, the potential for real world collaboration is very strong. Furthermore, the private nature of the app ensures that sensitive location data is shared only with members of the community. Locals can meet up, share strategies, and argue philosophically about the art of writing. What happens in She Writes stays in She Writes.

There’s a lot more to what you can create using our service. I won’t go into all the details here, but these features may be of particular interest to Network Creators:

  • Branding: A primary and basic feature of our apps is that you can apply your own branding. Every Ning community app will have its icon displayed, as well as the option to match a theme to their Web-based Ning Network.
  • Game and badges: Each DoubleDutch app comes with about 200 achievement badges, awarded for things like checking in, posting photos, and exploring new places. The app also boasts a place specific “Rockstar” title for people who check in the most at a particular place.
  • Administrative dashboard: From the hot spots to the hot badges, you can see what the community enjoys doing and where they enjoy going. With this knowledge, you can begin to reward users with badges or physical goods for activities. And, of course, you can watch the analytics closely to see which campaigns work the best.

Those are just a few of the things you can do with a Double Dutch iPhone app. There’s no better way to build a strong community than in the real world, so start building those real-world connections today among your community with a DoubleDutch mobile app. I encourage you to check in on our site and check out the new options you have to bring a unique mobile experience to your members.

Mathew Spolin, CTO, Double Dutch

Guest Blogger: Skimlinks

skimlinks_blogger Hello, Network Creators! Interested in monetizing your network through affiliate links, but not sure exactly how it works?

We’ve been working with Ning to provide a seamless integration of the new Skimlinks Extension, allowing Network Creators to start earning in just one click. If you’re a Network Creator, you can create an account from within your Ning interface, and in one click our technology is installed automatically and instantly. Just like that, you can start earning from a new revenue stream through your content using both SkimLinks and Skimwords — hooked in to 12,000 international online retailers. Network creators also have access to the Skimlinks interface, allowing you to use our other tools and products, as well as our comprehensive reporting suite. We’re really excited to launch our integration with Ning and give you an opportunity to harness the power of the conversations happening on your network, and help make sure you’re rewarded for the purchase intent that’s created through your content.

Skimlinks is ideally suited to networks that have a product or retail focus, such as electronics, gadgets, mothering, automotive, sports and fashion. To get a break down of how the Skimlinks technology works, and how you can make the most of it, download our easy Skimlinks Startup Guide, or find out out more about affiliate marketing with this video.

If you have your own Ning network, make sure you check it out today.

Hannah, Skimlinks

Guest Post: Create A University Class Ning Network

Today’s guest blog comes from Jack Hadley, CEO of Lava7 and an adjunct professor at BYU. We frequently hear about educators using Ning in the classroom, but it’s rare to find out just how effective using a Ning Network in a school setting is. That’s why it was so exciting to read a recent post from Jack, explaining how he used a Ning Network in an advertising class he taught at BYU. Jack’s post not only included how he used it, but what his students thought of it — and if they’d recommend it. After reading, we asked him to pen a similar post for the Ning Blog.

Powerful social media tools like Ning, Twitter, blogging and Ustream aren’t just for socializing and marketing. They facilitate fundamental shifts in the way people are connecting and communicating—shifts that can improve university learning.

I just completed a four-month exercise in a Comms230 class I teach at Brigham Young University. I designed and built a Ning network (with the help of our Lava7 team) to use as the foundation for our class. My goal was threefold—to better engage students with the subject matter (and with each other), to help students begin creating personal online brands, and to digitally centralize and manage day-to-day class functions.

There were 49 students enrolled in our class. Last week I asked them to answer three questions about their experience using our Ning network. It’s important to note that I instructed them NOT to put their names on their responses. I wanted candid, honest feedback without brownie-point undertones. 43 students were in attendance that day.

A representative handful of those responses are highlighted in the boxes below.


Uber-Engaged Students

The three questions I asked were open ended:

  1. What did you like, or not like, about the Ning network we used this semester in class?
  2. What did you like, or not like, about blogging on our Ning network this semester.
  3. Would this type of social network be useful in your other classes? Why, or why not?

100 percent of the students (43 of 43) answered “yes” to question #3 (and included supporting reasons). Approximately 98 percent of the 140+ comments I received could be described as “enthusiastically positive” about their experience.

Most of the students in our class had never blogged before. Hundreds of posts and comments later, blogging was the network component that made the biggest difference and had the most profound effect on their experience. My advice? If you use a Ning network in a university class, encourage (or better yet, require) blogging.


The Beginnings of Personal Online Brands

Teach students the concept of creating personal, online brands. It doesn’t matter what subject you teach. New media tools have changed the rules. What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. Help students discover how to use social media tools to their advantage. Your Ning class network can be a great starting point.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Lessons from Three Years of Running TuDiabetes

Today’s guest post comes from Manny Hernandez, Network Creator of TuDiabetes and its Spanish language sister site, EsTuDiabates. When Manny recently announced TuDiabetes celebrated its third birthday, we asked him to share some of the lessons he’s learned over the past three years. If you are interested in contributing a guest post on the Ning Blog, let us know in the comment below!


Recently turned three. To those that have stuck around since then and put up with my unending talk about the community (and its Spanish-speaking counterpart, EsTuDiabetes), receive my thanks! To those that stopped being my friends on Facebook, I don’t blame you: I know I have being a pest at times!

As a way to give back, I wanted to share three lessons I have learned about running a nonprofit diabetes social network in the past three years:

Running a social network is not easy

Even having a solid platform like Ning at hand, the real work of running a social network comes where the rubber meats the road, i.e. when conflict arise… and conflict WILL arise. We’ve seen it even in a place that you wouldn’t expect to be conflict-prone: in a social network of people touched by diabetes, WHY would people argue or fight? The answer: throw politics or religion at the most civilized group of individuals and stand back. We may have things in common, but many times we let the things that separate us get in the way.

Running a nonprofit is not easy either

I definitely wish I had known about options like having a Fiscal Sponsor early on (I know tell everyone that asks me for advice and even some people that don’t ask me for it — consider Fiscal Sponsorship as an option before you take the 501(c)3 plunge), so that we could have explored that option. We learned a lot in the process of applying for the tax-exempt status at the Diabetes Hands Foundation, but we also learned that it’s not the only way in which you can do good in a nonprofit context.

Helping others is the best thing you can do in your life

You may be wondering, if running a social network (which is at the core of what we do) and running a nonprofit (which is the umbrella under which we live every day) aren’t easy things to do, why do we keep on doing it? Because the joy of seeing people discover they are not alone; the lessons people can take with them to improve their diabetes management, health and life; the result of seeing empowered patients who used to feel isolated before is PRICELESS!

Here is a video that touches on all three things. We posted it on TuDiabetes in 2009, after several weeks of an ongoing internal conflict in connection to type 1 diabetes versus type 2 diabetes. The whole conflict led to this, which is where I stand today in regards to managing community and connecting people touched by diabetes. We can all help each other out more than we can by having each of us stand on our own.

Guest Post: Your Friends Can Be the Key to Success

Bruno Photo-1Ed note: Today’s guest post comes from Bruno Leal, the Network Creator of Cafe Historia. A resident of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Leal works as a historian and journalist, and teaches social communication at a university. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, let is know in the comments below!

Two years ago I created Cafe Historia on Ning to provide a place for high quality exchange of knowledge, information and experiences for those who work with, study or just love history. Cafe Historia recently crossed the mark of 17,000 members and has become a reference on the web for historians, teachers and students. Many people ask me, “How did you get so many members without resorting to any kind of advertising?”

There is no magic formula to build a success social network. The only way to do it is hard work. You must produce quality content, be a good moderator, create an attractive design and update the content frequently. Those are the basic rules, but before all this work starts, you need to follow these very important steps:

First Content

Create content before inviting anyone to your Ning Network. It’s very simple — post a message on your blog, open forums, add videos or photos and inaugurate the first groups. Use the text boxes that Ning offers to publish articles or news about your Ning Network’s subject. Prospective members are looking for good content. So the more you give, more time they will stay on your Ning Network. If your guests can’t find any content at all, they will probably never return!

Invite your best friends

After publishing (valuable and pertinent) content, it’s time to invite people to join your Ning Network. And this is a very important step for your success. At the beginning, you should never invite strangers. The reason? Your content may be the best, but people attract people and no one will want to become a member if there’s is nobody there. Your visitors won’t become members. They will be just readers or worse: they’ll quickly forget your network.
At first, you must invite your best friends. Make a list of e-mail addresses. This list should have between 50 to 100 names, at least. Explain to your friends what is a social network, how to use it and how their presence can help you in your project. Even though the subject of your social network may not be what they are interested in, someone will probably help you. After all, friends are friends!
With a few dozen members, the unknown visitors might feel more invited to enter your network because they won’t feel alone anymore. A few weeks later, ask your friends to invite their friends too.

The “After Best Friends” Period

Many creators of Ning Networks wants to know: should I leave only the first page of my social network open or should I open it all? If you’re at the beginning, even with many friends, I suggest you leave only the first page public and the others, private. It will make Internet users curious and help increase the number of members on your Ning Network. But if you’ve been established for at least six months with enough good content posted, my suggestion is to open up your Ning Network. The number of who sign up will decrease a little, but the number of readers will increase significantly. When you open all the pages, Google is allowed to index all the content, to your Ning Network will show up more on Google searches.
That’s it. I invite you to take a visit on Cafe Historia (you can read it in English!) and see how is everything working out. And now, create your own Ning Network! Try all these tips, involve your friends on your project and and good luck!

Guest Post: Creating a community for a community


Ed note: Today’s post comes from Becca Martin, the creator of Live Here Oak Park, a Ning Network dedicated to the Chicago, Ill suburb of Oak Park.  When she’s not Ninging it up, Becca enjoys meeting her members around town and discovering new local businesses and restaurants to write about. If you’d like to write a guest post, please let us know in the comments below!

Many of us probably remember the song sung by the beloved, sweater-wearing children’s show host, Mr. Rogers where he asked “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” Well, as I’ve discovered, creating a Ning Network for the community where you live can be a great way to find that out.

Eight months ago, I started Live Here Oak Park with the hope of creating a virtual community for the residents of one of the most vibrant, diverse and well-known Chicago suburbs.  Along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to learn a thing or two about some of the unique ways to develop a growing neighborhood network.

Getting the word out

When I first launched the site, I discovered that as a Network Creator with a local twist, I had access to several useful websites I could use to help attract new members, share my content across the web and get Google-friendly inbound links.

First, I submitted my network’s blog RSS to a city-specific news aggregation site.  As a result, the blog post headlines would automatically appear along with other articles about my town. Readers were then directed back to my Ning Network to read the full stories. Second, I joined Placeblogger, a location-specific blog directory that allows members to provide a short description of their blog and submit their RSS feed to the site.

Making connections

I knew it wasn’t enough to just put my content out on the web. I needed to start connecting with folks and invite them to check out the blogs, discussions, events and photo albums on the site.  At the same time, I also needed to keep them engaged once they became members.

In the beginning, I used location-specific Twitter search sites such as LocalTweeps, Twellow and Monitter to find Oak Park people to follow. Today, 90 percent of all of my tweets direct people to content on my network and Twitter is my second highest source of traffic.

I also created a Facebook Fan page for my network. I added the Facebook logo to my front page and also ran a very low budget (I’m talking twenty bucks) ad campaign on Facebook. The Facebook ads allowed me reach people within my immediate area, maximizing the likelihood that I’d be able to convert fans to active network members.

In addition to Twitter and Facebook, I used the broadcast e-mail feature on my network to send monthly “What You May Have Missed” messages to my existing members to highlight some of the most popular discussions or events and give those who may have become inactive a reason to come back.

Going low tech

The beauty of having a local Ning network is that I could also apply some low-tech tactics to build awareness and engage members.

For me, this included putting flyers up in local businesses. I also created a jazzy T-shirt for my network that I wore to local events, the gym and any place people would be staring at my back for more than a few seconds.

Because my members all live within 10 minutes of each other, we’ve used the Events feature on the network to organize several meetups at a local coffee shop.  Not only does it strengthen members’ connection to the each other because they’re no longer talking to strangers, but it helps generate buzz about the network as members discuss plans for attendance or talk about how much they enjoyed the event.  To continue the fun, we typically take photos at our meetups and post them on the site along with a recap of the event.

Enjoying the rewards

Creating a Ning network for my town has been an awesome experience.  Members have thanked me for creating the site and giving them a place to connect with other residents. And I have to admit that it’s done the same thing for me too.  Not only have I learned more about my community and become more involved, but I’ve met a bunch of very cool people along the way.

Guest Post: If You Write The Guides, Traffic Will Come

Ed note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Craig Zelizer, the Associate Director of the Conflict Resolution MA Program at Georgetown University. He has been involved in the field of conflict resolution for over two decades, worked in over 15 countries, consults regularly for a variety of organizations, and is committed to fostering social change using innovative tools such as Ning. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, let us know in the comments below.

craigactpictureIn peacebuilding, international development and related fields, there are thousands of websites and countless social networking sites. One of the challenges for the Peace and Collaborative Development Network and for all Network Creators, is how to distinguish our sites and make them a central go-to resource for anyone interested in our respective themes.

For the PCDN network, one of the central ways that I have found to attract new members and traffic, is by creating over 30 resource guides on central themes that address critical issues and gaps in the field. Some of the topics covered include:

  • How to write a successful funding application
  • A guide to key job resources and websites for individuals seeking careers in the field
  • A discussion of essential IT resources (of course Ning is included
  • Resources for successfully attracting funding for nonprofit initiatives

Based on user feedback — in addition to the opportunities for networking with colleagues in the fields, staying up to date on current trends, opportunities and news — the resource guides have proven to be one of the most attractive features of the network.

As someone who has worked at the intersection of conflict resolution, civil society, development and higher education, I have sought to cover topics in the guides that I wish I had known earlier in my career. In recent months, several site members have also developed resource guides, which have been featured. In addition to providing a free service to the individuals and organizations in the field, the guides help to attract new members, and have at times resulted in some consulting work for me personally.

For other network creators using Ning, I wanted to offer some short tips on how to create effective resource guides that can be a tremendous boon to your network:

Develop guides that touch on your areas of expertise/passion that fit with the focus of your network
One of the most effective means of finding topics for a guide, is to think about burning questions or insights that you may have for your respective area of expertise (think about why you started a Ning network). If you write about a topic of strong concern, others will often be attracted to viewing and commenting on the guides.

Develop a consistent structure for your guides
In general, most of the resource guides on the PCDN network follow this format:

  • Quick Introduction of several paragraphs about the topic and what will be included.
  • An introduction and very brief description of 10-20 key resources/websites or organizations that central to the topic.
  • An invitation to all site members to comment on the guides, suggest new resources, etc.

Keep the Guides current
On a regular basis (based on user feedback or new resources) the guides are constantly updated.

Highlight the guides
In all the PR work done in promoting the PCDN network, the guides are mentioned, on the main page, and in the introduction email new members receive.

Invite members to suggest new topics and write guides
Once your network has a sufficient number of guides to attract more traffic to the site, inviting site members to suggest new topics and even potentially write new guides that will be featured can be a wonderful addition. However, it is important in developing new guides to ensure that users are provided with guidance and structure.

Create a user guide to your network
Among the resources on the PCDN network, there are also several guides for different audiences (individual members, organizations) that provide explicit guidance on how to use the network and account features. Since these guides have been created (and are routinely updated) the number of requests for assistance carrying out basic account functions has dramatically decreased.

Of course creating resource guides in and of themselves is not a guarantee of a network’s success, as there still needs to be daily updated material, relevant information, etc. However, I am strong advocate that one of the central ways to increase a network’s visibility is to concentrate on building up these key resources.

In trying to keep track of the feedback and results from using the site, another tool I have started using is a discussion forum where members can comment on the tangible results and benefits they have had from using the network.

I hope these tips maybe of use to other network creators and look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions.

Guest Post: Surf to the Yoga

Ed note: Today’s post come from Jan Biermann, the founder of, a German Ning Network focused on Yoga and wueins, an advertising agency in Münster, Germany. If you are interested in penning a guest post for the Ning Blog, let us know in the comments below!

Guest-post-for-the-Ning-BlogDo you know yama, niyama, asanas or pranayama? If not, then become acquainted with

There are about six million yoga disciples in Germany. Very early, became a sleeper hit in the yoga scene. Our young community grew hourly and the amount of interesting material steadily increased, too.

Our Ning Network’s goals are forwarding the network culture between friends of yoga, declining the anonymity on the Internet and on offering a working platform, where like-minded people can exchange information for free.The free website is financed entirely by banner ads.

With help of an advertising agency connected to us, it was possible for us to develop the design and concept and to place our initial ads. Later on, we concentrated on search engine optimizing and in creating strategic partnerships with established yoga blogs and magazines.

Search Engine Optimization – visitors for your website for free
Because of the infinite number of webpages, the high ranking of a webpage in the search results of a search engine is critical for increasing visitors. At this point, search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.

We pay attention to specific criteria that search engines uses to detect and sort pages. This can be clearly shown with the content of the page. When a page’s content is created in a specific way, the search engines regard it preferentially. Using specific keywords in a fixed perceptual frequency can do this, for example. If one of these keywords is inserted in the search engine, the page that’s suitably optimized is regarded as compatible by the search engine, and the page is recommended for the user with an extra high ranking.

We started by investing in Google Adwords. Later on, when our page on Google was better ranked, we slowly reduced the Adwords budget. Today 55 percent of our guests visit us via search engines, which doesn’t cost us anything!

PR articles instead of expensive advertisements
Public relations (PR) includes all the things that help promote a positive image of your company or of the products and services offered by you. It’s your representation to an audience.

We engaged an author to create an article about and then sent our PR piece to established yoga magazines. Many magazines were very interested in reporting our news. It wasn’t long until we had the pleasure of finding our article and its URL in the greatest German yoga magazine.

Running the same article as an advertisement would have cost us  € 600 and would have been seen as an ad by the viewer. In contrast, an article comes out to the reader like a personal recommendation of the magazine.

And we continually refine the concept. We’ve had interviews with German yoga notables via chat as well as sweepstakes, campaigns and much more.

After a little more than one year, is counted among the most frequently visited German yoga sites on the Internet (sources: Google, Alexa). Sponsors like to participate in the concept and promote their shops, yoga retreats or DVDs by banner.

Of course, there are other yoga communities, which have a similar concept. However, because of the intensive connection to our members (every member is personally welcomed) and because of the presence of brands, is becoming a synonym for the yoga community in Germany.

Guest Post: We need each other

Ed note: This is first in a series of  guest posts we plan on publishing on the Ning Blog. If you are interested in penning a guest post for the Ning Blog, let us know in the comments below! Today’s post come from Douglas Aiken, the author of The Culting of Brands: How Customers Become True Believers. He is a partner at Purpose, an organization that creates 21st century movements and was previously the Chief Community Officer and Partner at Meetup.

douglas*hi_2Community is making a comeback.

This is good, because for decades groups, clubs, unions, associations and communities of all kinds have been in decline. And we’ve felt it. Over the years, I’ve examined research that has shown a steady annual increase in the number of people who want to spend more time with families and friends, and be more involved in their neighborhoods. We’ve been craving more connection at the very time that we’ve driven it from our lives.

We’ve been deviant for decades.

We’ve been indulging in aberrant behavior for too long.

Whatever the culprit…commuting, working two jobs, sprawl, relocation, fear of strangers, computer games, focus on getting stuff versus getting time for friends and family… not being part of a high functioning community is just not natural.

Belonging is not an option. Humans have depended on it for survival since one of our ancestors realized he needed his friends if he was going to eat when he faced a woolly mammoth alone with nothing but a stick. It’s wired into our species. As Richard Layard notes in his book Happiness:

All primates live in groups and get sad when they are separated. An isolated individual will repeatedly pull a lever with no reward other than the glimpse of another monkey.

Even today belonging and survival are intertwined. There is a ton of research that shows that those who are part of a social network live longer and survive life-threatening diseases and events significantly better than those who don’t. And they’re happier.

Now we’re normalizing in new ways.

Technology is enabling more connection and engagement. Platforms like Ning help us find and engage with others that share our passions and interests. Facebook and Twitter are keeping us connected. Tens of thousands of Meetups are recreating local community. We’re sharing, mobilizing, educating, supporting, and acting together to enrich our lives online and offline. Some are even using these tools to retool their societies.

But there’s a problem.

We’re a generation of lost skills.

In the 1950s, five percent of American adults were presidents, not just members, but presidents of some club or voluntary association or other. Being a high functioning member or leader of a community was both expected and supported. It was in the air they breathed. With the pervasiveness of association came ready access to the collective wisdom and support from others who knew how to run a network effectively.

We don’t have that. We’re groping our way back to what De Tocqueville identified as a unique characteristic of America (and an engine of its democracy); associating with each other in all kinds of ways for all kinds of common interests. Somehow we have to fill this knowledge vacuum. And do it fast.

Launching and running networks is hard. You realize this very quickly once you start. From observing and interviewing hundreds of leaders and members of communities of all kinds, I’ve seen that most fail because the leaders have good intentions, but few skills.

We need help… from each other!

Some of the best advice you can get is from others doing what you do. Sharing how you succeeded, or failed with others in the same situation is immensely powerful. How do you recruit? How do you create stickiness? How do you run successful events? How do you get rid of toxic members? How do you keep the great ones?

These issues are universal. Whether your network is online or offline, or both; whether it’s in Manchester or Manila, whether it’s about a better social life or social change, we need a place where we can share common needs and get advice from our peers.

The Ning Creators Network is a great place to get this. And I’m trying to do a similar thing on my own Network and blog: The Glue Project. The idea is that these tools will be used to make more social glue by enabling a key ingredient: skilled-up leaders.

And then we can enjoy doing what feels natural; being high-functioning members of social networks.