I’m excited to introduce three new versions of the Ning Service that we will roll out in July. When we announced two weeks ago that we were going to refocus on paying Ning Networks and phase out our free service, we knew there would be many questions about what the new Ning would look like. Our goal with these offerings — as explained below — is to enhance the experience Network Creators have on Ning, and by extension, the experiences your members have as well.
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 have an active Ning Network, you know that moderating the content added to your Ning Network can be an important part of making it a welcoming place. We’re happy to announce a new feature we think Network Creators are going to be very excited about: content flagging. With the new content flagging feature, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to moderation. You can appoint members to flag — and hide — content that might be inappropriate and then decide for yourself whether questionable content belongs on your Ning Network. The idea is simple: Use the power of crowdsourcing and make the moderation of your Ning Network more efficient for everyone involved.
Once content is flagged, it will be invisible to visitors or regular members — essentially it will be marked as private. You can choose to leave it hidden, delete it or even reverse the flag and reveal it. It’s a great way to distribute moderation capabilities beyond your inner circle of administrators, but still maintain complete control over what content is ultimately removed.
By default, all Network Creators and Administrators will have this ability to flag content. So, if you’re perfectly happy with your current approach to moderation, you won’t need to change a thing. Otherwise, you can appoint a member to be a content flagger from their profile page.
Want to know more about content flagging? You can read all about it, ask questions or provide feedback on Creators.
When we announced the launch of Ning Network Creators in November, we knew we’d be successful. We knew that many thousands of creative and helpful NCs would sign up to share advice and tips with other NCs, but whenever you launch something new, it’s hard to know how quickly it will grow and be adopted. Creators is four months old today, and we’ll soon be welcoming our 10,000th member. We’re delighted that Creators has been so warmly received and useful to everyone who’s joined.
To celebrate, we’re running another contest! We thought it would be fun to reward our 10,000th with a stylish Ning Timbuk2 bag and 10,000 Gift credits. Plus, if you’re a member of Creators and the winner mentions you or your Ning Network when they sign up for Creators, we’ll give you an identical prize. Read all about our 10,000 Strong Contest right here.
If you’ve created a Ning Network and you’re not yet a member of Creators, join us! It’s a great way to share tips and get advice from fellow Network Creators, and who knows? With our membership growing every day, you could be the lucky 10,000th winner.
We’re excited to announce the launch of Ning Creators, a new public Network Creator Network designed to help you get the most out of your Ning Network. As we first talked about here, we are thrilled to once again have a centralized place for Network Creators and us to help other Network Creators, talk through releases before they go live, and get immediate, candid feedback.
In April, we moved our Ning Network Creators Network to Get Satisfaction in an effort to address what we thought was a desire for people to have an independent place to share best practices around creating successful Ning Networks without our meddling.
While Get Satisfaction is a great service, we miss the Network Creators Network for immediate, candid feedback, the opportunity to talk through releases before they go live and, most importantly, a centralized place for us and Network Creators to help other Network Creators get the most out of Ning.
As we’ve been talking to you all, we’ve been thrilled to find out that you’ve missed it too. As a result of this serendipity, we’re bringing it back.
Especially as we are beginning the design and development of the next generation of Ning Networks – which we’re planning on launching three years to the day of our original launch in 2007 – we couldn’t imagine doing it without a Network Creator Network and your fantastic experience as Network Creators, observations and incredibly high standards of us and your Ning Network.
More importantly, we didn’t want to launch a new Network Creators Network without addressing in parallel what we’ve heard from you as the greatest pain points today in your Ning Network. If we did that, we’d end up spending all of our time talking about those and we have too many other things to do together to get the most out of this partnership.
So, here’s what you can expect from us between now and the end of the year:
- A new public Network Creators Network launching November 9th with articles, blog posts, screencasts, updates on new releases and a staffed forum designed to help you get the most out of your Ning Network.
- A redesigned Ning.com focused on new Ning Network discovery, Ning Network management and no default Ning-wide profiles.
- Prioritizing the work to make existing features easier-to-use and address long-standing idiosyncrasies on Ning Networks rapidly in two-week intervals over entirely new features.
- At least 24 hours advanced notice for small releases and 5 days advanced notice for large releases on the new Network Creators Network.
- A detailed change list for both large and small releases on the Network Creators Network.
- An bi-weekly email with links to the best of the new Network Creators Network and news from Ning.
- Platform uptime goals of over 99.9% and continued performance optimization of your Ning Network.
- Solicitation of early feedback and input into our next generation Ning Network on the Network Creator Network.
- A revamp of our Ning Help Center to drive public, transparent responses and even more effective troubleshooting.
- A better definition and ongoing conversation about what it means to be a premium Ning Network. Much of the criticism we see from Network Creators is a direct result of the gray area that exists between what we offer and what you want from us when you purchase the premium services on your Ning Network.
There’s no question that when we’re moving as fast as we can to innovate and deliver an ever increasingly awesome product, we are going to do things that, with hindsight, we’d do differently. While we’ll never be perfect, we certainly look to learn from experience, building upon a stronger foundation of what’s working with a new set of things that only makes it better.
Update: As we mention here, online indicators still need some tweaking and we’ve temporarily disabled them again.
We’re bringing the green icons on the Members page that show who’s online back to your Ning Network next Friday, August 7. We know how valuable these online indicators are for connecting with members who are online right now, and we’re excited about reintroducing them with some under-the-hood improvements. Once they’re live again, we’ll post to the Ning Status Blog. Thanks!
4 Seconds. That’s how long you have to wow people on your Ning Network (and any other website), according to multiple studies. Any longer than that, and you’ve lost your chance to win over a new member. With such a brief window to grab someone’s attention, the last thing you want is for your Ning Network to still be loading after 4 seconds.
As the gateway to the rest of your Ning Network, your Main Page needs to be particularly trim and speedy. A slow-loading Main Page means that people will abandon your Ning Network without discovering all the great content it has to offer. Based on the early data we’ve gathered so far, it’s clear that if you put too much stuff on your Main Page, you’re hurting the growth of your Ning Network. The trend that we’re seeing looks something like this (we’ll have some more detailed case studies soon):
Put simply, it’s the 4-Second Rule in effect. The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to limit the amount of content on your Main Page and focus on the things that count. We’ve put together a few basic guidelines that will kick your Ning Network into high gear.
Pick your favorite 3 or 4 embedded widgets and lose the rest.
An embedded widget is any piece of content loaded from somewhere else. These include YouTube videos, flash games, Twitter feeds, advertisements, PollDaddy widgets, and just about anything else you can think of.
While embedded widgets can add flavor to your Ning Network, try limiting the number to 3 or 4 on your Main Page if you’re looking to attract new members. Here’s why:
- Your Main Page will only load as fast as your slowest embedded widget. An embed that is slow or unavailable can block or severely delay the rest of your Main Page from loading. And when you’re pulling content from another website into your Ning Network, loading these foreign objects can take a lot of time.
- Embedded widgets are like small applications. If your embeds are not well-written, they will quickly use up the limited resources in your browser. This noticeably slows things down and can even cause your browser to crash.
- Even beautifully written embedded widgets can be heavy. A single flash player (SWF) will slow down your Main Page, even if it is a music player, video player, or photo slideshow built by Ning. Limit the number of SWFs you display on the Main Page.
For every embed on your Main Page, you should ask yourself how much value it adds to the member experience. If it’s critical, great. But if it is just nice to have, consider removing it if you’re looking to draw in more members. You can always keep a healthy rotation to keep things fresh. Another trick is to take a screenshot of an embedded widget, and hyperlink the screenshot to the widget itself on a separate page. This keeps things visually interesting without dragging down your Main Page.
Don’t forget — you have 4 seconds to impress your visitors. You’re going to do that by having a few great pieces of content — not by overwhelming them.
Choose the right display options for your features.
Limiting the number of embeds will go a long way, but you should also control the display options for your Ning features that appear on the Main Page. While we’re doing everything on our end to optimize the performance of your Main Page, the laws of physics dictate that if you go all-out with 20 features, your Ning Network will get slower.
A month ago, we launched a new feature in the Ning Help Center called Ning Workshop, which is a set of tutorials to aid you in creating a successful, vibrant, active social network. Since we launched the Workshop, we’ve added more tutorials including how to Use Google Analytics to track sign ups, how to create in-network FAQ or Help Center and how to add a store to your social network.
We also enabled the ability to download as a pdf and print out the Workshop. The Workshop functions well as individual tutorials but we’d heard from a few Network Creators that they wanted a physical copy of the whole thing to highlight and take notes. To get a copy yourself, head over to the Ning Workshop and click the PDF icon.
We’ll continue to add new articles so if there’s a tutorial you’d like to see or if you have feedback, we’d love to hear from you in the Ning Help Center.
Members of Travel Sisters use the Groups feature to connect with each other around the places they want to travel to. Some members want to take a cruise, while others want to journey to New England or Rio De Janeiro.
On the forum, members get advice from other members on destinations near and far. From seeking out the best spas to searching for hot hotels in South Beach, members are busy comparing travel experiences and making new plans to hit the road.