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Building Strong Ties

World AIDS day is observed every year on December 1st to raise awareness and cultivate a strong community of support. Network Creator Robert Breining has taken these values online with his network, POZIAM. Robert is dedicated to developing a welcoming and supportive community, and it really shows. Since creating his network, Robert has established techniques for building strong ties within POZIAM. Thank you Robert for sharing!

Can you tell us a bit about POZIAM?

POZIAM is a social network for people living with HIV/AIDS. It was created to benefit both those infected and affected and has grown to include family, friends, celebrities, newbie's and long-term survivors. The POZIAM network has a great balance of members—some come here to learn, while others come here to share. There is no greater feeling than being comforted by someone who has experienced a HIV/AIDS diagnosis, or discovering you have helped someone realize that their journey is not one they need to take alone. Paths cross for many different reasons, the diversity of over 1100 members in over 40 countries makes POZIAM an interesting place to find support and begin moving forward after a diagnosis. The network offers a safe place to ask questions, share experiences, find support and build new friendships.

Why did you decide to you use Ning? How has it helped you expand POZIAM?

When I decided I wanted to create a social network I wasn't the most tek savvy person. I could barely design a myspace page. I decided to use Ning because they are leading the pack for building social networks. Ning made it so easy for me as the NC to be creative and truly get my message across to my members , because of that alone I was able to expand my network with new members and cool features to keep them connected. I have learned so much in design using Ning. Ning made my vision obtainable, and now a reality

POZIAM has such a great sense of community. How do you welcome members into your network?

When a new member joins a social network like POZIAM they are hesitant to participate right away, so I set up a group called "Greeters". I asked members to volunteer to become network greeters. When a new member joins POZIAM, they are welcomed with my personal message and the messages from our greeters. It is a great way to welcome new members. and it makes the members who are greeters feel connected with POZIAM. We also have an introduction forum category where new members are asked to introduce themselves to the rest of the network. It is wonderful to see a member start participating on the network. This is when I truly know they have found their comfort zone.

When I first visited your network, I noticed an announcement for an upcoming group chat session. Tell us a bit about how these chat sessions have been going and whether they have been an effective way to connect.

When first diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, part of you feels like you are alone almost instantly. While some people go to support groups in their areas to talk about living with HIV/AIDS, others, like many POZIAM members, live in rural areas and don't have these local resources. I thought it would be a great to schedule a weekly group chat as a form of support for my members. I created a group for this scheduled chat and invited members to join . This gave me a sense of how many would participate. Group Chat allows new members to introduce themselves and members who have just been diagnosed HIV+ a place to ask questions without being judged. When we begin group chat I ask the members to suggest a few topics. From there we begin to chat about one topic at a time and then move on to questions. My members love the group chat and look forward to it every week.

How do you integrate POZIAM Radio, your internet radio show, with your Ning Network?

When I started POZIAM, I wanted to do something different to bring my members back after they first joined. As a person living with HIV/AIDS at times we feel like our voice is forgotten. I wanted to give that voice back to the HIV/AIDS community. I discovered BlogTalkRadio, an easy-to-use medium to bring my members together. I post the Radio player on the top of each member's profiles, so it is easily accessible. When we started hosting on BTR we had a bi-weekly radio show but now we are down to one night a week . Sundays at 9pm EST. The members love to listen live and if they miss the live broadcast they can download past shows on iTunes and take POZIAM Radio wherever they go.You can read what our past POZIAM Radio guests have to say about being on the show at

World AIDS day is coming up on December 1st. How will this event shape the content and features you focus on? (OR another similar questions related to the event). ex. How will this event drive/influence traffic/how do you connect members to this event?

On World AIDS Day we remember the fallen soldiers in the fight. We reflect on how far we come and where we are headed. I usually set up a table at my local WAD event in Philly and have our flyers for local HIV+ individuals in Philadelphia. I don't pay to advertise. I believe that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. My members will also be attending WAD events around the world wearing POZIAM T-shirts to spread the work about the radio show and social network.

Which feature has been most useful for your network?

Besides Chat, the most useful feature on my network would have to be the Blog. I decided one day that having featured Bloggers would allow members to share stories and discover similarities with other members. Newly diagnosed members can be hesitant to share at all when they first join. When they read blogs from members who are long-time survivors,living with HIV/AIDS 25+yrs, They get a sense of hope and purpose. Members discover that this journey is one they don't need to take alone. This is what POZIAM is all about.

Can you share tips on how you have used Ning to build a strong community? What areas/features will you highlight or change in the future?

One thing my members tell me is that when they join they don't feel like member # 1234. They want to feel like they are part of the POZIAM family. They love chatting with me and receiving the greetings they get when they join. They realize their "Dreams are not Infected".One tip I would share with other NC's is to allow your member to get involved and make them feel connected to the network. I would love to change our group chat into a video/audio chat but have been unsuccessful. POZIAM TV is also in the works.

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  • Thank you all for the support... I love my fellow NC's ..
  • NC for Hire
    Love the Teddy Bear, Robert! Especially after you explained it's meaning.
  • NC for Hire
    LOL, on the Cour-TEH-NAY! ;-)
  • Just love Robert!! He is truly aHmazing in what he offers and brings to so many in need of acceptance and a place to express freely. I too use a greeter group of women on one of my networks. Who doesn't LOVE to be welcomed!
    Great post Courtenay. I love saying your name, of course I say it Cour-TEH-NAY :)
  • Great post Courtenay
  • Thanks Jen ... your the best...
  • NC for Hire
    Awesome, all the way around - - Courtenay's Blog, POZIAM Community, and Robert!

    I greatly admire you, Robert, for what you offer someone with HIV/AIDS diagnosis, especially someone who has just found out. Your Community is truly needed. Keep up the great work.
  • The greet group has really changed my network and made more like a community ... Thank you NING for featuring me and my network ..
  • I love the idea of a Greeter group and would be interested to know if anyone would participate here! (Pls message/contact me directly)
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