The majority of communities struggle to sustain high levels of activity in their communities. We typically only hear about the rampant success stories. It’s fun to believe that a community will just attract members and explode to life.
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.
Title: “How to Increase Activity in Your Community”
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.
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.
We will be performing maintenance on the Ning Platform on Friday, November 16, beginning at 10 PM Pacific Time. During this time, all Ning Networks will be unavailable for approximately 15 minutes.
We’ve been proud to offer a consistently high uptime and need to perform some crucial database updates to ensure that reliability continues.
During this time:
· Your Ning Network will display a maintenance page matching your current theme customization to let your members know that your community is temporarily unavailable.
· We will update the Ning Status Blog when this maintenance begins and ends.
· The Creators Network will also be down for maintenance. We will update on Creators when all is complete.
You may want to let your members know about this downtime in advance via a Broadcast Message or notice on the Main Page of your network. Feel free to make use of the language below, filling in your network details.
Formal: We will be performing maintenance on [network_name] on Friday, November 16, between 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Pacific Time. During this time, [network_name] will be unavailable. We hope this won’t be too much of an inconvenience as we work to perform some necessary upgrades.
Informal: Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that we need to perform some simple but necessary maintenance on [network_name] this coming Friday, November 16. We’ll need to take the site down at 10 pm Pacific for about 15 minutes, during which we’ll simply show a message asking folks to check back later. Thanks in advance for your patience while we tune up the site!
The debates are over and there’s just under a week until the U.S. makes its decision at the polls. More than 19 million people have already voted, either by mail or in person. But states including New York, Connecticut and New Jersey may have less of a voter turnout than originally thought due to Hurricane Sandy, and there’s even been a call for President Obama to postpone the elections. Since that’s unlikely to happen, now is a good time to ask yourself: Are you prepared to vote?
One of the best ways to ready yourself for the voting booth is to study up and get familiar with local and national issues. Voter guides are helpful, but nothing beats discussion and debate. Online communities can be an ideal place to get a better grasp on the policies up for debate in this election.
We’ve heard a lot about taxes, the economy, jobs, Big Bird, and reproductive rights this election, but issues like climate change, the housing market, gun control, immigration, Medicaid, the war on drugs, foreign policy and the Euro crisis have gotten short shrift during the campaign. And then, of course, there are state issues to consider.
Ning communities can help you discover how certain policies might change in the coming years and how new government proposals could directly affect you and your neighbors. The Concord Square hosts discussions on the the economy and jobs, for example, and promises to get you up to speed on budget and deficit issues. Smart Girl Politics, a political network for conservative women, live streamed the debates and hosts an active chat room where members can discuss the issues in real-time. The First Coast Tea Party is counting down to election time and firing up its members by organizing local action groups to canvas and get out the vote. GovLoop, a popular network that connects government professionals and inspires public service, is currently discussing topics that run the gamut from social media policy for political professionals to new opportunities in public service and everything in between.
Connecting readers to resources and leading conversations that result in meaningful action is a trademark of many online communities, whether they are political by nature or embrace this theme seasonally. Wherever you are and whatever you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to join the conversation and broaden your perspective. And however you choose to vote, make sure you get out there and do it!
We were thrilled to hear a story about Nerdfighters on the radio this morning (WAMU in Washington, D.C.) about their ongoing campaign to make the world a better place using wonderful services like the micro-loan site Kiva. Take a listen:
Not familiar with Nerdfighters? It’s one of those online phenomenons that makes some people scratch their heads and wonder how it is that a rarified group of Internet celebrities can live their lives — and maybe even make a living — by simply existing on the Internet.
This list of Internet celebrities includes Rhett & Link, Smosh, Tobuscus, Freddy Wong and Ze Frank. They’re all masters of the video blog — speaking directly into the camera to anyone who will listen and making their videos as creative and pop-culture-rich as possible. Most of them release a new video out to the world once or twice per week, which helps them organically pick up new followers as people stumble onto their often hilarious and insightful observations about life. Such is the case with Hank and John Green, the two brothers who started Nerdfighters as a way to stay connected via videoblog (one lives in Montana; the other in Indiana).
All of these Internet celebrities use YouTube as their direct-to-the-Internet video broadcasting medium, but what makes them hugely successful is often what they do beyond their YouTube channel (which has an impressive 746,564 subscribers and 246,389,701 video views). The best ones are masters at nurturing communities of online followers in all kinds of locations online — including on Ning. They have over 81,000 members on their Ning site. Serious nerd alert!
In addition to their Ning community, which is one of the most trafficked on the Ning Platform, they have spawned fan Tumblr blogs like Eff Yeah Nerdfighters, Nerdfighters Don’t Fight Nerds, and Little Nerdfighter Things.
We wanted to give a shout out to Nerdfighters for all that they do to “increase awesome and decrease suck.” Their Kiva-raising efforts have resulted in a phenomenal 21,000+ loans totaling over 1 million dollars. Not bad for a bunch of nerds. Keep challenging your community and the world to be a better place!
Join them in donating on Kiva.
Not familiar with NerdFighters? Here’s a recent video:
How huge? The Apple App Store reached a massive milestone this summer: They’ve served up over 30 billion apps to consumers. Of course, that’s just the apps that have been downloaded to Apple devices. Throw in Android and BlackBerry and other platforms, and it’s clear that the entire world has gone app crazy in the four years since the Apple App Store opened the door for everyone. People love them apps!
Ning Creators are no exception. While Ning offers a built-in version of every Ning Network that’s optimized for mobile devices, some communities can really benefit from having their own dedicated iPhone or Android app. If you have special branding needs or want to use the Ning API to do something unique, a dedicated app from our partner ShoutEm may be the way to go. Their platform allows just about anyone to make a beautiful iPhone or Android app without being a coding wizard.
Thinking of going the extra step and creating a dedicated iPhone or Android app for your own community? Want to see some examples of these apps in action? We’ve heard a number of requests from customers for examples of ShoutEm-created apps, so I’ve put together a few that will give people an idea of how Ning Creators are using ShoutEm to occupy the all-important real estate on mobile phones that is the dedicated app. Feel free to download these apps and try them out yourself. You should be able to access any public-facing pages as a visitor.
This Is 50: Exclusive Content + In-App Ads = Added Revenue
If you’re not just running a community but also building a brand, you probably want your mobile experience to match the look and feel of your site, your logo, etc. If you’re the type of person who knows the exact color of your logo down to the hex code color #, a custom app might be what you need to make sure your presentation is perfectly realized.
ThisIs50 is this type of brand. His team just built a brand-new app with ShoutEm that does a few neat things that builds on the brand while enriching the pocketbook:
- The app offered early access to stream an exclusive snippet of the lead single from his upcoming album.
- They include all kinds of rich video content to supplement the already attractive music content.
- They’re running advertising directly in the app. Not just Google Ads, but visually rich Glam ads.
- They’ve included deeper event integration. This is surely a good complement to a phone app’s ability to buzz out app notifications when members need to hear about something important.
GovLoop: Streaming Community News & Views
Ning Creators who have created their own iPhone apps with ShoutEm usually want an app that simply does more. Maybe you have a community that uses one or two features extensively and you need those features to have some extra options. Maybe you want to pull in some data about your members that exists on the desktop version of your site but not on the default mobile interface. Or, maybe you have something even more unique in mind. When you create an app with ShoutEm, you’re accessing the Ning API directly, which gives you many more options than you’ll see on your default mobile version.
Case in point: GovLoop. They have a wonderful iPhone app that offers something very unique: not just relevant news but streaming podcasting for on-the-go listening. What’s really neat about this ShoutEm integration is that they’ve combined more than one service on their iPhone app to create these podcasts. They’re streaming Soundcloud files and pulling in Ning data into the same iPhone app, and it works seamlessly. It’s a great-looking app that has some of the best content from their Ning site. Not just podcasting, but the news and discussions and blog posts that drive their particular community.
Browse around their public community with their dedicated iPhone app.
Trucker Social: Now, *That’s* Mobile
We’re hard pressed to think of a Ning community more mobile than Trucker Social. It makes total sense for them to have a dedicated iPhone app. Their members probably rely on accessing the Internet from their smartphones way more than they do on a laptop over Wi-Fi or a dedicated desktop computer.
They’ve really created a unique app with their ShoutEm/Ning integration. They offer what you might expect: member interaction and a feed of activity from their desktop site. But, they’ve gone a lot further and are offering content that really is tailor-made for their community: the latest trucker-related news, trucker job listings, and geolocation features to help their members spot nearby food options, shopping opportunities, entertainment choices — you name it. Dial up the nearest truck stop, get directions, and even see who’s tweeting nearby. Want to check in when you get there? This dedicated app offers full-featured geolocation-friendly social networking.
Download their iPhone app and see for yourself.
Those are just a few of the ShoutEm apps we’ve seen being created by Ning customers. Let us know if you’ve created one for your community.
Want your own? ShoutEm doesn’t require you to deal with any of the technical aspects of compiling and submitting apps, and you don’t even have to enter a credit card to get started. Just enter your Ning Pro API Key and start choosing which features you want to include in your app. When you’re ready to publish, pick a monthly plan that suits your needs.
Tell us about yourself.
I trained as a doctor in the UK and have worked clinically in the NHS and the NZ health service and academically at Cambridge University, Otago University and most recently at the University of Auckland at the National Institute for Health Innovation. I recently completed an Executive MBA at the University of Auckland.
My research area is “Health Informatics” and I’m particularly interested in how we can use social media for eLearning and knowledge sharing. Over the years I’ve created about 80 eLearning courses as an eLearning consultant for the healthcare sector.
When and how did you get started with creating social communities?
The first community I created was New Media Medicine (NMM) about 10 years ago. This was before Ning. I set it up as an addition to an anatomy eLearning course I created for medical students. I found that the students really enjoyed chatting on the community and it grew over time to become one of the largest communities for medical students with over 100,000 monthly users.
New Media Medicine has been running for almost 10 years. That’s awesome! What are the most profound changes you’ve seen in that time?
The biggest change since I created NMM has been the rise of non-specific networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These weren’t around when I created the community and I have found that many of our members now also have accounts on these sites, and even use their Facebook accounts to continue discussions started on NMM and vice versa. More recently, the shift to mobile platforms has been significant, with more and more users using iPhones and tablets to access the site.
Despite all these innovations, the basics of running a community have changed surprisingly little over the last decade. People use the forum at NMM in pretty much the same way as they always have in the past.
And what are the other communities you manage?
My main other community is the Health Informatics Forum (HI). I started the site a few years ago as there really wasn’t a good online community for people like me interested in using technology in healthcare. Health has been a little bit slow to adopt new information technologies and therefore HI has only really taken off as a speciality for doctors in the last few years. In fact, it’s only since last year that US doctors could be “Board Certified” in Clinical Informatics as a sub-specialty.
I’ve also created a Ning community for eLearning professionals called eLearning Talk that aims to fulfill a similar role to the Health Informatics Forum for the eLearning industry.
I’ve also started Ning communities for other organisations. I created the Health Innovation Exchange (HIVE) for the Ministry of Health in New Zealand and I’m working an number of new communities for organisations in the health sector.
Your communities are becoming important resources for thousands of people. Given your audience, how are you managing these communities simultaneously?
I rely on the communities themselves to help me manage them. We get lots of volunteers offering to help with moderation and we have a policy of fairly strict moderation that tends to limit problems that can happen with unmoderated forums.
What are the main things you’ve learned since being in this online space?
I’ve learnt a lot over the last 10 years, but the main thing is have patience and persistence!
What’s the primary way people are using your Ning communities? Is it to learn, consume, discuss — or a mix?
Most people just browse an online community. Compared to the number of registered users, the number of people just browsing without logging in is huge. However, once they are signed up and logged in, most people use the sites to ask questions and to help their colleagues by providing answers. The discussion forum is where the action is on my Ning sites.
What are people doing on your Ning community they aren’t doing elsewhere?
On the Health Informatics Forum we get a lot of people who are interested in Health Informatics as a career, which is something reasonably unique. There are sites where people discuss the technical or business side of health informatics, but our community is very open to new-comers and we’re trying to encourage people into the industry as there is a real need to build the health informatics workforce.
Are there any inspiring or health-related success stories that have come about because of your communities?
We have many success stories on New Media Medicine. One of the main uses on the site is to help people become doctors. Many medical students come from relatively affluent backgrounds and are able to pay for assistance and tutoring through the various entrance exams and the interview process. For people without these resources or family support, our site offers a wealth of free advice and support from other users to help them through the process. We’ve had many users who have tried unsuccessfully to become a doctor for several years before coming to our community and getting help from medical students and doctors on the site. It’s great to read their blogs on the site as they finally graduate from medical school and start practicing medicine.
For someone looking to get started with building a community, what’s the first piece of advice you’d offer?
The key to building a successful community is to have the passion to keep going over time and find other people that are willing to contribute to your community. Once you have a good base of users, things start to self-generate.
What’s next for you?
I’m interested in working with a wider range of organisations through my eLearning Consultancy service to help them make the most of social media in their eLearning offerings. I recently gave a talk at a corporate eLearning conference and there was a lot of interest in how organisations can go “beyond the LMS” and provide more modern and innovative tools to help their employees learn.
From a research point of view, I’m interested in exploring in more detail how using social media technology enable more effective learning experiences. This is a fairly difficult question to answer but my intuition is that, by providing a means of communication and trust building between learners, social media communities offer some real advantages over “traditional” methods of delivering online training.
We’re happy to report that by the end of this week a new mobile experience will be rolled out to all Ning Networks. This upgrade is a complete re-write of the old Ning mobile experience. It’s built-in, completely free, and offers a lot more options for driving activity.
The contrast between the old and new couldn’t be more different. The old mobile interface was originally released around the same time Apple unveiled their App Store. We’ve been upgrading the mobile version regularly over time, but we knew it was high time for a thorough rebuild and redesign. We chose future-friendly HTML5 because it allows us to create a great-looking experience across numerous mobile devices. We were able to create something that’s high quality and that provides a frictionless experience for users. And it’s an excellent base for adding more to the mobile version down the road. Let’s take a look at a few things the new Ning Mobile offers.
A better app-like experience for your members
The old and new are radically different, but the look of the new probably won’t throw you for a loop. It’s designed in a familiar app-like way. It provides the same kind of swiping and tapping gestures most people are used to performing with their iOS and Android devices. It’s optimized for smartphones so your members can access it easily with the devices they already use every day. You won’t need any advanced design skills or a $100 Apple App Store developer’s license to publish, either. The new mobile version will be consistent and running in the background all the time. Most important: It’s very stable.
More pages, more options, new choices
While the old version didn’t provide many options for customization, the new Ning Mobile lets Ning Creators choose which features and pages they want to appear — in the order they prefer. There’s also many more features available in the new mobile experience. You can add pages to display Latest Activity, Members, Blogs, Photos, Forum, a member’s Profile Page, Groups, Events, an RSS feed, and even custom HTML pages. This greatly expands a Ning community’s mobile presence and possibilities, and we’re excited to watch as the entire Ning Platform adopts this new mobile version.
Most of the administrative settings will probably be pretty self-explanatory. A few details to keep in mind:
- Design details: The Ning Mobile site is standardized for design consistency, but there are a few branding options for Ning Creators to take advantage of. You can upload a logo to replace the name of a network in the header or change the background color of the header. A preview mode is also provided to see what it all looks like before committing to a change.
- Choose your pages: Ning Creators can choose the pages they wish to display and how the data on the pages is sorted (e.g., by “Latest Activity”). Some pages include choices about whether to show or hide preview-style content. Don’t like the order of pages? Ning Creators can drag and drop them and reorder them to their satisfaction. The first one listed will function as the “Main Page.”
- Opt-out option: Don’t want a mobile version? We’ve got you covered. If a Ning Creator removes all of the pages from the Mobile section of the dashboard, visitors will instead be shown the desktop version of your Ning Network.
- Back-out option: We’ve included a “Desktop View” for any member or visitor who wants to switch off the mobile version and rely on the standard desktop view.
As always, we’re big fans of our customers’ opinions, so let us know what you think about the new mobile version, either here or on the Creators Network. How have your members used the mobile version of Ning in the past? What can we do to help make their mobile experience even better going forward — and make your community even more vibrant and active?