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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.

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 CrimeSpace.ning.com, “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 Razorbill.ning.com 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 Genashowalter.com 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 Stonewylde.net 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 Beautifulcreaturesnovels.com community to almost 5,000 fans of the series of novels written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Penguin Young Readers launched the Vampireacademybooks.ning.com 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. Myjamespatterson.com 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. Max-dan-wiz.com 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 Thetwilightsaga.com (managed by the Hachette Book Group) is a touchstone community that has spawned hundreds more communities. Many of the 500,000 members of Thetwilightsaga.com 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 Twifans.com or Thecullensonline.ning.com 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 Mugglespace.com. 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 HerFuture.com 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 My.CrazySexyLife.com 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 WANATribe.com,  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. WANATribe.com 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.

What to get Mom for Mothers Day?

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

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Introducing the Ning VIP Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Updates on the Ning Platform

On April 12th, we received confidential details of a security vulnerability that could allow someone to sign in as an arbitrary Ning user. The intent was not malicious, and to our knowledge and reasonable belief, there has been no unauthorized access to user accounts. The Ning engineering team immediately took several steps: We changed the encryption information to generate a sign-in cookie, and we changed where the information was stored. In addition, we proactively strengthened the encryption algorithm. The changes were then immediately rolled out across the Ning platform starting late last week. Ning Creators and their members may have noticed the protective measures when we forced all users to sign-in again. At this time, we are confident that we have addressed the vulnerability.

We would like to thank the team that identified the vulnerability and collaborated with us to fix it. We take privacy and security very seriously at Ning. We would again like to emphasize that due to the confidential way we were approached, no user accounts have been maliciously compromised.

The sun never sets on the Ning Nation

As a company based in the heart of the tech industry in California, it can be easy to lose sight of how Ning as a product is used worldwide. We recently announced Ning’s official launch in Germany, and with 100,000 Ning communities, and a new community created every 10 minutes, we wanted to take a step back and do a round-up of Ning communities from around the world we think are stellar:

We also highlight some amazing communities on the Ning homepage for our various markets:

Germany (Deutsch)
United Kingdom (English)
Canada (English)
France (Français)
Brazil (Português)

Have a Ning community that should be on our list? Let us know about it!

Product Roadmap: What’s next for your Ning community

Last year, we did something a little different than we have in previous years; we published a public Product Roadmap. It was a big success. It bolstered direct customer-company communication, and it really helped Ning Creators know what was coming next.

It was an ambitious roadmap, and by year’s end we had finished all but one of the projects we initially listed on the roadmap (we’re still working on Mobile improvements; it expanded in scope and became larger). All told, we completed many more projects in 2011 than we did in the 2 previous years combined. In fact, we actually added additional projects to the 2011 Roadmap as the year went along, making it our biggest year of improvements ever. All of those additional projects were based directly on the suggestions we received from our customers — thank you!

We’re going to keep up regular roadmap updates for 2012, although this year we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re still going to keep you updated about what we’re working on with our Product Roadmap page on Creators, but we’re going to shift to offering a more “living” document that shows:

  1. What’s already in partial release
  2. What we’re working on now that’s not yet released
  3. What’s still in the planning stages

The goal is to update it frequently as we go along instead of offering one giant laundry list of features. We want the projects we’re reporting on to be focused on high quality — incorporating feedback we hear from our customers so we can be nimble and adjust what we’re building based on your valuable input. And, we’ll be adding to our roadmap as we complete projects throughout the year.

With all of that said, here’s what we have partially released, are working on, and are still planning…

Partially Released

Activity Feed: If you haven’t seen it yet, we also recently added “Top News” as a beta in the Ning Labs section of your Dashboard. Among other things, this feed pulls in Facebook and Twitter account posts into the Top News activity feed. We’ll be making additional visual improvements to this feed, implementing some real-time abilities for new activity items, and moving this feature out of beta. Check out the latest set of improvements we recently released. There’s more to come on this project that will help increase engagement on your Ning Network.

Member Categories & Badges: We know a lot of Ning Creators want to create different levels of membership for their community. We’ll be adding the ability for you to assign members to custom-made categories. The work on this project kicked off a few weeks ago with a reorganization of the member roles and moderation data to make finding and filtering members easier. Next, we’ll roll out the ability to create and administer categories in this area. This project will also include a way for you to create custom badges using these new member categories. This will be an excellent way for you to reward or identify admins, featured members, special people and all-stars on your community.

Working On It

Mobile Update: Not everyone is aware that there’s a mobile version of every Ning Network — it’s located at networkname.ning.com/m. If you are aware of it, you’ll be very happy to hear that we’re working on a redesign of this mobile interface that will be a giant improvement. This is one of the largest projects we’ve undertaken to date, and it’s really important. We want to get it right so that Ning Creators won’t just have a better mobile experience to offer their members, but will have a way to configure and customize the mobile version to really fit their community. We’ll be posting about this on Ning Creators and accepting volunteers for the beta group.

Help Center Redesign: Our Advocacy team is most excited about their revamp of the Help Center. It’s time for a refresh of the content, the look, the advice — all of it is currently in the process of being redone to be more friendly. Let us know if there are specific resources you’d like to see in our updated Help Center.

Planning it

Blog Update: The blog functionality on Ning Networks is ready for a redo. We’ve gotten a wealth of feedback from Ning Creators about what they’d like to see done differently with the blog feature. We have a lot of work planned to make the blog more powerful and much more visually appealing. We’ll share more details as this project unfolds.

Sign-Up Controls: We’ll offer expanded control over sign in and sign up options that will allow you to, for example, have an “open registration” during specific times and “closed registration” at other times. If you’re more interested in using Ning as a publishing platform over a community platform, you will be able to turn off all “Sign-Up” links and messaging visible to non-signed-in visitors.

New Commenting Options: Provide the ability to allow non-members to join in the conversation by using third-party commenting services (e.g., Facebook comments).

How we move forward

One thing we want to do is invest more resources in beta testing and iterating on the design of each new feature — very similar to what we did with the recently updated Chat. We started the complete Chat revamp with an early announcement about the feature, followed by the creation of a small test group, gradually opened up the beta to more people, announced our progress ahead of final deployment, and then rolled the feature out to everyone. It was one of our most successful product launches, and it incorporated a lot of opportunity for the most engaged Ning Creators to provide feedback. Being laser-focused on one project at a time (rather than being more generally focused on a giant list of projects) helped us make Chat even better than we had originally planned. We’d like to pattern more of our releases in a similar way.

We still plan to innovate in a big way, and, as always, there is additional work going on that’s not reflected in this product roadmap. For example, it may not be apparent that over the past year we greatly expanded language support for our marketing pages (Ning traverse le monde! FYI: We’ll be re-translating French and German soon), reorganized and consolidated domains, adopted new behind-the-scenes web services that make things run more smoothly, and many other projects. We continue to grow and become stronger as a platform when we do these types of essential, less visible projects. Building out all facets of our business — and not just the forward-facing product features — means a more reliable and robust product.

We’ll be continuing the conversation on Ning Creators and the Ning Blog about these projects, so look for ongoing announcements about beta access and updates on our progress. If you didn’t find your favorite request in this update, we’ll be updating the roadmap regularly with new items. As always, thank you for all of the suggestions and feedback!

The top 10 things burgeoning Ning customers are doing to drive success

We love seeing real world businesses thrive when they integrate Ning into an online media and marketing strategy or as their homepage. We’ve gathered the top 10 things burgeoning Ning customers are doing to drive success.

1. Your branding, your way

We know your brand is important to your business’ success, and you want your brand equity to work for you. Adopt, use and iterate your own design and color scheme from any of the rest of your web properties. Want to use the same colors as your Twitter stream, or the cover photo of your Facebook page somewhere? No problem. We make it easy for you to get your design perfected with the Ning Design Studio. Use CSS to make design customizations, and other changes. You’re only limited by your imagination, or branding guidelines!

2. Optimized for advertising

If you want to monetize your site by showing advertisements, go for it! You have the ability to run your own ads on your Ning Network, right out of the box. You can easily place ads in the header and footer with special ad boxes available with your community.* Have existing ad partnerships with the likes of Glam Media, Google AdSense or Adbrite? Bring your ad account into your Ning community, embed your ad code, no problem.

3. Use your custom domain URL

We’re all about letting you make your Ning site appear as seamless and integrated as possible. You can use domain mapping* to mask and customize the domain to your liking. Want to use Ning as the community portion of your site? Not a problem.

4. Ning as part of your social strategy

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. Having a presence on these sites is important. The great thing is that Ning sites play well with others. With social sharing, people on your Ning site can share what they’re talking about from within the community, out to the rest of the world, easily, automatically.

You can also pull into your Ning site RSS feeds from other services, status updates from Facebook, and Tweets from Twitter. It’s all brought into your Ning site, no sweat.

5. Make new pages and build content

Within your Ning site, you can build beautiful new pages by using a blank canvas fitting nicely within the frame of your site. With full HTML support and Javascipt, the pages are 100% part of your members’ experience on your site. You can also copy any of your old webpages into a new page.

6. Passwords are a thing of the past

Enable social sign-in* to let your members frictionlessly sign up and sign in to your Ning site with their social identities: Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!. Just click to connect. They’re all set.

7. Capture more business through leads

Building up a contact list of perspective customers is a piece of cake. Just embed your own forms directly to your Ning site. Create forms with services like iContact, Google Docs, Silverpop and Constant Contact, and add them to the pages of your Ning Community. Use the list as a way to directly touch people expressing interest in your community.

8. Gather the demographics important to you

Collect demographic and relevant information about people when they join your community. The insights you can gain from your members goes beyond gathering their gender or geographic location.

Collect member names and email addresses, add custom questions and solicit responses in the form of location, gender, one line answers, long form answers, multiple choice, dates, and website addresses. Export the information into a .CSV format anytime, anywhere.

9. Optimize your site for search engines and discovery

We hand you the keys to webmaster options like full control over how sections of your Ning site will appear in search results, and what’s crawled and indexed by search sites like Google. You have full control over your sitemap or you can let it be managed automatically so that you can focus on your community and your business.

10. Leverage Ning for help

Need a hand building your Ning site? Use our Build It For You service and work with our in-house community specialists to create and design a vibrant Ning site to help you meet your goals.

Questions once your site is up and running? We offer great customer support through Ning Help and Creators, a Ning community for our customers.

* Feature is available in Ning Plus and Pro.