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Two New Insight Programs

Today on the Ning Blog we highlighted a couple of new programs we think will add to the great insights we see here on Ning Creators. Take a look at the post for more information about these programs. I've included a quick recap below as well:

The Network Creator Council Program - This program is made up of a group of active Network Creators like yourself with whom we periodically discuss upcoming feature releases, brainstorming sessions, and other targeted input sessions. We’re going to purposely limit membership in this program to a group of roughly 100 members so we can really dive into each of the topics we review. We’re including Ning Networks of all sizes and types in this program so we can be sure to hear a variety of perspectives. Here’s a bit more about how the program works:

  1. Council members are invited to Palo Alto for a 1-day "Summit." The goal of this Summit is for Ning to learn more about participants' Ning Networks, tell them how the Council program works, and gather their feedback on a series of upcoming features and other things we're working on.
  2. After the Summit, we conduct regular conference calls so we can get more input from Council members on new topics or changes we've made based on Network Creator input.
  3. Finally, we also have a private Ning Network that we host for the program to ensure we keep the lines of communication open with the Council members. As with the Summits and Conference Calls, information from this Ning Network is kept confidential and is not divulged outside of the Council program so that we can maintain the privacy of our Council members and our own product development where it makes sense.

If you're interested in participating in the Council program, feel free to email us (ning-research@ning.com) with your name and Ning Network url. As I noted above, participation is limited, so we can’t guarantee you’ll be invited into the program, but we definitely want to hear from Network Creators who are interested in providing constructive input.

Quarterly Online Survey - Last month, you may have seen an invitation from Ning to participate in a brief online questionnaire. This 11-question survey is a way for us to regularly measure how we're doing along several key attributes in the Network Creator experience. We'll be keeping regular tabs on this data throughout the year as we strive to create the best experience for you and your Ning Networks.

Through the discussions here on Ning Creators, we've learned a lot about you and your experiences. We look forward to opening the lines of communication even further with these two new initiatives.

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"For me I see how easy it is to get caught up in the exciting side of the business, e.g. the technology, the platform, the shiny, bleeding edge new feature. But from my experience the way to make an impact is absolutely on the strategic planning and organizational development side of things. It’s not sexy and it’s certainly not easy, but ultimately the real impact if you work on the brand side is found through fundamental organizational transformation."


So says Jordan Williams, Manager of Digital Engagement at REI. I completely agree that this is the more difficult and time consuming aspect of community management, whether on a national level or smaller group. :)


One of the great features of Ning, is that creating networks is easy and free, which means you can create test Ning Networks. This is something I always encourage, to provide a place to test out changes to design or format. In terms of planning and organization, the test network can also be used to scope out goals for the main network, brainstorm or discuss issues that come up. An alternative is to have a private Group on the primary Ning Network for this, though that provide a bit less freedom in testing ideas.


I'd argue that representing a major brand like REI brings its own challenges and expectations. However I encourage all to read this interview of a seasoned Community Manager!



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We're excited to be heading to Austin, TX in March for the SXSW Interactive conference, March 12-16. While we're there, we'll have a booth on display at the SXSW Tradeshow during the day, and will be sponsoring the {RV}IP Lounge at night throughout SXSW Interactive.

While we're in Austin, we'd also love to meet up with any Network Creators that are either attending, or live in the area. Please let us know in the comments below if you'll be around!

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I’m new here. I wanted to simply stand up and say hello. I join Laura as a fellow community manager on the Creators Network. Like Laura, I’m here to help Creators with their creations: providing tips on building Ning Networks, encouraging folks to get creative and improve things, and pointing out ways people can manage and grow their Ning Networks.
I have a fair amount of technical knowledge, although if you bust out some elaborate CSS, I will probably have to defer to someone smarter than me for an answer. I’ll always do my best to try, but luckily I have a ton of smart people here at Ning (and in the Creators Network) who can weigh in. In addition to community management experience, I also have a background rooted in publishing and communications. I’m all about spreading compelling information and advice — and that includes helping Network Creators do the same.
One way we’re spreading it is with the Ning Now newsletter, which we’ve recently begun sending to everyone who has created a Ning Network on Ning. I’ll be helping to create and corral and organize the content of the newsletter, but it’s really a team effort. Don’t mean to be so forward, but I pretty much already consider you part of the team. I know we’re just now meeting for the first time, but I’d like you to take an important role in the shaping of the newsletter: I’d like your feedback as we move forward.
To that end, friend: Let us know what you’d like to see. You gave us a few suggestions after a recent issue, but feel free to share more feedback and suggestions here if you like.
What say you?
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Well-designed Ning Networks

We've collected Ning Networks that have inspiring design here in the past. Here's a post on Socialbrite, where LauraO shares some of her favorites. The collection includes Ning Networks focused on commercial efforts, those that are non-profit based, as well as a couple making best use of the Groups feature.

Some will be familiar, but there are definitely a few Ning Networks new to me!


What do you think of those mentioned? Which do you think should be joining as a best-designed Ning Network?

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We recently concluded a very successful online survey of our members on our social network for people interested in finance and investing, and would like to share with other Ning creators why we did it, how we went about doing it, and what we learnt about our network.

Let's start off by explaining why we did it. We did it for the simple reason of wanting to get to our members better, and find ways to grow our network by understanding how to serve them better. While we were getting lots of qualitative feedback through constantly interacting with members who were active on the network on a one-to-one basis, we also wanted to reach out to the sizeable population of registered members and non-registered visitors who are less active in discussion forums and networking, but were still visiting our network regularly just to browse content.

How we went about doing it? We set up our survey using a 3rd party survey software provider. We used Survey Monkey as it met our needs best, but there are tons of other providers out there such as Survey Gizmo and Poll Daddy, to name a few, each offering their own online survey tools that you may find better and / or more suited to your situation.

We then set out an invitation to our members in our weekly newsletter (followed by a reminder email a couple of days later), but what really helped us drive responses was the incentive of a free ebook download, as well as a chance to win a small cash prize.

When we were done collating and analyzing the final results of the survey after we closed it, we also made a choice to publish the results to our members and the general public, as we felt that that was another way to communicate with our members and not ring-fence what was essentially our member's contribution and work.

Besides, as the survey results were generally positive, we also felt that publishing our results helped us in our marketing - it reinforced the credibility of our network as a place for like minded people to come to for authentic, unbiased and quality finance and investing content and interaction.

So what did we learn about our network and its members? A lot of the discussion posts on our forum were started by college students studying finance, which led us to initially believe that we should prioritize our attention and extend our out-reach programs further with the student audience. However our intuition and common sense always told us that there were probably lots more employed professionals than students out there who were interested in the finance and investing content we had to offer on our network.

Sure enough, we found from our survey that over 80% of our members were in full-time employment, and virtually all of them have a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. As a matter of fact, graduate or professional degree holders represent two thirds of the respondents. This finding dispeled notions that our network was only for students, and in fact reached out to a much broader professional audience.

Why was this happening? While younger students are the most active in the forum and are certainly the most visible part of our audience, it is clear that the significant bunch of older employed professionals out there were simply sitting back and silently observing all that was going on on our network. Taken in context with the qualitative feedback we’ve received, we guessed that it’s not a matter of all take and no give, but perhaps more a matter of familiarity with social media and the perennial issue of the time that our members could allocate from their busy lives to active social media participation on our niche network.

So that wraps up our post about how we conducted a successful online survey on our Ning network, and if you have comments or feedback to share, please leave a comment and I'll try to respond as soon as I can.

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Jim Burke, High School English teacher and Ning Network Creator, recently won the 2009 Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Social Networking Service. When I came across this article announcing the Edublog Award, I was interested to hear what inspired Jim to create English Companion Ning and what he learned along the way. With over 11,000 members, it is clear that English Companion Ning created a much-needed space for High School English teachers. Jim discusses how he found his audience, and uses his audience to build and maintain a successful environment. Thank you Jim, for sharing this advice, and congratulations on the Edublog award!
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Tom Humbarger has written a fascinating read on the importance of active management to the success of an online community.One of the most interesting sections to me is the Google Analytics snippet. We don't often get to compare our network metrics to others. In a year and a half, the group grew from 0 to 4,000 members, and in the final full year saw just under 200,000 pageviews.
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Going Local with Ning

One of my Ning networks is getting enough members that I'd like it to start having a local focus. In an ideal world Ning would use the town/state/country information in member profiles to geotag. That would allow us to target by geography, e.g., send a message to anyone within twenty miles of Boston, MA.But you can hack a geography listing.
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Manny Hernandez, Network Creator and Guide here on Creators, is up for a ShortyAward for his network, Tudiabetes. Shorty Awards honor the best producers of real-time, short form content on Twitter.Let's help out a fellow Network Creator and vote! Tudiabetes, a "community of people touched by diabetes", is currently in 4th position in the health category. To vote, just tweet:I nominate @tudiabetes for a Shorty Award in #health because...(add reason here)Visit Tudiabetes.org to see the amazing work Manny has done so far then add your reason in the tweet. You can do this on Twitter.com, with any Twitter client, or using the voting box on Shortyawards.com.

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Photo Finish Records is an indie label with bands such as 3OH!3, New Medicine and The Downtown Fiction. We were so impressed with its hip and funky 3D design that we asked Edith Levin of Edith Levin LLC, a freelance designer for Atlantic Records, to walk us through how she came up with the design, and offer up some of her own design tips.
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NC for Hire
UPDATE:
FEEDLY MAGAZINE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE USING THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN IN THIS DISCUSSION. IT HAS BEEN REPORTED THAT THE EMBEDDED CODE WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE AGAIN UNTIL SUMMER 2010.


Wow! OMGosh, I'm in LOVE! Do not miss out on this awesome Ning App. Have you been chomping at the bit to combine your Latest Activity RSS feeds? Here you go - - the Feedly Ning App.

This is a great tool to utilize, to combine your RSS feeds in one place. And not only does Feedly combine your feeds, per your selection, the Feedly Magazine format, rocks.

I will admit, I had to carefully follow all of Ernie's instructions, here:
Learn How To Add Feedly Magazine Using Your RSS Content
but, was it worth it! Feedly is some powerful application, to say the least. I can certainly see why they won the recent Appathon! Hop over and read Ernie's instructions, come back here and find more tips!

Basically, you install the Feedly add-on to your browser, and start adding your selected content (RSS feeds) to your Feedly Magazine. Aside from Ernie's instructions, this is my best advice: Be sure to create a Category, and give it a name, like your Ning Network Name. Then, add your Ning RSS feeds to your new Category.

At first glance, the Feedly.com interface is a little intimidating. Navigate around and experiment. It won't take you long to catch on. I had created a magazine filled with great content, in less than 10 minutes. The key to keeping your Feedly in one place for your Ning Network, is the Category. DO NOT use a Category Title with 2 words and a space, like Ning Directory. This will mess up the URL when you're ready to add to your Ning. Instead use something like: NingDirectory (no spaces).

The finished results seem to be random, which keeps it fresh. I'm still getting comfortable with the app.

Follow Ernie's instructions from the link above. Then, after you've installed Feedly to your Browser, create that category, and start adding those URLs (using "add source"). When you've added all the RSS feeds you want, get ready to grab the embedded code. You can install on your Ning Network via the special Ning App instructions (different than most Ning app installs), or you can install via a new page (see below).

Additionally, here's a great video tutorial offered by the Feedly Team.


How To Add Your Feedly Via a New Page, instead of Ning Apps:
If you want to add your Feedly Magazine to your Ning Network via a new page - - when you get to the point that you grab the embedded code, grab the HTML Widget link, instead of the Ning Widget link. Add the HTML Widget link via an iframe, within a new page.
Tip: To create a new page on your Ning Network, go to this link:
http://yournetwork.ning.com/page/page/new

Here's the iframe code you'll need for your new page.

<div align="center" id="feedly_mag"><iframe src="http://www.feedly.com/embed#mix/07932917225450226256/NingDirectory"
width="100%" height="1000" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe></div>

Just replace the URL with your feedly URL. Again, do not use the Ning Widget URL link, to add feedly via a new page. Use the HTML Widget link.

Good luck creating your new Feedly Magazine, for your Ning Network! What a fantastic viral marketing opportunity!
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Welcome to the second in a series of Ning Creators blog posts focusing on simple design tricks you can use on your network.

Trick #2: Centering the Navigation

The following code, used on Carmen Electra's official community, will center your network's navigation area in all web browsers.

CarmenElectra.com

To do this, just visit the "Appearance" area inside the "Manage" tab, then paste the following CSS snippet inside the "Advanced" section (underneath any other code that may already be there):

#xg_navigation ul {text-align: center;margin: 0 auto;}#xg_navigation ul li {display: -moz-inline-box; /* inline-block for earlier versions of FF */-moz-box-orient: vertical; /* inline-block for earlier versions of FF */display: inline-block;vertical-align: middle;*display: inline; /* ie7+ hack */*vertical-align: auto; /* ie7+ hack */text-align: left;float: none;}#xg_navigation ul li a {display: inline;}

When you're done, click the "Save" button. Your navigation should now be centered. Enjoy!

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Meanwhile, you can check our social media channels