Update: This release is now live!

Not too long ago, we laid the groundwork for our member categories feature by streamlining the management of your existing and prospective members. Now, we're almost ready to roll Member Categories out, and we wanted to give you a preview of the feature and get your feedback on its functionality and a few improvements that we've added along the way.

Categories
Create up to 50 categories and assign members to them. All of your members will begin in the default category, called Members. You can create and edit new categories via the Member Categories tab in the Member Management section. A couple of important limitations to note up front: the default category can't be edited, and members can only belong to one category at a time.

Listings
When you create a category, you have an option to create a listing page exclusively for the members in that category, and you can create listing pages for up to 5 10categories. When you do this, a new submenu item for the category will appear in the submenu items for Member pages. You can choose the text for the submenu listing, so that you can pluralize or customize it. This is a great way to highlight specific members on the network.

Image and Text Badges
Each category that you create can also have an optional image or text badge that gets added as an overlay on a member's profile picture. Whether you create badges of honor or badges of shame, this is an excellent way to identify admins, reward special members, or just make it easy for visitors to identify different types of members. Text badges are based on the category name, and can be placed at the top or bottom of the profile picture. You can set the text color, background color, and the background opacity for each badge.

Images badges can be positioned in one of the four quadrants of a member's profile picture. We've included 22 badges to get you started, and you can upload and manage up to 50 of your own custom badges.

Text and Image badges will appear in most places in your network, but not everywhere. Right now they won't appear in Chat and in a couple of other places, like the profile images on sign in and sign up pages.

CSS Tricks
Designers and Network Creators who are comfortable with CSS will be pleased to know that each created category is associated with a CSS class that we're adding to the #xg_themebody div in profile pages. This means you can create CSS styles that will be applied to the profile pages of members in a category. This will let you do things like adjust the background or color scheme of every member of your network who's in a specific category.

Messaging
Once you've assigned your members to categories, you can use new functionality in the Broadcast Message feature to send a broadcast message to just those members. Choose any category you've created and proceed from there. The current broadcast message includes a subheader with the words "A Message to all members of Network Name". Now that you can target individual categories for messages, that text is no longer accurate, so we'll be removing it with this release. If you like that message and want to retain it, you can add it in manually like this:
<h3>A Message to all members of Network Name</h3>

When?
We're currently targeting Thursday for this release. We'll update this post if that changes. We're excited to see how NCs will use Member Categories, and we'd love your feedback. There are a few enhancements we may add to member categories like the ability to connect a Paid Access subscriber list with a category. There are also a few longer term things you've already told us you want, like category-specific feature permissions (e.g., Blog-only members). Let us know in the comments how you plan to use Member Categories, and once it's gone live, let us know how we can make it more useful for you.


A few ways you might use this

Suggested use for categories: Teachers & Students

You run a network for karate enthusiasts and want to reward members with the best zen advice; spotlight the admins who help you run your network; and identify long-time masters who practice as professional teachers and run their own expertise-based groups on your network (sensei).
- Create a category for members who say smart zen-like things and surprise them with a zen-circle icon badge in the bottom-right area of their profile pic.
- Create a category for admins. Then, make a text badge that says ADMIN and slap it on your admins' profiles by assigning them to the category. Instant authority. Create a listing page of your admins so that new members can easily see who they are.
- Show the teachers on your network some respect with a Japanese two-character sensei logo -- in the upper-right-hand section of their profile pic because kanji reads from top to bottom!
Suggested use for badges: Marathon Masters

You run a sporty network of long-distance runners who regularly keep track of the number of marathons they've tackled. You always encourage them to post a summary blog post after each new marathon describing how they overcame the toughest moment of the race. It's not a totally competitive network, but there sure is something awesome about rewarding people who have run 1, 5, 10, or even 20 marathons in a lifetime. Set up categories for each one of these designations and reward them with I, V, X, and XX text badges -- old school Ancient Greece marathon style.
Suggested use for messaging categories: Quiet Targets

Your nonprofit network for animal lovers doesn't have a hierarchy — everyone is equal and respected in their own way. But… you wouldn't mind sending them targeted broadcast messages from time to time. Create a batch of categories for owners of dogs, cats, birds, lizards — you name it. Remember: You don't have to expose these categories to members if you don't want. If you have a special promotion you only want to send to lizard lovers, lock and load a broadcast message.
Suggested use for CSS category class: Classy Profile Pages

You run a network of educators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders who are all focused on spreading the gospel of e-learning. You rely heavily on both experts and sponsors to make your site run. They don't want to be seen as behaving in a crass, commercial way in forum conversations, and you don't want to be seen as unwittingly enabling unknown advertising to your members. Set up categories to transparently identify them, and you can even go a step further (if you have the CSS chops) and give their profile pages special headers, colors, and treatments. Expert profile pages!
Suggestions for improvement

We know that a number of NCs have additional requests around this feature:
• Tie member categories into Paid Access.
• Connect this to profile questions.
• Allow new members to self-identify with a category.
• Create a tool for bulk application and perhaps even change search results based on category information.
All of these are great suggestions, and we'll consider adding some of these going forward.

Tags: member categories, new product

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Replies to This Discussion

great news Phil!

HS! 50 Categories?!! That's Epic!!

Hey Phil! Thanks for this announcement!

Before I go any further, I should point out your typo in the yellow box above your post: it should read "update" rather than "updated".

This is something I have been eagerly anticipating, as I can stop using my Forum for listings. Unfortunately,there are some limitations with the number of listings pages we are able to create. Even if there weren't so many sub-genres of Heavy Metal, I would still have a problem as my site serves bands, managers, record labels, alt models, photographers, graphic artists, videographers, promoters etc. Come to think about it, I can work around this. Never mind.

You must have been reading my mind because just this morning, I was thinking to myself how cool it would be if I could send broadcast messages targeting fans separately when i start having contests. Great job, Ning!

Fixed! Thanks Thunder.

You're welcome, Phil.

Sweet ☺

This is rather excellent, looking forward to getting to grips with this update, great news Phil !

This is great. Looking forward to the roll-out.

Please do connect these categories with Paid Access as soon as you can.  (And add recurring billing for membership subscriptions!)

That will create a nice monetization strategy for all your NCs.

Thanks.

We know that the thing NCs want with this next will be Paid Access integration, so we'll try to get that tackled for you. 

Great to hear.  Thanks, Eric.

Paid access or 'volunteer paid subscription' integration will certainly be welcome. Some tweaks might be useful:

1. List public for all members.

2. List public only for other paid subscribers.

3. List only for network creator or designated administrator

Thanks!

P.

Yes! public or admin etc view of list - it would be cool!!

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What's Up With Ning 3.0?

Click here to share your thoughts on what features we should develop next! - Survey will close Friday, 4/25

Projects that the Ning 3.0 Team is currently working on: 

Articles - a new way of organizing longer content pieces. Released 4/16.

Activity Feed Updates - options for more content in the activity feed.

Forum Notifications - ability for members to opt into receiving notifications of new discussions in forums. Released 4/9. 

APIs - The ability to create new members and content programatically.

For more information on what's next, visit the Product Roadmap

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