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For years many forums and blogs have been offered by online service companies for free as the companies made money on advertising. For example, most of the Google ads you see on nearly every one generate money for them. Some of the companies like Yahoo have started selling their own ad services.Face facts ... no one does all this for free ... buy hundreds of servers and generate online services ... web hosting, email services, blog servers, and even Yahoo. Yahoo is a multi-billion dollar service company and Google too. They made their money from what ... selling advertising and premium services.Many Bloggers and forum owners start as a hobby ... take some favorite idea or group of like minded friends and building on it. For example we started our forums Americans Living in Brazil, the Management forum, and the Brazilian Travel Club in 1999 as a hobby because we wanted to create a meeting place for other Americans or ex-pats from where ever to talk about their experiences and share with others here to.The club itself was started as personally we own a travel service and joined with other providers to offer discounts and VIP services to members.I don´t need to tell anyone the financial mess the world is in at the moment. Many members moved to Brazil in search for a means to enjoy lower costs of living or a more tranquil life style. I did too.In 1999 I had to retire from my profession as a boat captain worldwide for major oil and offshore construction companies. This is because I had a 'stroke' on board a vessel and both the doctors and the Coast Guard said I could no longer stand the 24 hour a day stress and another stroke would finish me.We had owned the travel service since 1987, and have been (still) an environmental consultant for the Brazilian agency IBAMA, but in the early 2000s I started trying to help local communities here in the semi-arid northeast. During this time I have visited, traveled and worked in most of the states in Brazil (-2). In 2005 we formed the ONG Associação ABTC-BRASIL to attempt to consolidate forces and accomplish this dream of helping others ... both my fellow immigrants and the communities we chose to live in.Some forums and Blogs are either now or considering charging fixed subscription fees ... I chose, at least for now, not to do this.The idea of donations to help support costs seemed better. In each case a member could or would pay what he felt our work was worth. To encourage this we are trying to improve the quality of the service we are offering.We chose NING to do our BLOG for the ease of use and the services they offered. And what they are trying to offer with Premium services.DonaldAmericans Living in Brazil BLOG

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We have always prided ourselves on our uptime record. In March, we had 99.999% uptime. However, Ning Networks experienced slowness last week and brief downtime on Thursday evening. I wanted to take a few moments to walk you through what happened last week and what we’re working on to improve on situations like this going forward.

Starting Tuesday morning we saw sporadic instability in our servers, resulting in slowness that many of you experienced. Our operations and engineering teams investigated a variety of potential causes for the instability including a back-end release that was pushed out on Monday. We rolled the release back as part of our investigation and continued to look for the root cause.

On Thursday morning we believe we identified and addressed the primary cause of the instability: we had started testing a prototype to deliver real-time information to Ning Networks on Monday. We stopped the test and continued to monitor the platform. At around 8pm that day a cluster of cache servers that had become slightly unstable during the investigation started failing. At this point, we began an unplanned maintenance to restart them and it took about 70 minutes to complete the restarts and go live.

Whenever there’s an issue on the Ning Platform, we pursue the following protocol: First, our on-call engineers begin investigating what might be causing the issue. Then, for larger issues like this week, we escalate it to all-hands on deck. We also strive to get information out to you as fast as possible through several channels including the Ning Status Blog, Creators Ning Network and Ning Status Twitter account. Longer-term, we are working on an NC landing page with an announcement bar for important messages and a separate, lightweight “Report an Issue” link, which will allow NCs to quickly and simply report an issue they may be experiencing.

Following this incident, I wanted to highlight two specific areas we have identified for improvement:
1 It took longer than we’d like to identify and fix the problem: To address this, we are continuing our work on a series of projects that will simplify the platform and improve our ability to identify problems quickly when they happen. I will share more details with you early next week.
2 -We were not as effective as we could have been in communicating both the state of the platform and what we were working on: To address this, we are reviewing our internal and external communication processes to ensure that we can give you the most accurate and timely information on what is happening.

Keeping your Ning Network online and speedy is our top priority. Thanks again for all of your patience. As always we appreciate your feedback, so please let us know if you experience any problems on your Ning Network or have ideas for how we can improve the service.

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The Big Announcement: We haven’t sent out a regular digest in a few weeks. If we had, it would have been about one thing: Our big May 4th announcement. We’re thrilled to have finally announced the upcoming plans and pricing, and we’ll be working to bring you as much information about the changes coming in July. We’ll be updating our News & Views About Change regularly if you want to follow some of the highlights and new things we’ve seen. We’ll also keep you updated via this weekly Best of the Week digest.
Ning Network slow-downs: We’ve had reports from Creators of slow-loading pages and even some folks who are having trouble accessing their Ning Networks. The issue seems to be sporadic and only affecting some Ning Networks (it was visible on Creators yesterday for a bit). Our engineers are working non-stop to identify the root cause and lessen the impact on Creators and their members. You can check and/or follow both the Ning Status Blog and the Ning Status Twitter feed for updates. We’ll also do our best to keep you informed on Creators.
New spam tools: We’ll soon be rolling out more ammo in our fight against spam: 3 New Ways to Stop Spammers and Verify Your Members. Some of these tools echo previous product requests from Creators. So, for example, we’re happy to be delivering things like a customized quiz for prospective members. That tool will help protect your Ning Network against spambots, but it will also let you ask “in-the-know” questions to help you attract quality new members.
Made by Awesome Creators
Jen: Ning Conference Call Highlights: Discussion on Ning Premium Plans and the New Ning
Across the Internet
This week we stumbled upon a ton of conflicting advice — yet both points of view were still valid.
For example, Why Fights Are So Important was written by the same community-focused guy who wrote The Dividing Line On Inflammatory Comments. Both good reads. He always has great advice, from Creating Titles For Members to why you should turn your sign-up form into The Application Form.
Lots of folks keep talking about Facebook and privacy and the Bewildering Tangle of Options you may encounter if you are keen on being a more private person on Facebook. Again, lots of conflicting opinions out there, including differing opinions about the new Facebook Like button (which some Creators have already asked for). It ranges from Why I Like the Facebook Like Button to Think Before You Like.
This had nothing to do with anything, but we loved the header on this Ning Network. Fun!
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NC for Hire

Ning Conference Call Highlights:


What Got My Attention On the Ning Conference Call? The Plus Plan

I'm not sure if any of you chose to join one of the phone conferences Ning offered in the past couple of days. I attended the last one on Thursday May 6, 2010, before the final call on Friday (Spanish call).

I have to tell you, on behalf of a lot of fellow Network Creators and friends, I was pleasantly surprised with what all I heard. Even for the Plus Plan, the power and features will be so much more than currently offered. With the exception of uploading Videos, Music and branded players, the Plus is like all of the premium services put together, plus a whole lot more, and all for $19.95 per month. This is actually a good deal less than premium networks pay today, for the same features - - again, except the music and video uploads. But the most critical point to keep in mind, there are a host of additional features you will gain from the Plus, that no one has today. Read more, below.

There were a lot of exciting topics touched-on in the conference call. And, for current premium customers it's almost a no-brainer. I have been a premium subscriber since day one, and will remain a premium. However, my main reason for joining the call was to learn and share any information I thought would be helpful to fellow Network Creators; especially for those of you who are currently free Ning Networks, and are struggling with making a decision. Some of you know your next move, and that's great. For those who aren't sure, and are considering the Plus Plan, here are a few tidbits I retained from the call.

Plus Plan Highlights:
Since the biggest loss is uploading videos and music, I will cover that first. In regards to Video, my understanding is: if you choose to go with the Plus instead of the Pro, any videos you currently have on your site will remain accessible in the same manner they are today. However, you or members will not be able to upload any more in the future. But, here's the thing. You can upload/host your videos somewhere like YouTube and add the embedded code to your Ning Network, in pretty much any text box from the home page to profile pages. And, I believe you will still be able to upload Videos with the "+Add Video" feature. My guess is: you just won't see an upload button, but a text box for embedded code.

For music, you can use a similar method formusic uploads, by utilizing embedded music players. There are several free music players available online - - and you can use the embedded code for those players on your Ning Network. I know for sites where video and music uploads are critical, this adds an extra step. However, if these two media formats are that critical to a site, you probably should figure out how to upgrade to the Pro Plan.

This is how I see it, if I were trying to make a decision. If I could not go to the Pro Plan, and I could live with video and music embeds, the Plus Plan is awesome. This is why.

  • Unlimited Members
  • All the features premium Networks enjoy today, with that one exception of no uploads on video and music.
  • Removal of all Ning Branding. Now you can promote your brand completely.
  • Ad-free - - you can run your own Ads, even if just Google Adsense. You can sell whatever you want - - I suppose as long as it's not illegal or something in the porn arena.
  • Your site will no longer carry the Ning brand/name. When a new member signs-up, they will see your name, your brand.
  • And this simply ROCKS! Sign-in with Facebook, Twitter or other authentication services
    (Coming soon)
  • You will have the option of using your own domain name.
  • You will have new features like special text boxes for the header/footer.
  • Small yet very powerful new features like: being able to choose the home page - - what your members and visitors will see first.
  • Member Stats
  • 25 Text Boxes and 25 RSS Feeds
  • Feature controls like: Hide invite, share, Facebook or Twitter links, turn off private messaging, and strengthen member verification.


Here's another topic that of course got my attention - - optional premium Memberships:

I can't remember if this was available for Plus and Pro. If any other attendee knows, please let us knowand I will move it up to the bulleted items for the Plus Plan.

You will be able to choose whether or not you want to charge members formembership, and the way I heard it: you should be able to choose areas of your Social Network, and enable a membership fee for that specific area. It wasn't clear on when this level of membership fees would be available, and I may have misunderstood how this will work. Time will tell. I do believe however, the basic "membership fee" feature will be available soon. Additionally, the Ning platform will process the payments for you, via PayPal.

There was definitely more covered in the call, and especially with the unique questions/answers asked by fellow Ning Network Creators. For example: a fellow Network Creator asked if Ning would raise their rates. The Ning Team was very quick to answer, "We have no plans to raise the rates." You had to be there. It was very convincing. But, time will tell.

I have covered the main points I caught. If anyone else reading this blog attended a call, and you want to add more, or correct anything I've stated, please do. :-)

Hoping everyone is able to make the absolute best decision.

Best,
Jen

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I can't really say it better: "National High Five Day falls on the third Thursday of April
each year, which falls this year on April 15, 2010. "

That's right! Tomorrow is the Day to Celebrate high fives, by indeed, giving out high fives as much as possible. We're going to be offering virtual high fives here on Creators, to all of you who contribute positively to the conversations here.

Have you thought about celebrating this on your Ning Network? To help, here are a few high five graphics:


Check out more content (including videos!) at the National High Five Day website.





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Can content enhance your Ning Network?

Yesterday we interviewed Box.net Platform Manager Jeremy Glassenberg about the Box.net Ning App, and how Ning Networks can use it to help manage and share content. Today, the friendly people at Box.net are giving away one year of Box.net Business service for 20 seats — a $2,400 value!

Entering is super simple. All you need to do is comment on this blog post, and let us know how your Ning Network would benefit from Box.net’s Cloud Content Management capabilities. Please include both your Ning Network’s address (http://) and how you would use Box.net in your comment on the blog post. One winner will be chosen by overall best use case. Hurry! We’re accepting entries up until Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m PST.

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The Ning social network we used in our BYU Comms230 class this semester was a useful tool that was wholeheartedly embraced and endorsed by class members. Powerful, intuitive social media tools aren’t just for marketing. They represent and facilitate fundamental shifts in human interaction—shifts that can improve university learning.


>>> 43 out of 43 students said such a network would be helpful in ALL of their classes.


>>> The following few quotes represent hundreds of positive comments from class members:


“The network took class discussions and extended them into online conversations.”

“Seeing my classmates’ work sparked my own ideas.”

“The professor has talked a lot this semester about building a personal online brand. Blogging has helped me do that.”

“I got many more insights through sharing ideas on blog posts.”

“The network unified our class and facilitated communication.”

“I was motivated to submit higher quality work because I knew my peers would see it.”

“It’s simple. I don’t have to print assignments. I can get things done from anywhere. It’s quick. The communication is instant.”

“Everything I need for class is in one spot—the calendar, syllabus, class video stream, lecture slides, and quick ability to contact classmates, the professor, and the TA.”

“My questions are answered and my comments acknowledged much quicker than in regular classes.”

“Blogging forced me to think. I wasn’t just memorizing material.”

“Blogging has helped me feel like I have a jump on the industry because I’m actually in it.”

“It was really motivating to me to make my blog posts good so that others would respond to them.”

“Comments left on the posts unified the class, and we were able to bounce ideas off each other.”

“Blogging made me think, and put those thoughts into words. When you have to explain yourself to others it makes you dig deeper and find out why you think that way.”

“Yes. I recommend it for other classes. The world is more technologically savvy. Students must be too.”

“Blackboard is functional, but the Ning network is fun and so much more interactive.”


You can read the full post by clicking >HERE.


You can visit the class network by clicking >HERE.

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Best of the Week Creators Digest

Important! Maintenance on Friday

Important notice for all Network Creators: All Ning Networks will be down for scheduled maintenance this Friday (tomorrow), April 9th from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. PST. Since this is planned downtime, your Ning Network will display a branded message (with *your* Ning Network’s name) to any visitors. If you have any questions, please let us know here.

10,000 Creators Strong Contest Winner(s)

It’s official. We’ve now reached our 10,000th member and awarded our contest prizes: John and Jennifer, FTW! Thanks to everyone for helping us celebrate this milestone.

Want to Connect Your Ning Network to LinkedIn?

Someone asked for a clever way to connect their Ning Network to LinkedIn, and a Creator had a really nifty idea about how to use a simple RSS feed to connect the two. Great answer, Steve!

Made by Awesome Creators

Jen: Check Credentials of Potential New Friends Before Accepting Friend Requests

Joseph Porcelli: Teaching Members Which Features to Use When! and How to Export Your Members to a CSV File

Amit S: Running a Ning Network Isn't a Child's Play!!

Across the Internet

Fundraising from Online Communities: Love this quote: “If you want to fundraise from online communities, don’t start by asking for money.”

Is your Ning Network F-U-N? Don’t Build a Boring Online Community

This is (in theory) written for PR folks, but a few of these tips could be invaluable for Network Creators (check out BackTweets and Wordle for usefulness and fun, respectively).

Excuse me, sir. Are forums going to be replaced by something shiny and new? Forums Are Everywhere and Here to Stay, So Skip the Tools Discussion and Focus on Your Objectives

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Fellow NC's,

This is Joseph Porcelli, one of Guides here on Creators. This week, I'm spending some of my time reminding our members which feature to use when so I thought I share some of our process with you.

Have you ever noticed (or gotten frustrated) that you members will post content in the wrong features? Blogs in forums, forums in blogs, events as blogs…ring a bell?

A while back a study was conducted on our networks. One of the major observations was that there was no continuity to where our members posted and found content. To address this we've taken the following steps:

  1. We distinguished and published how each feature is best used and gave concrete examples.
  2. We used the language editor to change the names of the feature on the front page. See what it looks like.
  3. We made a Prezi.com presentation that quickly explains which features to use when. Feel free to use our prezi or save it and customize it for your own networks.
  4. We edited our welcome message to mention which features to use when. Here is the link on how to edit your welcome message.
  5. In our weekly broadcast messages we remind folks what feature to use when and event break out forum posts by category to reinforce how to use the forums . Here is a copy of our most recent broadcast message NFN_Broadcast.pdf
How are you teaching your members which features to use when?
@JosephPorcelli
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If you joined Creators recently, you may have known about our contest to reward our 10,000th member with a Timbuk2 Ning bag and 10,000 gift credits. We’re happy to report that we have a winner! Well, actually, two.

Please join us in raising the roof, hoisting a glass, and high-fiving Creator John Freeman! He’s located in the U.K., and his Ning Network, Down the Tubes, is all about British comics. Congratulations, John! You are our 10,000th member!


We always ask folks to let us know how they heard about Creators, and some people regularly tell us that they heard about us from an existing member of Creators. We wanted to reward one of those people who get mentioned a lot, so we tallied up the person with the most recommendations and came up with a second winner: Jennifer James. It makes sense for us to see so many people listing Jennifer as how they heard about Creators; she runs a number of very successful Ning Networks, including the Mom Bloggers Club.

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer and John. You'll both be receiving a Timbuk2 Ning bag like this one in the mail, and you should soon see 10,000 gift credits attached to your account. Go crazy with the gifts!

We also wanted to say thanks to everyone else who’s been following along as we grow. The Creators Network as you see it now has only been alive for five months, and we’re thrilled at how much we’ve grown. What makes it especially wonderful for those of us who work at Ning is how we can take the combined wisdom of our members and apply that directly to how we build Creators. Like many of you, we’re building up a Ning Network from scratch; having so many smart people around to offer suggestions and feedback moves us along and inspires us to keep building new things.

Thanks again, everyone! We’ll do some more contests soon. Feel free to suggest an idea for one, too. Always open to suggestions.

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Best of the Week Creators Digest

10,000 Creators Mark Reached

We reached our 10,000th member! We’ll be announcing the winners (there’s two!), but it looks like that might be early next week. We’ve contacted them and are awaiting their responses. Thanks to everyone who entered — which is everyone. We’ll definitely be doing more contests in the future. We’d like to also spotlight contests NCs have run in the past that were successful. Everyone can benefit from that kind of shared knowledge.

April Fools!

Jen, one of our superstar Creators members, totally tricked us with an April Fool’s joke. Most April Fool’s jokes don’t work on us, but this one did. Apparently, it worked on a lot of people. Nice one, Jen!

DIY: The “Hero” Box

Lots of Creators have been asking about the new carousel of rotating images at the top of the Creators Main Page. Here’s a tutorial that shows how to make something similar.


Made by Awesome Creators

JP: 5 Free Matching Ning Backgrounds and Ning Headers

Joseph Porcelli: How to Export Your Members to a CSV File

Jen: Add Google Ads in Header

Peter Moorman: Top 5 Reasons Ning Members Leave and How You Can Get Them to Stay


Across the Internet

Developing Online Community Guidelines: This is some great advice for anyone who ever plans on revising their Ning Network guidelines. It includes a comprehensive list of all the things you *could* restrict — but with reasons why you shouldn’t.

Ever wanted to go beyond the virtual and actually meet the people in your Ning Network? Here’s 8 Ways To Merge Your Online Community With The Real World

The One Thing About Building a Community asks the question: If I had to start over from scratch and build a new online community, what would I do different? Good quote: “Community is not something that happens when you need it, it's something that you build over time that is suddenly there for you, when you need it.”

From the shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater department: Does Free Speech Apply to Communities? Favorite quote: “Those accusing you of censorship are a bit like those friends of friends who appear in your house, smoke in the kitchen, turn the music up a little bit too loud and suggest you should chill out when you challenge them.”

Community Resource: We discovered some new online resources; especially good for larger Ning Networks.

Can you answer this question: “People will participate in my community because…” If not, read on: Why Will People Participate In Your Online Community

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Fellow NCs,

Once a month we do an export of our members and import them into our CRM database. We do this for two reasons:
  1. So we have a back up our members locally.
  2. We run queries against donations made by email and name (we are a non-profit), and based on profile questions answer, invite members to groups and events that might be of interest.
Here's is how to export your members:
  1. Log into your network as either the Network Creator or a user with Administrator rights.
  2. Go the Manage tab and under "Manage your members" section click on Members button.
  3. On the bottom right hand side of the members page click on Export All Member Data (.CSV)
Depending on the size of your membership you either be prompted to..
  • "Click OK to start the export. If you have a lot of members, the process might take a few minutes.",
Or, if you have lots of members you'll get a message that says..
  • "Click OK to start the export. We'll send you an email with instructions for downloading the data as soon as it's ready."
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Joseph
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Welcome to the fourth in a series of Ning Creators blog posts focusing on simple design tricks you can use on your network.

Trick #4: Adding a Two-Column Hero Box

The following code, used on the homepage of Ning Creators, will insert a "hero" module that spans two columns at the top of your network's Main page content area. This area could be used to insert an image, a custom Flash/JavaScript piece or just a simple text introduction.

Here's an example:

To get started, visit the "Appearance" area inside the "Manage" tab, then paste the following CSS snippet inside the "Advanced" section (underneath any other code that may already be there):

.space {height:270px;} /*Height of the Hero Area */
.module_text .xg_module_body {overflow:visible;}
#spotlight {margin-left:-245px;width:741px;}
#spotlight img, #spotlight embed, #spotlight object {padding:0; margin:0; max-width:741px;}

Next, visit the "Analytics" area inside the "Manage" tab, then paste in the following snippet (underneath any other code that may already be there):

<script type="text/javascript">
if (typeof(x$) != 'undefined') {
x$("#xg_layout_column_2").attr({_maxembedwidth: "741"});
}
</script>

On the "Features" area inside the "Manage" tab, add one new Text Box at the top of the left column, then a second Text Box at the top of the center column. Save your changes.
Here's an example:

Back on the Main page, click the "Edit" button on the new Text Box in the left column, then insert the following snippet:
<div class="space"></div>
Now click the "Edit" button on the new Text Box in the center column, and insert this snippet:

<div id="spotlight" class="space">ADD HERO CONTENT HERE</div>
Replace the "ADD HERO CONTENT HERE" text with your custom content (whether it's an image, embed code, HTML, etc.), then save your changes.

Enjoy!
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Last week, I returned from five days at South by Southwest Interactive – an annual conference that focuses on technology and social media. The most interesting panels and talks that I attended while at SXSW focused on the ways that new social media technologies - like Ning! - are shaping the newest generation of non-profits.

Kiva, a non-profit that is arguably the most well known microfinance organization today, has engineered a fantastic online social network for their organization. The engineering team at Kiva has built a robust social network that allows lenders to connect with entrepreneurs in the developing world, which includes photos, descriptions, and updates on the portion of the loans that the entrepreneurs have been able to pay back. DonorsChoose is another non-profit that's been helping support teachers for the past decade. They're using a social network to allow donors to choose which projects they want to contribute to, and they've done a fantastic job of building a website that's truly interactive. When someone adds a donation on their website, they encourage them to write a note explaining why they decided to give money. It's a great example of using a social network to create an authentic and personable experience for donors.

While these organizations may be building their own websites with the help of a team of engineers, many of the strategies that are working for them can be applied to non-profits using Ning to provide the framework for a non-profit network. I can't think of a better place than the Ning Creators Network to share the lessons I learned!


Be transparent.
People like to know where their money is going. The more that you can do to explain what happens to the money after you’ve deposited a check (or accepted a donation through Paypal), the better your donors will feel about giving you money. Use the Pages feature to create a help center on your Ning Network, and let people ask you questions directly using your Discussion Forum. You can use the Blogs feature to update your Ning Network with the latest news from the organization. Ask your employees to create profile pages, so that donors can see the faces behind all your hard work.

Let them spread the word.
You don’t need to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to telling people about your organization. Let the people who are already supporting you be your advocate. If people believe in your non-profit, they'll want to tell their friends. Encourage the members of your Ning Network to invite their friends to join, and you can focus your energy on creating the best possible way for them to learn about your cause. That said, it never hurts to show people what your focus is. Greet new members who join your Ning Network, and reward members who invite their friends with Award gifts.

Use your Ning Network to build a relationship with your donors.
Once someone has joined your Ning Network, it's much easier to keep them involved. Send out broadcast messages to announce new initiatives, and update your Blog to let your members know what's going on. Ask your members for feedback using a Forum discussion, and find out what you can be doing better. Here on Ning Creators, we get loads of ideas about how to make Ning better and what we can do to get our Network Creators to love us. This can work just as well for your non-profit!

Connect with Twitter and Facebook.
Chances are you already have a Facebook fan page and/or a Twitter account to keep donors involved. It can be daunting to manage all of these social media outlets, so let your Ning Network help you with this! Connect your Ning Network to Twitter and Facebook, and you can push your status updates to all three places with a single click.

Thank people in public.
Show the people who have contributed how much you appreciate them by thanking them on your Ning Network. Use profile comments or customized gifts to say thank you, or use the Pages feature to post a donors directory. Just had a volunteer event? Post photos on your Ning Network to show off how well it went!


The best part of my job is seeing the way Network Creators like you are using Ning in creative ways. If you have more suggestions for using a Ning Network to help grow your non-profit, let us know here!

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Post <br /

Ning communities can be compared to your average dinner party. Nobody wants to be the first one at your house. If the conversation is boring, your guests will likely not come back. If you tell them about an
exciting “multi-level” marketing opportunity, they will resent you.

Below are the top 5 reasons ning members leave, and tips for how you can prevent it. This is copied from a post on my blog: http://petermoorman.com/top-5-reasons-ning-members-leave-and-how-you-can-get-them-to-stay

  • “My inbox is full of your broadcast messages, and they don’t even have anything worthwhile in them to read”

The broadcast message is a powerful force in growing your network, but it can be abused. Send broadcast messages no more than 2x a week, and make sure they have useful content for your community. Nobody likes
Spam.

  • “The forum is confusing, how do I even post a question?”

Forum setup is frustrating for new users. Make it simple. Do not have 10 different categories. It’s much better to have few categories with lots of posts, than 20 categories with little to no activity.

  • “Wait. You’re charging me how much to continue my membership in this network?”

You want to start your network as an open community with no charges. If you decide to charge a premium for membership, let your original community members in for free or at a deeply discounted rate. There’s no
better way to drive off membership than to start charging the very
people who helped your network get off the ground in the beginning.

  • “My eyes hurt after 5 minutes on your site.”

Do not have a black background. Do not have flash animation sirens in the sidebars. If you want members to stay, create a network that is easy on the eyes.

  • “There’s no discussion or interaction here. What’s the point of staying?”

With a new network, you have to get the discussions going. Invite your close friends to join, start discussions in the forum, and make the network buzz with activity. Users will leave if they see no signs of
life.

  • “Whenever I go to your network, I get confused about how to navigate and posts”

Navigation is key to promoting network growth and retention. Make it easy for users with less experience with the internet to navigate your site. Just because you can speak CSS and HTML as fluently as English,
doesn’t mean your users can.

Feel free to add any other tips in the comments below.

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As we announced last month, Ning.com Network Search is making a comeback!

We have been working hard to make it easier than ever to find Ning Networks for your interests and passions. So we’re happy to announce that in the next few days, search will be back on Ning.com! We’ve heard a lot of feedback about how important this feature is from Network Creators as well as from members looking for Ning Networks.

For your Ning Network to appear in Ning.com’s Network Search, it must:

  • Be public. Prospective members won't know too much about or be able to join your Ning Network if
    it's private, and we want to protect the privacy of private Ning Networks and their members.
  • Be active. If your Ning Network has thousands of members but hasn't had new content in months,
    it's not likely to be ranked highly in searches.
  • Be launched and accessible. We don't want to showcase Ning Networks that aren't yet ready for prime time!
  • Not contain content that violates our Terms of Service.

For information on how to optimize your Ning Network for search, or if you have any search-related concerns about your Ning Network, please contact us through the Help Center.

Thanks,

Brent

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A digest for Creators of discussions, blog posts, and interesting things found along the way in the past week — on Ning and across the Internet.

On Creators

Spam: Beat It

If you haven’t seen it yet, we have a dedicated page where we’re posting updates on any spam-related issues.

Content Flagging Now Live

We released a new feature this week for NCs: Content Flagging. It’s entirely optional, and it allows you to give trusted members the power to hide content that is clearly inappropriate — like spam. You can read all about it here.

Want to appoint some of your most trusted members as Content Flaggers? We've put together some boilerplate messaging language that we hope will help you reach out and invite them.

SXSW Roundup

Two of our SXSW contest winners report how you can really make a bang with very little cost but also how SXSW isn’t for the timid — or camera shy.

Popular This Week

The 90-9-1 Rule

10,000 Strong Contest (We’re at 9,471 members — getting close.)

What’s in Your Dream Text Editor?


Across the Internet

Thoughts on Community Management. One of the best general blog posts about tending an online space we’ve read in a long time. Superb.

What to do after you lower the ban hammer: Replying to a Banned Member Who Wants to be Unbanned.

Some great points made here about where to place your energies when moderating an online space: Pre-Approve The People Not The Messages

We’re Addicted to Social Networks: A new study uncovers a lot of interesting stats, including this one: 28% of iPhone owners visit Twitter or Facebook before getting out of bed in the morning. (Guilty as charged!)

Do People Really Need Your Online Community? This is an excellent reality check for a community that feels dead and needs reviving. Favorite quote: "If your community has died, don’t throw in the towel…. Sincerely reach out to each person with this question: ‘What would make you want to spend an hour a day in this community?’ "

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Just as we did a few weeks back when we announced our Facebook App, we wanted to offer you some boilerplate to use for your Ning Network around the idea of content flagging. If you have decided to appoint Content Flaggers on your Ning Network, you may want to let them know with a simple message. We've put together some boilerplate copy that we hope will help, along with some copy to use after people reply to your message.

Of course, all of this — including Content Flagging — is entirely optional, but our hope is that this might help Creators be more efficient, while still being high-touch with their most valued members. Hope it helps!


Invitation to content flagger

Subject: We’d like you to be a content flagger

We recently added the ability for select members to flag content that seems inappropriate — stuff that seems spammy. Since you seem to be one of our most helpful members, we wanted to reach out and ask you to be a content flagger for the community.

We’ve asked some of our best members to take on this role, and the way it works is pretty straightforward. If you see spam or content that is clearly inappropriate and violates our guidelines, feel free to flag it. Once flagged, the content will be hidden from view unless it is unflagged. This will help us fight spam by spreading the ability to help keep the community clean to our most trusted members.

Of course, there’s no pressure for you to flag anything or do anything different, but we hope you’ll want to join us in keeping an eye out for the rest of the community so we can continue to make this a great place to interact. Our admins already do a great job of monitoring the site, but adding flaggers helps them be even more efficient.

Thank you note

I’m thrilled that you want to help watch over the community. If you ever see a blog post or photo or video that seems spammy, you can click on the Flag icon to hide it. If you’re ever unsure about whether something is inappropriate or not, you can simply err on the side of leaving it up. Our admins will be on the lookout, too. Thanks again for being such a helpful member!


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The 90-9-1 rule

A fantastic blog post was put up last week, which has lead to a number of great discussions about member traction and engagement within communities. Dr. Mike Wu, Ph.D. posted metrics based on his study of over 200 online communities here.

As he writes, "The 90-9-1 rule simply states that:

  • 90% of all users are lurkers. They read, search, navigate, and observe, but don't contribute
  • 9% of all users contribute occasionally
  • 1% of all users participate a lot and account for most of the content in the community"

The data he present generally backs this up. The comments both there and in a related LinkedIn community explore how he defined his terms, constraints of the data, and how to encourage engagement.

Do you agree with his findings? Do you see them reflected in your Ning Networks?

I look forward to his future posts, where he promises to "dive deeper into the contribution level of the hyper-contributors, you community's real superusers."

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