This might get a bit controversial. I just read another discussion where I realized Ning has finally made the "Powered by Ning" footer mandatory on all new Ning Mini networks. Now I have an older Ning Mini, so apparently I'm not affected by this change. I had to think long and hard before I barely...and I mean just barely...decided to pay for the Mini. For those of you who do not know, When Gina Bianchini was the CEO of Ning it was a freemium- you had up to 10 free networks that were essentially fully loaded with things you now pay for such as groups, events, chat, etc. It was a different business model back then, and the trade-offs included forced ads and branding that you could pay to upgrade & remove.
Now there are about 4 primary elements of Ning branding that I have on my Ning Mini. There's the top-left 1) NING and 2) Create a Ning Network! There's also the 3) Create a Ning Network! underneath my site's About section. All these apparently are part of an incentive structure for me to upgrade. I understand they may also support marketing for the platform, and perhaps contribute to some kind of industry related metrics? Whatever. I always assumed the main reason was someone at Ning knew most creators would not like them- strongly prefer to go whitelabel- and would be compelled to upgrade. Forced branding and adserving are industry norms on freeware websites- actual strategic business models that are respected by venture capitalists and platform developers who view "people" as "end-users". Yeah, I think there's just a tad bit of disconnect there, but I've always viewed that as opportunity for someone like myself or one of my consulting clients to come in and do better.
Now 4) is the interesting one. That's the Powered by Ning footer that's apparently become mandatory. I won't check to see if I can still take it off and put it back on though. Last time I ran a check on one of my site's features, my Sign Up box and About box got switched around in some kind of glitch nightmare. Yeah I had thought my page was finally perfect and then this. Ning support just told me as a Mini user that I did not have access to change these around. I tried to tell them that's precisely why I was surprised it changed, that it must be some kind of system glitch, that I just wanted it back to the way it was for the previous 3 years... but, you know, blank stare, ostrich hiding head in a hole, ticket resolved, "__it happens" kind of thing. I just sat back in awe an have tried to get used to it.
Here I am someone who actually promotes Ning voluntarily by opting-in to this footer. You can't pay people for that kind of brand loyalty and advocation. I always wondered- why was it optional? I mean, did Ning realize there was a qualitative measure of "end-user" satisfaction there? That other thread suggested maybe this has become more of a numbers game, which would not be surprising given the recent Glam Media acquisition. I'm a student of modern business, so I scrutinizing it all to see how it plays out. Could be kinda cool actually. On the other hand, this little twist on what used to be an option for the footer "innie vs. outie" is not a good sign IMHO.
My business plan which is transparent and currently accessible to anyone on my site talks in depth about the Ning platform. I actually promote the indirect association with the brand. It's a matter of necessity to leverage the cost/ benefit. In other words, you can't beat them then join them! Since my site is yadayada domain.ning.com, I'm pulling a little Inspector Closseau, and making it seem as if "I meant to do that". I want people to wonder about it, for it to help them remember the address, to be somewhat intrigued by this social networking platform. Most people still do not recognize what "Ning" is. When they go to your site, they likely think YOU are Ning, lol! When they see your whitelabel site without the Ning branding, they probably think YOU designed it from scratch! That's one way to make a strong first impression...that is until Ning runs through a bad month-long stretych of e-mail serving. Then, maybe it's better to have someone you can point the finger at, lol!
In my business plan I make it clear that I'm not all that impressed Ning will be around 5 years from now. That's just the nature of the game in the Silicon Valley/ Bay Area tech culture- my niche BTW. I advise my clients to take ownership of their content and relationships- to keep in mind an exit strategy in case Ning or my own proprietary site have to shut down. I do suggest I'm satisfied "just" enough to proceed as is. I keep my site ultra-simple to mitigate the impacts of changes. I'm a brand fan and champion- why not! We as a Ning Creator community are actually pretty phenominal. Ning's made improvements along the way too, like having people such as Eric to come online and swim among us (whether we be minnows or sharks). Just maybe Ning is listening...just maybe they have more foresight than a bunch of tech geeks and advertising media investors.
FYI, I also used to be a big champion for Microsoft Office Live Small Business etc. That is until they took their freemiums and started dissecting them out...MSN Groups-gone, Windows Live Spaces-poof!, MSN Soapbox...your videos will all be deleted, my free blog...we just exported that to WordPress for you, my free website...we're gonna have to charge you a small annual fee, my paid website and e-mail...we're actually going to have to charge you alot more, and you're going to have to manually transfer your domain, all your e-mail, oh yeah and sorry but you'll have to rebuild your website. Don't worry though! We've got all kinds of new features you don't want bundled into the price, and although we recommend you pay an expert to help you with the migration, you can download this step-by-step instruction manual as though you had the time and risk tolerance to handle it yourself.
Yeah...riiiiiiiiiiight...I ask for frickin sharks with lazer beams attached to them. Ning's done alright to get us to this point I have to give them credit. There's still plenty room to screw it all up. If I were you, I'd look real close into criticisms and complaints for opportunities to improve, get it right, and distinguish yourself from the competition through smarter service and responsiveness. We're kind of in the same boat together. Me powered by you. Ning Powered by Me. Together, we can make a more beautiful web!
Can someone point me to the announcement in which says Ning it's going to require the "powered by Ning" on Plus networks? My network still gives me the ability to opt out of the footer and network bar branding. Here's a link to the Help Center instructions on how to do it. http://www.ning.com/help/?s=promote+ning
I just upgraded my site to Plus in anticipation of the launch. A big reason was to remove the Ning branding. Don't get me wrong, I love Ning. But to me it seems that a new network, based on a new idea, is devalued if all of members can see the idea and platform and copy it so cheaply.
Hey Austin, I got my info from a comment Eric made- "For newer Mini, Plus and Pro networks it is not possible to remove the "Powered by Ning" messaging from the footer."
Having an old site, I still have the choice. I share your concern this change might be forced on me when I upgrade. I don't think it will, but I also don't know for sure.
I have a friend who built his own network from scratch. He now has about 5000 members. It took him two years to fine tune the format, including sign in from FB, Twitter, Foursquare, LInkedIn and others. His members also have a mobile app. I have the graphics ability but not the coding skills to do that sort of thing myself. That's what we're paying Ning to do.
The possibility that Ning will change the deal.. after I build a membership.. makes me nervous. The whole point of using a custom domain instead of a sub-domain, and designing a logo and customizing CSS, is to appear professional and unique.
I want to know that Ning is not going to pull the rug out from under me.
Is it not time for a Ning person to clarify the confusion? Old/new/ mini/ plus/ pro/ upgrading an old.....
It's clearly important so clarity may be useful.
Gosh! Like preaching to the choir, lol! I suppose I understate my own anxieties on this. You can tell they try to take feedback into consideration and make decisions more carefully. However, it gets plain scary sometimes!
I think if your network was set up before this recent change, then you still have the choice to keep the branding off. If I recall, the ability to remove the branding for pro & plus accounts was a specific selling point. Even though I have yet to pay for that capability, I expect Ning to stay true to that arrangement. Once I became a paying customer, I took into account the features I would start with, and I also made plans for the capabilities I would get by upgrading- which includes control of branding.
So far, my current plan has not been effected with the exception that my opt-in Powered by Ning now includes the Glam Social. I'm still not sure if I'll keep it on though, because it has changed my design/ concept in a way I don't like. So the good news is it appears Ning is respecting our original deal. The change seems very specifically related to new clients, and I honestly don't care if they put forward a new deal to them as long as our arrangements remain the same.
The bad news is Ning has been somewhat unpredictable in the past, and these new changes hint to the possibility of more forced changes along the same lines. So viewing my network as the face of my business, very representative of my professionalism to my community, I too want to know they will not pull the rug out from under me. Pretty sure they reserved the right to do so in the fine print.
You've got some tremendous points. The original concept behind Ning was the power for ordinary people without programming knowledge and resources to create their own customized social network. Otherwise, I'm just stuck on Facebook or whatever with their forced branding, forced ads, lack of design & policy controls, and subject to the cultural norms promulgated by the platform. Diverging from that with established clients would be a stupid strategic decision IMHO, and I don't get the feeling they are that lost...just yet.
Austin, we'll probably have to approach Ning more directly than on this forum thread to get that assurance though. If we're lucky, maybe the advocacy team can step in and address our concerns here.
As far as what this means for new creators I'm not sure. If they're really going to force this across all levels, that strategy is also subject to the same line of criticism. I have long positioned myself as a social media consultant specializing in the platform. 1) I lead by example. 2) My network is a proprietary solution for businesses who are not inclined to build their own. Finally, 3) I could extend my services to include helping those interested to develop their own networks. I can live with the Ning branding for the first two- I see it even as an example of my work to do so. However, without the value of proprietary brand control, it's a lot harder to suggest to businesses they build their own. Clearly not a good move for this purpose IMHO.
Perhaps Ning is aiming at a different demographic of more casual individual uses such as pop culture related networks. That would make sense given the Glam Media acquisition, and I'm sure would sound like quite the bright idea in the boardroom. If that's the case, then my proprietary solution should increase in value exponentially.
i love this and yea i have to telll people all the time i didnt build the "inner workings" of the site only the styling and look
ontop of that 1 other advantage of being transparent with the ning lable is when requesting donations if you say hey it is costing me 80 dollars a month to keep the site up and running because we have all these wonderful features "powered by ning" if you want the site to stay as great as it is how bout helping cover the costs?
on the other hab=nd if they think its all me and on a shared hosting at 5-10 bucks a month they arent as likely to donate as often or as much
i di=ont have the powered by ning displayed but i do tell members all the time that its a ning site
my only reason for not having powerd by ning active is its a spam magnet spam bots search for that sort of thing to use as a "key" to get into your site they know if they find powered by ning they can automate the signing and post blogs process by following a ning pattern
so for that reason only i dont have it
Wow soaringeagle, that't interesting.
I hadn't really thought about making a connection between donations and the need to pay for the network service. I've seen it mentioned on many sites before, but as an actual intentional strategy has merits.
One of my pet peeves for social media marketing I tell my clients is "transparency". This is why I mentioned earlier keeping the fact you're using Ning as a proprietary advantage could be short-lived. Listening to many creators talk about how they want to keep it unknown to competitors does interest me though. It's well understood now that any individual can represent themselves as a more formal kind of business entity right alongside corporations etc. For those who see that as a key for winning over their respective target markets, the proprietary brand control does sound essential. I positioned myself to be the value to my target market, and I therefore am less exposed to that kind of competitive dynamic.
That Ning branding can put a target on you from spammers though is a negative value. That's good on you for taking care of your community. It also brings me back to the point that I think Ning does need to put more focus on adding value that corresponds to the association with their brand. A lot of attention goes into upgrading features etc, but I still think that activity pales in comparison to trade offs for things like problems with spam, e-mail server breakdowns, problems with basic usability, lack of basic control for various elements, and forcing of changes on occassion. To start, I would personally like to see Ning focus on doing the simple things very well, and then putting up enhancements as a secondary priority people can opt-in to if they so choose.
I also think it would be a good strategic move to look closer at how the brand can be something for network creators to leverage. For example, Ning puts marketing dollars into promoting the platform in order to convert new business. However, I don't see why advertising can't go toward supporting Ning creators that have the branding whether opt-in or now even forced. The same goes for Glam Media or Glam Social as it were. When people see those brands in the media, it should communicate a an online phenomena that connects the platform with what's happening in the emerging world of web technologies and online advancement. That kind of thing would attract more interest both for new business as well community members for established network creators featuring the brand.
Take for example this video. Internet Explorer is not really something I think anyone really appreciates as an interface or even brand that really relates to building a more beautiful web. However, I do think the value proposition and branding here are a good example of what Ning could be doing to add value to "our" brand.
maybe the all around solutions simple
make the powered by ning mlink an affiliate link everyone who signs up for ning through your site earns ypu something like 1-3%
i think i will suggest that in wa new discussion
Just putting in two cents' worth after reading all this, and understanding only SOME of the web-tech/business words and concepts.
We're a tiny network of people who are drawn to socialize around a few topics. We are a community, and self-governed. The NC is a role, not a person, who exerts "power" only to the extent the software mandates. And we are among those who LOVE having people know we are on Ning, (we are Plus) because we are Dummies, and need someone to do things for us, and someone to blame (the NC can cite NING to members, and we are off the hook) when there are problems, LOL!!!
And we are among those who use "gotta pay the rent" to ask our members for donations, because we have no paid anything on our site. It works great to ask for donations for the rent.
After reading all this I do understand there are radical differences in what is valuable, what is necessary, what is desirable, among various kinds of Ning networks. It is a challenge for Ning to please them all, if it were to choose to do so, which is not clear, LOL!!
I totally agree about doing the simple things and then going fancy. I've been pushing that with Ning in our two years here. But like previous social network sites our community has been on, they care more about rolling about bells and whistles than fixing the potholes in the road and the shaky infra-structure affecting the user experience (members and admins, here.) It doesn't seem like good business sense to me, but obviously it does to those who make Ning's business decisions.
We are not subject to spammers ever since we went to approving members who are required to answer various profile questions, as well as jumping through the other hoops Ning provides, such as email verification and the captcha. Without that, it was a nightmare, and since then, we are glad every day, as many nightmares have been avoided.
But I realize not every network works well with a member approval process. We even do web searches on applicants we are in doubt about, and those are often extremely informative. We also maintain our own database of known or suspected spammers. (Tried to share that here on Creators, no interest.)
Of course, we don't get a high rate of new members. The process is labor-intensive, though we have it spread over 4 people so it's not too bad for any.
We too don't like changes which are sprung on us, and forced, but we deal.
Well, that's all I can think of to share. Just adding in a Dummy perspective, FWIW!!!
Thanks for the look into the other perspectives here! Ning's future is something I am concerned about, bigtime, and because I feel totally powerless to affect it, and we would not survive Ning's demise, I feel drawn to get all the info I can, to "sniff the wind" to see what might happen.
Oh, I see I need to clarify that "we" above is mostly referring to the NC role, which is co-occupied by one other person and myself.
Hi there! You are no dummy! I see you as a very special part of this conversation, and a perfect expression of what a passionate community should be. Don’t worry about Ning. Just do your thing! You are connecting with real people. Cast the technology aside, and aim true.
For instance, not too long ago I listened in on a meditation podcast series over a period of weeks. Every day at a certain time, a live presentation was made, and the sessions were also downloadable for those who were in other time zones, etc. The idea was to get as many people sharing in the activity together as possible- that reinforcing the energy of the experience. By their account, this harmonic convergence reached upwards of 20,000.