What are the top five pieces of advice you'd give to a new Network Creator...the five pieces you wish you'd had when you started out?
I'm a new creator, and I don't know what I should know...a common feeling I'm sure.
1. Be prepared for some long lonely nights :-)
2. Try to learn to do some basic graphics yourself rather than pay for a potentially expensive design upfront
3. Learn to use tools such as twitter etc to help promote your network
4. NING is a labour of love, but hang-on in there as it may well be worth it (one day)
5. Welcome as many members as possible as they join - its a great way to make them feel wanted and makes a great impression.
Yeah I like your 5th point. Forums, blogs, Add text, groups all seemed a little confusing especially to people who are not used to social networking websites. Until now I haven't included the Add Text feature. It's confusing
• Have a focused concept of what your site is about, who will be visiting it, what you have to offer them, and how you realistically expect them to interact. Refine as needed when your concept doesn't match the reality.
• Don't be afraid to start learning Photoshop, HTML and CSS. It's not that hard, and you can make your site look a lot better. I also highly recommend Fireworks, which is sort of a simplified Photoshop with a lot of specific web design features.
• You are going to need to work hard seeding content at first. Its more important to add CONTENT than it is to add NICHES for people to put content. 95% of groups are abandoned by their creators, so don't let members make groups till you have identified your passionate users in the forum and can guide their energy. Choose to emphasize Blog or Forum, not both.
• Sign up for Google Analytics (so you arent flying blind), and try using Adwords (which places ads for your site on other sites) once you think have a network that will make people want to join at first glance. Don't waste time on Adsense unless you have a lot of non-member search traffic. It's almost impossible to make enough money on Adsense ads to justify the intrusion into your users mental space. The main reason to pay to remove ads is to get your right column back and to get targeted sponsorships.
• Post clear rules about spamming, fighting, trolling, etc, and don't feel even the slightest twinkle of guilt about banning people who cross the line.
I also find it confusing having both groups and forums but I think both necessary. In my Ning site I have created forums with general discussions but these themes are also discussed in particular groups and I am afraid that members could be confused. It 's a little mesh... I don't know how to solve it.
If you have 20,000 members and don't mind people each running their own little show, groups are great! But for very small networks, they are awful, and just separate people and keep them from interacting.
I changed the names on the tabs from Forum to "Open Forum" and from Groups to "Private Groups" to help people understand the difference a little better. Forums anyone can participate, but groups you must join to participate.