If you run an online community, what are you doing to mark the season? The last candle of the Menorah will be lit on Saturday, and many are eagerly awaiting a visit from St. Nick. Historically, there is a sharp downturn in web traffic for non-ecommerce websites around Christmas time.
As Art Basel kicks off this week, we wanted to highlight the tools many of our customers are using to make eye candy out of their Ning communities — turning their sites into social destinations looking more like works of art and hubs for creativity and conversation.
Out of the box, Ning communities come packing the punches with the Ning Design Studio. The armada of options from the Design Studio means greater flexibility to customize the look and feel of Ning sites. All sites come with 30 themes and 8 layouts to start. From there, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity, look and features available.
Want to change the layout or number of columns? Looking for the font color to match other branding assets elsewhere? Need to easily switch out a background image with a takeover ad from an advertiser? You can customize the appearance of these and other features like the header image, navigation, tabs, module treatment, format for links and buttons — no problem.
With Ning Plus and Pro, you have even greater design flexibility with full access to your site’s CSS — opening the flood gates to limitless design and professional controls over branding.
We invite you to also check out Ning Creators, where our customers are sharing hints and tips for building and maintaining a snazzy-looking site. The Ning Design community is also a great resource for getting the most out of the Ning Design Studio.
Learn more about the Ning Design Studio here, and make your Ning site pop, too!
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!
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:
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.
Movember is a month-long event raising awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer. Men of all ages are growing out their facial hair to raise awareness. Zaniness aside, donning some scruff in November sparks the conversation and gets people thinking about the health issues affecting millions each year.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we highlighted the Ning Community, The Pink Daisy Project, which helps and supports women going through breast cancer treatment. We spoke at length with Ning Creator Debbie Cantwell about her experience in building the community, fundraising and helping women afflicted by breast cancer.
This got us thinking… What is the recipe for building and supporting fundraising drives and initiatives by non-profit organizations, do-gooders, and even everyday Joe Schmoes? It’s clear the Internet is now a driving force for causes, initiatives and passion projects, encouraging volunteerism and bettering real-world communities around the globe; How are people using democratized technology like the web to make the world a better place?
So, we wanted to dive into the bread-and-butter ways people are using their Ning communities to turn projects and initiatives into positive and tangible realities.
1. Make a personal appeal
In one way or another, you’ve likely been touched by the cause you’re promoting and raising funds to support. Telling your story about why it’s important to you makes it personal and humanizes your mission. Share your personal story with your circle of friends and acquaintances, and make it accessible to everyone. Personal stories strike an accord with people, in turn giving others the strength to share their own stories and how they’ve been affected – soliciting both positive feedback, and a continuous loop to promoting the cause to others through more story telling and sharing.
One way to tell your story is put it in a blog post, or in the main section where you’re promoting your cause through your Ning community. Incorporate text, photos, videos, sound bites and links to news clips or prevalent information. This weaves your story into something that can be consumed by anyone.
2. Make it easy for people to contribute and donate
Whether your goal is generating awareness, fundraising, or something else, you want to make it easy and straightforward for people to engage with your cause. Your Ning community makes it easy for anyone to join, post and share. If you have social-in enabled, people can join and post with their Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter or Google identities, removing the need to remember another screen name, account or password.
Collecting donations should also be frictionless. To collect donations, you can create a donate page on your Ning Community, or add a direct link to donation and payment services at your disposal, like StayClassy and PayPal. Ning offers an integrated Donate App that lives within your community, and facilitates direct donations to your organization’s PayPal account. Use Ning’s Paid Access add-on feature to solicit donations in exchange for access to special sections or content within your Ning community.
3. Thank your biggest supporters
Everyone likes to be acknowledged or thanked, and doing so can be done in an authentic way, in just a matter of clicks. Post links to stories people have shared with you, or highlight the financial generosity of others by posting a link to the donor or the donating organization, solicit feedback from your community – all within your Ning Network. You can also send community-wide email messages to tip your hat to contributors.
Others will see your shout-outs and thanks to donors and contributors, encouraging them to pay it forward by taking similar actions like contributing to your cause.
4. Partner with like-minded organizations and people
You’re likely not the only person or group supporting the same cause – especially if you’ve built a bustling destination with supporters joining as members! Connecting with allies and partners affords you more opportunities to spread the word about your efforts and further raise awareness.
Through partnerships, you’ll also be helping in the success of others with the same goals as yourself. To achieve this, cross-sharing stories, content, pulling in RSS feeds, events and meet-ups can create multiple touch-points for the cause and allows people to engage with your organization in the ways they’re most comfortable. Casting a larger net from an audience through outside parties and social channels like blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter streams can turn a scattering of likeminded people into a critical mass of social good.
Have you applied the above steps for social good through your Ning community? What’s worked for your cause? Let us know in the comments.
If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, The Devil Wears Prada, or have been to a Barneys sample sale, you know that for many people around the world, fashion is king. Couple this passion with the dream of getting your 15 minutes of fame, and you’ve got yourself a competition that’s sure to cause a flurry of activity and drive engagement on your Ning Network.
On Ning Creators, we learned about Milagros Baerga and her Ning Network, Festiva, a Puerto Rican-based online magazine focused on being the go-to source for all things party-related. The magazine covers catering services, equipment rentals, party-planning specialists, industry professionals, and fashion resources.
Festiva is holding a contest, searching for the new Quinceañera cover girl for an upcoming Festiva issue. Since the contest launched, more than 3,000 new members joined in just 10 days to vote and Like their favorite photos from more than 80 girls vying for the cover!
Based on Festiva’s success and growth, and the wisdom from Ning Creators with similar contest success stories, here are 3 tips for creating a contest to increase activity and engagement, and to get new people coming to your Ning Network:
- Give incentive to members for spreading the word and encouraging friends to sign up for the contest. Providing exclusive content to or inviting your members to new sections of your Ning Network is a sure-fire way to get people recruiting their friends to join and sharing with them. If you have Twitter and Facebook sharing turned on, members can share the contest across their social graph and publicize your Ning Network for you in just one click!
- Highlight your contest everywhere on your Ning Network, making it easy for people to learn about the contest and get involved. Adding a “slider” to your Main page, or adding the call to action in an instant ad or text box takes just a few minutes to set up, and ensures your members will see it when they visit your Ning Network.
- Featuring members is a fun way to turn up the competitive dial and lets you easily show your appreciation for your members. A featured member will appear at the top of the Members page, and if you have the Members box appearing on the Main page, you can set it so that only featured members appear. You can use the Language Editor to customize the text relating to featuring members. When a member is featured, they’re notified via email, if they have email notifications turned on. You can also feature various types of content, such as photos, videos and blog posts.
We’re very excited with how smoothly our new plans rolled out this week. A number of you have already purchased a plan. Thank you! Given all of the communication we’ve been putting out in the past few weeks to get everyone prepared, we thought we would wrap up the first week with a summary of all of the new features Network Creators who have chosen a new plan have at their fingertips.
I’ve divided the new features and improvements into categories below.
The following increased limits only apply to Ning Plus and Ning Pro.
- Place up to 50 tabs in your Ning Network’s navigation (up from 14)
- Include up to 25 Text Boxes, 25 RSS feeds, and 50 total features on your Main Page (up from 5, 5 and 20, respectively)
- Include up to 100,000 characters of CSS in your Advanced Appearance (up from 15,000)
- Ning Pro Only: Add up to 10 Ning Apps to your Ning Network (up from 5)
- Add Ning Apps to your Main Page (developer must have added Main Page support to the app)
Control over your Ning Network
Selecting a plan gives you even more control over your Ning Network.
- Your Ning Network now has a revamped, simplified Terms of Service, with no mention of Ning (soon, you’ll have the ability to add your own terms to that document)
- Network Creators can now limit the number of photos that members can upload each day (head to the Content-Controls page)
Network Creators now have a shining, new management interface for their Ning Network. It includes:
- New management navigation that no longer requires use of the “back” button to navigate between management pages
- Statistics that allow Network Creators to easily see exactly how much new content is being added, how many new members have joined and how much content is pending approval
- An “announcements” section, where Network Creators will see the latest Ning announcements and tips without leaving their Ning Network
- A view into which profiles and what content is popular right now on your Ning Network
Ning Networks now have a sign up flow that doesn’t have Ning branding and is easier to troubleshoot.
- References to “What is a Ning ID?” have been removed from the Sign Up, Sign In and Settings pages
- Members of your Ning Network who have never created their own Ning Network will no longer be able to access www.Ning.com
- If NCs enable the feature, members having trouble signing up or signing in can now use a form to contact administrators, without needing to successfully sign in
The most important action a member can take is signing up or signing in. If a member can’t do that, they won’t be able to do anything on your Ning Network.
It’s natural, then, that you should want to help anyone who has run into problems signing up or signing in. Now, you can do just that.
We’ve added a new contact form to the “Problems Signing In” page, as you see can below or here on Creators. Members who are having trouble signing up or signing in can use this form to contact your Ning Network’s administrators to let them know.
Administrators and Network Creators who have not turned off “Feedback and Problem Reports” emails will receive a notification when a member uses the form. They can then assist the member directly via email.
Members today can email administrators via the “Report an Issue” link in the footer of your Ning Network, but they have to be signed in to the network to access the form. Now, members can contact you even if they can’t sign in.
In our effort to emphasize Network Creator choice, we’ve left this contact form hidden on all existing Ning Networks. To enable it, simply click the new “My Network” tab, and then “Members”. Click “Controls” and enable the option to “Allow members to report login problems.”
This new feature helps ensure that as many people as possible can access your Ning Network. If you have feedback about this feature, please let us know!
Member engagement happens when your members interact with you and with each other. Interaction includes posting or commenting on a blog, forum discussion, photo or video. It may take the form of becoming friends with another member, giving a gift or adding a comment to a profile. It’s all about participation.
Why It Matters
Member engagement is more than just social networking buzzwords. It’s the difference between a successful Ning Network and a stale Web site. It’s what makes your social network, well, social. And it’s about more than simply getting people to sign up.
Members who sign up once and then never come back — they don’t help your Ning Network in any way. Nor do members who sign up and then never post, choosing instead to simply read other peoples’ contributions. It doesn’t matter if there’s 100 members or 100,000 members. What matters is the number of members who are truly engaged.
Once you’ve maximized your member engagement, it creates a feedback loop: Your members post content, contribute to discussions and invite their friends. Their friends, in turn, do the same thing. It leads to more members on your Ning Network (and less work for you).
What You Get When Members Are Engaged
Having an active member base means more pageviews for your Ning Network, with leads to more ad revenue. Want some proof? Enrique Iglesias has more pageviews, with just over 30,000 members, than several Ning Networks that have more than 10 times that membership number. Why? Because his members are continually engaged with that’s going on.
Member engagement results in more members promoting your Ning Network to their friends, contacts and Twitter followers, which brings still more awareness to your Ning Network’s cause or topic. Engaged members really do act as evangelists for your Ning Network, helping to get the word out and promote it. It also means that, as a Network Creator, all the responsibility for contributing content doesn’t fall solely on you. And when issues arise between members, you can count on your most engaged members to help moderate your community.
Ready to Get Members Involved?
Whether you’re just getting started or your Ning Network is already up and running, everyone can use a healthy dose of new ideas.
Ready to get started? Check out the new member engagement section on Creators. And then let us know how you are engaging your members in the comments below!
If you’ve been reading along, you know we’re pretty excited about the ways we’ve integrated with Twitter and Facebook. Both services provide tremendous audiences for sharing and syndicating content from your Ning Network, but we also know they aren’t the only game in town, at least when it comes to social sharing.
For a while now, there’s been an issue with how Ning Networks framebust, making it difficult to use various services for sharing content across the Internet. While it isn’t possible to remove the framebust entirely, we put in a fix this week so that content opened within a frame will framebust to the correct page, not to the main page of your Ning Network as it previously did. This fix will make sharing content through these services — and driving traffic back to specific pages on your Ning Network — much more effective.
With this fix in mind, we asked a couple of Network Creators to share some of their favorite social sharing services they recommend you get started using.
StumbleUpon is a free service from where internet surfers can find (stumble-upon) new sites according to their interests. For Ning Network Creators, it’s a great way to submit interesting content or stories from your Ning site, for others to stumble it. What I really like about StumbleUpon, this service gives anyone the opportunity to share content. Also keep in mind, even if your story isn’t noticed the first time around, it’s likely to get indexed by Google. This will bring you traffic in the future.
Alice, from My Modern Met, shares content with Digg and Reddit:
Though Digg has more visitors [than Reddit], both sites are equally good in helping a website gain traffic. Due to their size and popularity, a website can gain a good amount of exposure if their content lands on one of these sites. You can also expect a lot of links back to your site if it’s found on Digg or Reddit. These sites usually trigger other bookmarking sites and blogs to see you as more of a source or content provider
For both StumbleUpon and Digg, you can share content directly from your Ning Network. Click on the “share” icon on any piece of content, and choose the service you’d like to send content to.
What services do you like using to share and syndicate content?