It's amazing to see the wonders that the Ning Creators create on their sites. But those wonders don't really apply to our group. I've never seen anyone post about a small, private group like ours, so I'm wondering if there are any like us out there?
BACKGROUND: Our group started on MSN Groups as a private community of members interested in sharing tips on home decor, gardening, etc.; a "shelter" site, if you will. We post a lot of photos, ask for input from one another, share ideas. Over the years, the members have developed loyal friendships. We moved to Ning when MSN Groups closed; we lost some members along the way.
We don't do any custom programming; the site works great for our needs (discussions and photos) and none of us are programmers, anyway.
On MSN, we had over 800 members; on Ning, we're at 225 currently. Approximately 12 or so are regular posters; the remainder lurk but have expressed that they want to continue to be part of the group so they can pop in when they'd like and enjoy the decor discussions. Because our members share personal information, our site is private and the members want to stay that way.
So my challenge is: How do we increase the activity on the site among our current members?
Many aren't on Facebook, but I've created a Facebook page for those who are. I've started posting "teasers" on the page to lure members to check the new postings on our site. It's increased activity a bit and we've also gained 5 new members this week.
Does anyone else have a small, private site and have any ideas for us? I'd love to see more of our members posting on a more regular basis.
Thanks for your ideas!
I don't have a small, private site but a suggestion would be to open your site up (at least, front page only) if it is completely private, so it can encourage people to join, often times, people are skeptical of joining a site they can't see but as I said I'm not sure if yours is completely closed or not but if it is I would open up your front page to the public. This also allows your site to receive some search engine traffic, if a site is hidden then no one can find it because search engines can't spider any content.
One way to engage members is by new members joining and bringing new content in, fresh faces and perspectives can help tremendously with member participation. Leave comments for your members on their profile pages as well, if they receive notifications then they'll be alerted to the activity and come to your site to check their page. Another idea is to add some forum content yourself and then send out a broadcast message to your members weekly with the topic information asking for feedback. Polls and contests can also help with member engagement as well. Keep your site feeling as if it's busy (even if it's not) - add fresh content, be visible and engaging and eventually once the ball is rolling it will just steadily pick up.
I hope this helps a bit. Have a great weekend.
Thank you for your comments, Starrfire! Much appreciated. Opening our site isn't an option; members share personal things (relationships, children, health, etc.) in a trusted environment of friendship, so we would lose that wonderful benefit if we opened it up and would be like every other shelter site.
I do understand the benefits, though, of being searchable and being able to entice visitors, which is why our facebook page is public. (We only post teaser links on FB to draw people to our site; nothing personal.) I like the idea of leaving member messages to alert users; I've also tried broadcast messages a couple of times and the majority seemed to appreciate the reminder. May start doing those monthly with highlights. Polls are fun; we don't have a budget for contests, though, since it's a community and we don't view it as "my" site.
I'll give your ideas a try! Thanks so much!
Incentives always work well for posting. Since it's home and garden you could offer up a posting contest for the members they all can judge who's post is the best winner gets the prize whatever you'd like it to be.
Or take photos of their prize something in their garden vote on those winner gets prize.
Or by sharing or tweeting or interacting they win something things like that always help.
If you don't have an actual prize you could incorporate the winners into your Featured Member listings and even use the member badge utility to denote them as "Featured" across their profile pic. and incorporate your contest winners into a your broadcast message. Totally agree, Incentives are a great way to keep members coming back!
That's a great idea recognition is a wonderful thing too :)
Mine is closed also but that is working for us as the curiosity of people wanting in plus I created a video to show them what the site looks like inside. But I may in the future unlock part of it how do you unlock just the front page-
I have a similar group size in a private community. We also have a lot of members who know each other in real life, which is a great part of our group. Our group is really active, here are some of the things we do:
That's just a start! Best of luck with your community!
I saw your site long before I created mine :) Actually your post was the incentive for doing mine. I'm so glad I saw it I was considering a ton of other options. I have a paywall on a group and I've only had my site for a few days and I am already getting paid members and I'm charging more then most in my niche.
I'm so glad because tonight I was just notified that a young 26 yr old mother of 2 little girls and one on the way just lost her husband last night- he was hit by a car while trying to cross the freeway.
I love what I do and helping people but when I am able to make a difference for a young girl like this simply because I have a membership site- That to me is the most valuable thing in the world. So I guess I should thank you- your post enabled me to do this site which allowed me to bless this family- Thank you.
I run a New Zealand based silversmith ning. I just use the basic account, as it works for what we need it to do also. I have about 86 members, but like you there are only a small handful that contribute on a semi-regular basis.
I started up about 3 years ago and then I rested on my laurels a it and it hibernated somewhat. I guess I had imagined that it would keep momentum by itself as others made connections, but it didn't, as the members did not have the same level of ownership as I did. I used to send out fortnightly newsletters which generated some interest, so I began that again recently.
I also set up a FB page to let people know what is happening too. Since I have spent the last 3 months working hard on promoting it, I have had about 15-20 new members. It is hard getting them to post as much content as I would like though.
Most forum discussions have been started by me, but it seems not many others use their initiative to get them started.
Some people join and then never contribute which makes me two-minded in what I should do with them... if they are inactive should I cancel their accounts?
I'm glad you posted this thread, as so many of the threads are about big nings with fancy tricks and thousands of members!
One thing I have found is that if I make the site private and just show the front page it means I can't post 'teasers' on FB that have a photo/image. If I want the image I need to open it up.
I also wonder about charging a joining fee. It might put people off, and I worry about losing some members. HAs anyone else experienced this?
I look forward to reading more threads on this post.
My network, WhereWomenBlog, is new to Ning so I haven't experienced a lot yet. The hardest thing for me ...getting targeted traffic to Ning, getting members to join, and then getting members to participate. With the number of networks online, plus the number of "established" free blogs available already, I think getting people to committ to "another" anything that requires their time and energy may be a bit difficult, agreed?
I'm more than willing to put forth the effort it takes to succeed ...not a problem, but it does appear that there are things that can help (if we are to believe what we read) get more traffic and more members somehow.
All good advice creators!
I too crossed over from MSN Groups. Crazy how they just shut it down like that. Did you try the new platform they contracted to for the migration?
You should get back to building your membership. If you had 800 before, then why not invite more in? That will raise your naturally active particpants and get the place humming. You might have follower member figures that make it seem like a bigger site, but at the same time even if you've only got 100 contributors it's still technically a small community.
I advocate a lot for a paradigm shift from just "social network" to "social media environment".
Photos: The rating function is ultra-easy and low impact. Making a few assumptions about your user base, many might not be up to speed with using social interfaces like Facebook, or if they are maybe the lack of familiarity with the Ning platform can disengage them from participating. I believe you said this was an activity members on your site are into. The Share function lets people tweet or post to FB, and of course the "Like" button is a simple task and can show some cross-platform activity in your favor. Not to mention the social application in comments. Make it an event- call people to it to rate, vote, etc. Just the views alone represent social interaction when the people browsing are hardly doing anything.
Discussions: Share discussions as featured presentations. After all, you said people like to pop in and get in on the conversations. Maybe they just follow, maybe it gets them onsite more often. For instance, when a subject is really taking off with some interesting discourse, then that might be a good time to share with all members- via "All options". One thing I like to do is lead of a forum post with a photo. When I share it to facebook, the photo appears as the thumbnail, and it looks more professional like an article. Specific articles might open the door to networking opportunities with people you meet or maybe your members know that might be interested. So the share can be via offsite e-mail address, and you can send to people as invitations.
Hope I've been helpful!
One thing I learned is that you take your time and your site will grow. Get involved in other groups and share.
I as well as you chose Ning because of the formatted platform for posting. For over 9 years my goals for Toptentogo seemed to be going no where. but in the last 2 years, we are evolving slowly and taking our time in doing so.
So my friend soon Toptentogo will be Powered by Google as the next internet search provider,
and Toptentiogo's Social Network, Powered by Ning......a over the top concept in my book...