Category Archives: Ning Network Spotlight

Using Ning + Kickstarter to build a community around a project

Simon Cantlon is on a mission to document the power and allure of the American open road. And he’s using Ning as the community hub for the project. He’s producing an interactive documentary film and book called The Motels of Route 66. The project will explore the stories of the motel owners, the architecture, the travelers and the road itself, which runs between Los Angeles and Chicago.

For funding and publicity, he’s built a Ning community centered around the project and ties it closely together with his Kickstarter project, a funding platform for creative projects. By June 9, he’s looking for $30,000 in backing for the project. The funding will cover the month-long journey down Route 66 with a full four-man film crew (director, cameraman, photographer, lighting & sound), vehicle rental, equipment, gas, food, lodging and supplies.

It’s an ambitious goal, for sure, and we’re excited to follow Simon and his crew on their documentary-road trip across one of America’s most historic thoroughfares.

“We’ll be out on the road meeting travelers, the people who live in the towns, mom and pop businesses and the owners of the motels along the way, all the way down Route 66. We’ll be bringing them into the story, and letting them be a part of it. As the story unfolds step by step, it will be documented on our Ning community,” said Cantlon. “That’s awesome.”

You can back his project on his Kickstarter page and follow the endeavor through his Ning community, The Motels of Route 66.

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!

5 Years strong on Ning: Benefitting from the shared experiences of others living with diabetes

©2010 Obert Houser

Manny Hernandez is a nonprofit leader, a recognized social media author and a passionate diabetes advocate. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences about health, diabetes and social media and has been interviewed by The NY Times, NPR, Fox News Health and Bloomberg News on these topics. He authored ‘Ning for Dummies’ and has collaborated in other books on social media and health 2.0.

Manny heads the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit that connects, engages and empowers people touched by diabetes through its social networks on Ning, (in English) and (in Spanish) and programs like The Big Blue Test and No-Sugar Added Poetry. DHF offers information and support to more than 200,000 people around the world every month.

In March 2007, we started TuDiabetes because we saw that too many people with diabetes were feeling isolated instead of benefiting from the shared experience they could have by connecting to other people touched by diabetes.

Today, Diabetes Hands Foundation‘s networks allow members to find support locally and globally. Our more than 23,000 members describe the TuDiabetes family as a lifeline, a source of guidance, a sanctuary, and even a college education! We proudly connect advocates, artists, dreamers, thinkers, and people touched by diabetes of all types so that all of us may live a more expansive life with diabetes.

I sit back and reflect on where we were 5 years ago and where we are now:

  • I have learned to stay flexible, both about my diabetes (not pretending to be perfect) and in the way we do things on TuDiabetes and the Diabetes Hands Foundation (adapting to changing circumstances, challenges, and signals along the way).
  • I am more hopeful than ever: I have had the opportunity to talk with (and share the conversations on video) with some of the world’s most brilliant minds working to make our lives better and one day have diabetes be a thing of the past.
  • I have witnessed the power of social media beyond socializing: seeing how connected people touched by diabetes now feel better understood and more empowered. Who would have imagined this when MySpace was the big thing?

On our fifth birthday, please help us keep going strong in our mission to improve the lives of people living with diabetes worldwide.

If all members of TuDiabetes donate $5, we will raise more than $100,000. Our goal is less ambitious: we are seeking to raise $20,000 before the end of March. So we ask you to give us 5 dollars, or more if you can.

Thank you for your support! And here’s to another 5 years!


College admissions: Building community, helping prospective students choosing schools

Do you remember the anxiety and stress of the college admissions process? Many questions loom: When will I find out? Is this the right school for me? How can I hear from current students? How can I afford this education? What will my life be like there?

These are just some of the questions top of mind for high school seniors (and parents) as they wait to hear from schools and decide where to attend for the next chapter in their lives. This got us thinking. How are colleges and universities using Ning to build community around their prospective students and what are schools doing to make a student’s decision on matriculation more informed and less stressful?

We came across Providence College’s Ning Network, PC Perspectives. Based in Rhode Island, Providence College (PC) is a small liberal arts college that decided to build their community with Ning to supplement their presence on Facebook and Twitter. Their goal was to share a true PC student-perspective to high schoolers. “We wanted prospective students to have a space to learn about PC that was a step beyond the packaged marketing materials,” said Scott Seseske, PC’s Assistant Dean of Admission. “We wanted a place where these students could come and hear from PC students, and ask them questions directly.”

The Ning community is completely open, meaning that anyone can see student blog posts, photos and profiles by PC’s student ambassadors (pictured below). Current students highlight everything from study abroad opportunities, roommates, sports, picking a major and their impending graduation. In total, PC Perspectives has 10 dedicated students representing the college on a regular basis through the community (and many more chiming in along the way).

Ambassadors offer their candid experiences at PC to the nearly 10,000 students applying each year. Seseske highlights that for student ambassadors, many contribute because the Ning community made an impact on them during their own college searches, and they’re paying it forward by volunteering their time within the site. Having a presence within the community also serves as a tangible portfolio as student ambassadors think about their graduation from PC and post-college employment opportunities in fields like the press and media, tech, education, advertising, and writing.

Since the group is open to everyone, PC Perspectives serves to help high school students at any stage in the admissions process — meaning that if someone wants to join as a member, and gush about how excited they are to attend PC, they can absolutely do so, or if they’re more comfortable checking out what PC is all about without becoming a full-fledged member of the site, they can do that too. By being a destination where prospective students can visit online, connect with other high schoolers, current students and the college, PC Perspectives offers students just that: an authentic perspective on what it’s like to attend Providence College. And more importantly, they’re helping high school students find the right school.

Turning a hobby into a social business

Hobbies. Whether knitting, collecting stamps, running, enjoying a good bottle of wine or indulging in foodie culture, we all have something adding layers to what makes us, well, us. And what tops a hobby? Making a business out of it.

At Ning, our team is fascinated with how we can provide you with the best social technology weaving together people with the things that you hold near and dear to your heart — no matter the hobby, business, topic or focus. One way we do this is by speaking directly with our customers about what’s worked for them, and the ways they’re leveraging Ning to turn their passions and hobbies into hyper-focused communities populated with people sharing their same excitement.

We recently spoke with filmmaker and Ning Creator, Zack Coffman about Choppertown Nation, the Ning Network he spun out after the wild success of his documentaries about custom motorcycles built from the ground up, and the people making the custom bikes.

Directors Scott DiLalla (left) and Zack Coffman at the Sundance Film Festival (2007)

  Directors Scott Di Lalla (left) and Zack Coffman at the Sundance Film Festival (2007)


Co-directed with Scott Di Lalla, the first of their documentaries came out in 2005, with follow-up documentaries released almost every year thereafter. With the films generating a worldwide cult following, Coffman’s Ning community, Choppertown Nation, began about 3 years ago under the premise that it would be neat to have a place where the fans could have a hub to celebrate the documentaries and their excitement for building custom rides. “We had a lot of friends on our MySpace and Facebook pages,” said Coffman. “And we thought, we ought to make a network with our own brand and title. We wanted pure, constant, and consistent branding with our own site.” Coffman chose to use Ning to build the community, and with that, Choppertown Nation was born.

Since its launch, nearly 4,000 people have joined Choppertown Nation, and the site has seen over 50,000 images of custom bikes uploaded directly by its members. With such a bevy of content, the result has been a lot of interested eyeballs checking out what’s being said and made by the greater community, and Coffman has leveraged the site as a way to authentically promote DVD sales for his other films. “We’re able to advertise in an organic way by offering members and visitors our DVDs and other items they’d probably like to buy. In many ways, what we’re selling is just a natural extension of what they’re already enjoying on the community.”

Building on top of a stream of great content and engaged members, Coffman also regularly offers contests and competitions to the community. In Choppertown’s latest competition, wrapping up at the end of this month, members can upload 2 pictures of their bike builds and tell everyone about what they’ve built. Top contributors have the opportunity to win apparel, accessories and other prizes from industry-known sponsors like Biltwell, Dickies, Licks Custom Cycles, Baker Drivetrain and DicE Magazine. Contests like this provide an endless loop for engagement and friendly competition, while bringing sponsors front and center to an already-active and influential biker community.

Coffman also cites that SEO (search engine optimization), where a website appears in search results like on Google and Yahoo!, remains high for his sites given that his community lives on the Ning Platform. By linking between his Ning community and his online store, this helps his business come up higher in search results as cross-linking between the sites builds relevancy for his brand. In turn, this helps as people search sites like Google for information about building custom motorcycles to come across Choppertown Nation and its online store.

For Choppertown Nation, which started out as a hobby turned documentary series turned full-fledged community combining a business, it’s a shining example for how a Ning customer is creatively and naturally driving engagement and increasing visibility on the web. As a phrase motor enthusiasts know well, we’re glad to see that the Choppertown community and Coffman live by the mantra “Run what you brung,” all day, everyday.

Have you turned your hobby into a business using Ning? Tell us your story — we’d love to hear about it.

A Ning community to occupy, share & connect – quickly

At Ning, we’ve long believed in providing a platform enabling people to create communities for the things most important to them; allowing you to share and connect freely, with anyone. What’s blossomed has been Ning Networks whose topics and foci run the gamut, and as a Ning employee I think it’s been incredibly awesome to see so many communities grow and flourish.

Occupy Cal (Nov 15), photo by Daniel Parks

Occupy Cal (Nov 15), photo by Daniel Parks

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Occupy protests happening around the world. The Occupy movement is making the headline news, while student-captured footage of the UC Davis pepper spray incident has had millions of views and shares on YouTube and Facebook (along with many tongue-in-cheek memes). People are sharing their personal stories of economic and career hardship, and governments are being asked to take responsibility and help their people. A longtime muted 99% is now being heard worldwide through these protests and the sharing of information online.

In the past, we’ve highlighted how people discover and find Ning communities in both times of joy and hardship or uncertainty. Given what’s been happening, an Occupy Wall Street YouTube video linking to the Ning Network, Occupy America Social Network, caught our attention. The community is primarily using the Ning Platform to share information through the Blog and Video features, both of which are prominently highlighted on the community’s homepage. Posts and uploads began at the end of September and according to Site Meter, there are now over 140 blog posts and 170 videos relating to the movement from occupiers around the world, attracting about 1,400 visitors to the site daily.

Topicality aside, the Occupy America Social Network gets at what we’re all about – it’s a prime example of how easily the Ning Platform can be used as a “pop-up shop” of sorts for quickly organizing people through online community. Given a passionate base of supporters, we can’t wait to see where the Occupy America Social Network goes from here.

What is your community standing up for, and how is the Ning Platform giving you a voice? Let us know in the comments.

Building a community for our veterans

At Ning, we’re all about community. If you’re a current Ning Creator, you’ve probably picked up on this little point of pride; if you’re checking us out for the first time, we’re glad you’re here to learn more!

The Ning Platform is only as interesting and impactful as the 100,000 communities and millions of community members using the service daily. To this point, we see communities ranging a multitude of businesses interests, professions, geographies, expertise, hobbies, life-long connections, lifestyles… you name it – and this is exactly what we love to see happening with Ning.

In honor of Veterans Day and the millions of men and women serving our country, we wanted to bring to light a few veteran Ning communities. Two years ago, we first highlighted IAVA’s Community of Veterans, a private Ning community focused on serving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Last year, we invited IAVA’s Community Manager, Jason Hasman, to Ning HQ. Jason, an Iraq veteran, is responsible for maintaining and growing Community of Veterans and we asked him how IAVA has turned into such a special and impactful community for veterans back from deployment:

While Veterans all have one thing in common through protecting and serving their country, we see Ning communities bubbling up to support and bring together segments of veteran populations. It’s been quite the year for the US military, with one issue being especially top of mind: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Though the policy has been repealed, burgeoning support and pride for LGBT civil servants and veterans is the focus for the Ning Network DOD Federal Globe.

Though Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell made national news, camaraderie and bonds formed by veterans leaning on the support of their peers extends beyond this deeply debated topic. For UW Vets for Vets, the Ning community forms the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter of the national organization, Student Veterans of America. Vets for Vets is a place for student veterans attending UW-Wisconsin to come together, learn about their benefits and support activities, and raise awareness amongst the greater UW-Wisconsin student population about student veterans’ experiences. The Ning community is open to all UW-Madison students, facilitating a place to open the lines of communication between active duty veterans, veterans and student-civilians.

Veterans and their families may face many challenges while reintegrating back into civilian life. The good news is that there are many services and communities to help soften this landing. Military to Medicine is a Ning community dedicated to bringing healthcare training and career opportunities to military families. The organization supports veterans, wounded veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, other service members and military spouses. The community includes new job openings and resources for veterans looking for guidance and support during their adjustment.

In the same vein, Lone Star Veterans Association is a community dedicated to supporting post 9/11 veterans and their families through “direction communications, advocacy, employment assistance, mentoring, service and social programming.” As the mentoring and networking arm of Houston’s Returning Veteran Initiative, the Ning community “provides the open support system and social outlets for service members transitioning back into civilian life through programs, events and peer mentoring.”

On the lighter side of things, military Ning communities also form around civilian interests. Military Sea Hawkers serves as the military chapter of the official booster club of the Seattle Seahawks, giving active service members and veterans a place to celebrate their favorite football team and root on the Sea Hawks with their comrades.

We’re truly glad to see these wonderful bonds and communities coming to fruition through Ning; thank you to all active service men and women and veterans for showing us how your camaraderie creates community.

Political community with Ning, an Election Day state of mind

Every year, the Tuesday after the first Monday of November is America’s Election Day. Today, millions will exercise their civic duties by voting for elected officials and weighing in on local and state propositions.

As people head to the polls, we wanted to highlight a few current and past Ning political communities for individuals running for elected positions, and offer a few best practice tips for community managers and online political engagement. More generally, the below can be applied as you appeal to your constituency or intended audience, discuss what you’re all about, and tell your story in an authentic and meaningful way – all-the-while building a base of supporters and a community standing behind you:

Think Local
What matters most to your constituency and how will you effectively communicate your stance on particular issues? What’s on the minds of your supporters, and how do you intend to affect things on a local level? Let supporters (and skeptics) know where you stand, and how their voting for you and your win will positively affect things locally.

Have a first-hand approach
Welcome your supporters by writing first-hand accounts as you campaign via blog posts or quick status updates. If you use services like Twitter or Facebook to send updates, embed your streams front and center on your community. This not only gives people an up-to-date sense of what you’re focusing on, it gives them lightweight options to stay informed, and lets them know about upcoming speaking engagements and public appearances where they can meet you.

Make your online presence shine
Not every politician has a six-plus figure budget to work with for his or her campaign. The beauty of the Internet is that it has opened the doors to sharing information globally, letting you affordably tell your story and positions to anyone. As more and more people of all ages turn to the Web for their news and information, consider what’s top-of-mind for voters, and what they’re likely searching for and typing in Google and other search engines. Ensuring you includes terms, words and phrases important to voters will help you get the word out about your campaign when they search the Web. This practice, known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can improve the volume and quality of traffic from visitors coming to your community.

If you create a campaign video, be sure to upload it to your Ning community, as well as third-party video sharing services like YouTube and Vimeo. Embed the video in your community or on blog posts and pages you create, and add a URL link back to your Ning community if you upload the video to third-party services.

Encourage your supporters to share your stance
Leveraging the social circles of your biggest supporters can lead to virality, spreading the word about your campaign faster. Adding to this, people trust brand recommendations made by friends, family and acquaintances – for many, the influences made by personal recommendations and support during elections is no different. Interesting and thought-provoking content you create and post is likely something people will want to share, and by enabling social sharing through services like Google+, Facebook and Twitter, you make it very easy for your supporters to let their friends and family learn more about you.

Halloween costume tips and tricks à la Ning communities

If you’ve slacked on getting a Halloween costume put together to dawn on this spooky evening, you’re not alone. The good news is that you still have time to pull one together! We’ve heard from many Ning Creators and Ning community members about how they’ll be celebrating Halloween, so if you’re fresh out of ideas or are looking for a creative and unique spin to your costume, décor or Halloween meal, here are some ghoulish posts on Ning communities that can help you out:

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas on Spartanburg Moms:

Halloween artists and DIYers share on

Dinner In A Pumpkin Video on Martha Stewart’s Dreamers into Doers:

Low-Fat Pumpkin Pie Topped with Spiced Pecans on Gen’s Guiltless Gourmet:

3 Wickedly Fun Ways To Celebrate Halloween! on Natural Mothers Network:

Halloween Costumes Designed For the Cold on Book Blogs:

Happy Halloween from Ning HQ!

Starting a non-profit community, helping breast cancer patients online

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. More than ever, breast cancer patients, survivors, friends and family members, and organizations are sharing stories, raising awareness, and gathering support through online channels.

We heard about The Pink Daisy Project, a non-profit online community and all-volunteer Ning Network started by breast cancer survivor Debbie Cantwell. The organization is dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer cope with the hardships of their treatment by providing them care and comfort, and a hopeful online place to share their stories of survival. Debbie was also featured as a CNN Hero in July for her work with the community.

Debbie started The Pink Daisy Project on her own, as a way to thank all the people who helped her during her treatment and to pay it forward. Through the Ning community, women undergoing cancer treatment lean on the bravery from others around the world, forging lasting friendships, sharing their stories of treatment and survival, and receiving positive support from the greater community.

The national organization also provides financial help and relief to women during treatment – from sending groceries for a month or having someone come clean their house, seemingly little contributions make a positive difference while undergoing cancer treatment.

Debbie has built and managed The Pink Daisy Project while juggling a full-time job, and busy life with her husband and 2 children. “It’s been very easy for me, without any technical experience, to maintain the community, keep it running, and make changes,” Debbie highlighted. “The website we had previously was really static. It wasn’t dynamic and it wasn’t engaging; there was no interaction. So, people would look at it, and then they’d leave. Using Ning gave me the capability of having the interaction we wanted to see on The Pink Daisy Project.”

You can donate to the Pink Daisy Project through their Ning community. How is your Ning community making a positive impact in people’s lives? We’d love to hear about it.