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Running a webinar is easy and a great way to get member involvement, have fun, and make money thorugh your network. I have attempted several methods of generating revenue through my network and running webinars (Online Seminars) has proven to be one of the most effective. Below are the steps I took to conduct a webinar:

1. What do your members want?
Focusing the webinar on a "hot" topic is key to the success of your webinar. Find out what your members want most by conducting a survey using a service like Survey Monkey (it is free and easy). You can also get ideas from looking at popular forum discussions, or, a special interest group that generates a lot of activity.

2. Find the expert on the subject.
Finding the expert on the subject you choose will get your members excited about the event and give them confidence that it is worth the money. The expert could be a well-known author, a professor, or blogger. They could even be a member of your network!

3. Choose a Webinar Service.
The webinar service is where you schedule and conduct your webinar. Out of all the options, GoToWebinar is the easiest, most reliable and affordable. Two others are Webex and DimDim. Webex was waaayyy too expensive and DimDim did not offer great tech support.

4. Eventbrite.
Collecting payments via Eventbrite is easy and free to setup. They take a minimal % of ticket sales, so they only make money when you make money. Eventbrite also allows you to integrate the ticket forms into your website for a seamless, branded experience.

5. Promote. Promote. Promote.
The success of your webinar hangs on the hinges of how well you promote the event. Just creating an event page on your network is not enough. If you build it, they will not come until you invite them. Share your event with your members on a progressive basis. Start promoting the event at least a month in advance and remind your members at two weeks, then one week, then one day... you get the idea. Send out a press release. Create an affiliate program (again via Eventbrite) and ask people to help spread the word via blogging, facebook, and twitter.

6. Prepare for Game Day.
GoToWebinar has a feature that allows you to practice your webinar before the actual day. It is a good idea to go through a practice run before the actual event.

7. Have Fun!

I hope you find this helpful. Please feel free to share your experiences with conducting webinars in the comments below.

Thanks!

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My Modern Met has been running their own ads since 2008. By achieving high growth and traffic to their network, as well as creating high quality content, they’ve been able to secure deals with top tier ad networks and achieve CPMs in the double digits. Recently, these ad networks have brought to them site-specific buys and unique sponsorship opportunities.

Hi, I'm Alice from My Modern Met. I was asked to share my story on how we've managed to make money on our Ning network. Though our story is unique, there are common experiences we as Ning Creators will all face. Particularly if you're going to try and make money through advertising, I'd love to share with you some things we've learned along the way.

There are a whole bunch of ways to make money on your Ning network by advertising which include banner advertising with Google Adsense or ad networks, contextual advertising, affiliate sales (cost-per-click, cost-per-action, cost-per-sale), direct advertising and sponsorships. CPM (or cost per thousand) banner advertising is traffic driven, the more people you have looking at your banner ad, the more money you can make. Cost per thousand means that for every 1,000 impressions (or eyeballs), you get a certain amount of money which can range from a few cents to double digit dollars.

When I first started My Modern Met, we focused our attention on building up the community and providing interesting content. We started as a private, invite-only site and we took off the Google Adsense ads immediately, though looking back we probably could have kept them on. The reason we took them off was because our site was a little too broad, meaning we didn't have such a specific niche that Adsense was working effectively. That being said, even if you're not making a lot of money in the early stages, you want people to get used to seeing advertising on your site and making some money is better than none. We decided that it was better to use up the web real estate with interesting content. We built up our core community through friends and family. After about three months, we opened up My Modern Met to the public. Our content started to spread virally around the web, bringing in tens of thousands of people a day. At that point, we knew we were big enough to approach ad networks.

Through our own research and by talking to people at conferences, we found a bunch of ad networks that would fit with us and found out their criteria for getting accepted. We knew that we had to reach a critical mass of unique visitors and pageviews before we could even approach them. Once we hit those milestones, we reached out to them and were able to secure deals.

We manage our ads through Google Ad Manager. (Here's a good article from Hongkiat on how to set it up if you're looking into managing your ad networks or even your direct buys.)

With time and increased traffic, we were able to partner with more premium ad networks. After two years, we're now in the position where we're receiving site specific buys and sponsorship opportunities.

Here are our top ten tips on how to make money through advertising:

1. Be patient - Don't expect to partner with ad networks until you reach a minimum threshold (number of unique visitors or pageviews).
2. Research ad networks - Find out which ones best fit with your Ning network. There's a wide range of ad networks for particular niches like luxury and tech.
3. Be persistent - If you get denied from an ad network, don't give up. Approach them again after a certain period of time. Legitimacy comes with increased traffic over time.
4. Have high quality content, find your niche - If possible create original content that others would want to link to and spread.
5. Decide on your business model - Banners advertising works well for sites with high traffic, while smaller, more targeted niche sites work well with Google Adsense or affiliate sales.
6. Grow your community - What sets your site apart from blogs is that you have engaged members. Make that one of your selling points when you approach advertisers or ad networks.
7. Build traffic - Don't overlook the power of Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon.
8. Use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter - These will also help you spread content and build up your community.
9. Get to know other Ning Creators - Find out what works for them and see if you can apply it to your network.
10. Get outside your comfort zone - Attend conferences and network. You may want to just sit at your desk and work on your site but getting out there into the real world will help you see if you're headed in the right direction, find new ideas and identify trends. This is invaluable.

I hope this information helps. Good luck to all of you Ning Creators out there and if you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me at alice@mymodernmet.com. Thanks!

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CafePress for Fun & Profit

In April, I set up a CafePress Shop for the Duke City Fix, a Ning-based city blog about Albuquerque, New Mexico. Through CafePress we now sell custom t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, and other blog-branded schwag.


When I decided to set up the Shop I had two simple goals:
  1. To build awareness through guerrilla marketing. My hope is that the promotional merchandise we sell will serve as mobile billboards for our site.
  2. To generate some cash to help underwrite our work on the site. We do also host Google ads, so the Cafe Press shop is a supplement to the Google income.

I'd worked with CafePress before, and liked that the company makes it so easy to set up a Shop and start selling. Also -- and I think this is super-important for those of us who are operating on a shoestring -- CafePress requires no (zero, nada, zip) upfront investment from the Shop owner. When you make a sale, CafePress' cut comes from the buyer, not from you. You don't have to create, store, or ship inventory, and you don't need a merchant or PayPal account. You have zero risk.


Without going into too much detail about how to set up a Cafe Press site (they have great, clear instructions), let me list the tools we use to promote our Shop:

  • I chose to create a Premium Shop (not required) which costs $4.99/month but allows me to customize the look of the shop. In retrospect I might not have chosen the Premium option, but I can be a control freak so there you have it. A Basic Shop is completely free.
  • The Shop features slogans and in-jokes that had been developed by our community over the life of the site. Using "The Duke Abides", "That's Not Dust, That's Enchantment", and "Oh sí liar!" on our schwag helps to create a sense of ownership among our readers.
  • We deliberately set our markup at a low amount, in order to keep prices low and encourage sales. If revenue had been our first goal, I might have set the markup higher. Through CafePress you decide how big a cut you receive on each sale.
  • I created a custom banner to use on The Fix's home page (see the banner image above). It sits in a text box, and is linked directly to the shop.
  • We announced the shop on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
  • We ran a contest, which we promoted through Facebook, Twitter, and the Broadcast Message function on Ning. As part of the contest, we asked our readers to come up with a new slogan for the site (we change the slogan periodically). And products with that slogan are now offered in the shop.

Finally, the results! We initially ran the shop on our front page for three weeks*. During that time:

  • We sold just over 40 items.
  • We made just over $40 (remember that we set our markup low!)
  • We generated great buzz on and off our Ning site.
  • Through the promotion of the Shop, we drove traffic to our own site.

*The shop came down off the front page for a few weeks to allow us to run a different promotion, but now it's back up there. And while sales have slowed, we're still selling, and still happy with the results.
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Getting Donations

With the phasing out of free Ning networks, I was faced with two choices. Keep Outsider Writers as it is with the $200 level program, or kick about 850 members out and slide down to the $20 plan. With nearly a thousand members, I decided to ask for help figuring, nothing ventured nothing gained, and really, nothing to lose. I posted about the situation on our main page and sent a broadcast message to all our members. I pointed out the bad news and the good news. The bad news being we needed to raise $200. The good news was that with a thousand members, we only needed to chip in twenty cents each! Of course, this was rather tongue in cheek and I mentioned that if we could get ten percent participation it would still only be $2.00 each.

I asked people to consider pledging $4 or $5 in case some people couldn't afford even $2.
I should mention that the other people working on the site with me were skeptical. But they were surprised because about twenty people responded right away. Three people gave pledges in the $50 range with the rest ranging from $2 to $10. I sent these people a PayPal invoice, or my mailing address, according to their preference. Within ten days I had nearly $300 raised.
We are hoping that we can raise enough money by selling the available advertising space and that we won't need to beg each year. I highly recommend asking for donations. Again, nothing to lose and everything to gain.
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Generating revenue through advertising can be golden; however, how does a network creator manage the advertising real estate?


First...what is advertising real estate? Since there is only so much space on a web page (okay so technically there is nearly unlimited space on a web page, but being realistic, there is only so much that is considered quality space) advertising real estate, is that space that a network creator allocates to advertising.

A few of tips before moving forward:
  1. Too much advertising can take away from the site visitor's experience and too little can be lost revenue. Finding a balance that works for your demographic is key.
  2. Work within your chosen web design. Placing advertising in awkward places on the site just to draw attention can be counter productive. Yes, you may get a visitor's attention, but by diminishing their experience on your site can be a huge negative.
  3. The key to success in advertising revenue is going to be return site visitors. The amount of effort and cost to get a new visitor to your website can be very costly and usually is. Keeping a balance of new visitors vs returning visitors is key. The balance and mix of these two variables is dependent on the site business model. For a social network, heavy percentage on return visitors is a must. If they aren't returning, something is wrong.
Okay, so how to manage the ad space? First, what are the variables that affect ad space?

They are:
  1. Ad size
  2. Ad placement
  3. Ad cost
  4. Ad exposure
In a nutshell there are just four variables to consider. Let's break each one down.

First, Ad size. Ad size is defined by the actual space that the ad will occupy on the web page. Whether placing graphics-based or text-based advertisements, the space requirement should be considered. Banner ads are typically sized by pixels, so for example, a 160x600 banner requires 160 pixels for the width and 600 pixels for the height.

Second, Ad placement. There are many combinations that can be used with regard to ad placement. The typical placement on a Ning network will be the right column. This space will receive the highest exposure because nearly every page on the network will have this column visible. It is also easy to manage by simply placing a text box and adding a banner image. Network creators can also easily place ads in all three columns on the network homepage. With bit more work, posting ads in the header, footer, and content areas, can be done; however, at present this will require a bit of javascript code and may offer some unpredictable outcomes.

Third, Ad cost. In determining how much to sell advertising space for, there are numerous considerations.
  1. What are the demographics of the site?
  2. Who could benefit from advertising?
  3. Do I charge CPC, or CPM?
  4. How much traffic does this network generate?
  5. Where will the ad be placed, (for example above the fold or below)?
This consideration (ad cost) can be expanded even further, but I will leave that for the comments.

Forth, Ad exposure. Ad exposure has four basic variables. They are:
  1. How many times an ad is seen by an individual.
  2. How often an ad is seen by an individual.
  3. The geographical location of the individual seeing the ad.
  4. The time the ad is being seen by an individual.
There are additional variables, like age, gender, browser type, etc., but those are beyond the scope of this discussion and can be explored in the comments.

Managing the complexity of advertising space can be daunting if not properly equipped. for the task.

For this reason, I recommend, Google Ad Manager as a solution for managing your advertising campaigns. This robust solution offers handy tools for managing your campaign along with providing confidence in reporting for your advertisers.

What experiences do you have regarding generating revenue via an advertising model?

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For years many forums and blogs have been offered by online service companies for free as the companies made money on advertising. For example, most of the Google ads you see on nearly every one generate money for them. Some of the companies like Yahoo have started selling their own ad services.Face facts ... no one does all this for free ... buy hundreds of servers and generate online services ... web hosting, email services, blog servers, and even Yahoo. Yahoo is a multi-billion dollar service company and Google too. They made their money from what ... selling advertising and premium services.Many Bloggers and forum owners start as a hobby ... take some favorite idea or group of like minded friends and building on it. For example we started our forums Americans Living in Brazil, the Management forum, and the Brazilian Travel Club in 1999 as a hobby because we wanted to create a meeting place for other Americans or ex-pats from where ever to talk about their experiences and share with others here to.The club itself was started as personally we own a travel service and joined with other providers to offer discounts and VIP services to members.I don´t need to tell anyone the financial mess the world is in at the moment. Many members moved to Brazil in search for a means to enjoy lower costs of living or a more tranquil life style. I did too.In 1999 I had to retire from my profession as a boat captain worldwide for major oil and offshore construction companies. This is because I had a 'stroke' on board a vessel and both the doctors and the Coast Guard said I could no longer stand the 24 hour a day stress and another stroke would finish me.We had owned the travel service since 1987, and have been (still) an environmental consultant for the Brazilian agency IBAMA, but in the early 2000s I started trying to help local communities here in the semi-arid northeast. During this time I have visited, traveled and worked in most of the states in Brazil (-2). In 2005 we formed the ONG Associação ABTC-BRASIL to attempt to consolidate forces and accomplish this dream of helping others ... both my fellow immigrants and the communities we chose to live in.Some forums and Blogs are either now or considering charging fixed subscription fees ... I chose, at least for now, not to do this.The idea of donations to help support costs seemed better. In each case a member could or would pay what he felt our work was worth. To encourage this we are trying to improve the quality of the service we are offering.We chose NING to do our BLOG for the ease of use and the services they offered. And what they are trying to offer with Premium services.DonaldAmericans Living in Brazil BLOG

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We have always prided ourselves on our uptime record. In March, we had 99.999% uptime. However, Ning Networks experienced slowness last week and brief downtime on Thursday evening. I wanted to take a few moments to walk you through what happened last week and what we’re working on to improve on situations like this going forward.

Starting Tuesday morning we saw sporadic instability in our servers, resulting in slowness that many of you experienced. Our operations and engineering teams investigated a variety of potential causes for the instability including a back-end release that was pushed out on Monday. We rolled the release back as part of our investigation and continued to look for the root cause.

On Thursday morning we believe we identified and addressed the primary cause of the instability: we had started testing a prototype to deliver real-time information to Ning Networks on Monday. We stopped the test and continued to monitor the platform. At around 8pm that day a cluster of cache servers that had become slightly unstable during the investigation started failing. At this point, we began an unplanned maintenance to restart them and it took about 70 minutes to complete the restarts and go live.

Whenever there’s an issue on the Ning Platform, we pursue the following protocol: First, our on-call engineers begin investigating what might be causing the issue. Then, for larger issues like this week, we escalate it to all-hands on deck. We also strive to get information out to you as fast as possible through several channels including the Ning Status Blog, Creators Ning Network and Ning Status Twitter account. Longer-term, we are working on an NC landing page with an announcement bar for important messages and a separate, lightweight “Report an Issue” link, which will allow NCs to quickly and simply report an issue they may be experiencing.

Following this incident, I wanted to highlight two specific areas we have identified for improvement:
1 It took longer than we’d like to identify and fix the problem: To address this, we are continuing our work on a series of projects that will simplify the platform and improve our ability to identify problems quickly when they happen. I will share more details with you early next week.
2 -We were not as effective as we could have been in communicating both the state of the platform and what we were working on: To address this, we are reviewing our internal and external communication processes to ensure that we can give you the most accurate and timely information on what is happening.

Keeping your Ning Network online and speedy is our top priority. Thanks again for all of your patience. As always we appreciate your feedback, so please let us know if you experience any problems on your Ning Network or have ideas for how we can improve the service.

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The Big Announcement: We haven’t sent out a regular digest in a few weeks. If we had, it would have been about one thing: Our big May 4th announcement. We’re thrilled to have finally announced the upcoming plans and pricing, and we’ll be working to bring you as much information about the changes coming in July. We’ll be updating our News & Views About Change regularly if you want to follow some of the highlights and new things we’ve seen. We’ll also keep you updated via this weekly Best of the Week digest.
Ning Network slow-downs: We’ve had reports from Creators of slow-loading pages and even some folks who are having trouble accessing their Ning Networks. The issue seems to be sporadic and only affecting some Ning Networks (it was visible on Creators yesterday for a bit). Our engineers are working non-stop to identify the root cause and lessen the impact on Creators and their members. You can check and/or follow both the Ning Status Blog and the Ning Status Twitter feed for updates. We’ll also do our best to keep you informed on Creators.
New spam tools: We’ll soon be rolling out more ammo in our fight against spam: 3 New Ways to Stop Spammers and Verify Your Members. Some of these tools echo previous product requests from Creators. So, for example, we’re happy to be delivering things like a customized quiz for prospective members. That tool will help protect your Ning Network against spambots, but it will also let you ask “in-the-know” questions to help you attract quality new members.
Made by Awesome Creators
Jen: Ning Conference Call Highlights: Discussion on Ning Premium Plans and the New Ning
Across the Internet
This week we stumbled upon a ton of conflicting advice — yet both points of view were still valid.
For example, Why Fights Are So Important was written by the same community-focused guy who wrote The Dividing Line On Inflammatory Comments. Both good reads. He always has great advice, from Creating Titles For Members to why you should turn your sign-up form into The Application Form.
Lots of folks keep talking about Facebook and privacy and the Bewildering Tangle of Options you may encounter if you are keen on being a more private person on Facebook. Again, lots of conflicting opinions out there, including differing opinions about the new Facebook Like button (which some Creators have already asked for). It ranges from Why I Like the Facebook Like Button to Think Before You Like.
This had nothing to do with anything, but we loved the header on this Ning Network. Fun!
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NC for Hire

Ning Conference Call Highlights:


What Got My Attention On the Ning Conference Call? The Plus Plan

I'm not sure if any of you chose to join one of the phone conferences Ning offered in the past couple of days. I attended the last one on Thursday May 6, 2010, before the final call on Friday (Spanish call).

I have to tell you, on behalf of a lot of fellow Network Creators and friends, I was pleasantly surprised with what all I heard. Even for the Plus Plan, the power and features will be so much more than currently offered. With the exception of uploading Videos, Music and branded players, the Plus is like all of the premium services put together, plus a whole lot more, and all for $19.95 per month. This is actually a good deal less than premium networks pay today, for the same features - - again, except the music and video uploads. But the most critical point to keep in mind, there are a host of additional features you will gain from the Plus, that no one has today. Read more, below.

There were a lot of exciting topics touched-on in the conference call. And, for current premium customers it's almost a no-brainer. I have been a premium subscriber since day one, and will remain a premium. However, my main reason for joining the call was to learn and share any information I thought would be helpful to fellow Network Creators; especially for those of you who are currently free Ning Networks, and are struggling with making a decision. Some of you know your next move, and that's great. For those who aren't sure, and are considering the Plus Plan, here are a few tidbits I retained from the call.

Plus Plan Highlights:
Since the biggest loss is uploading videos and music, I will cover that first. In regards to Video, my understanding is: if you choose to go with the Plus instead of the Pro, any videos you currently have on your site will remain accessible in the same manner they are today. However, you or members will not be able to upload any more in the future. But, here's the thing. You can upload/host your videos somewhere like YouTube and add the embedded code to your Ning Network, in pretty much any text box from the home page to profile pages. And, I believe you will still be able to upload Videos with the "+Add Video" feature. My guess is: you just won't see an upload button, but a text box for embedded code.

For music, you can use a similar method formusic uploads, by utilizing embedded music players. There are several free music players available online - - and you can use the embedded code for those players on your Ning Network. I know for sites where video and music uploads are critical, this adds an extra step. However, if these two media formats are that critical to a site, you probably should figure out how to upgrade to the Pro Plan.

This is how I see it, if I were trying to make a decision. If I could not go to the Pro Plan, and I could live with video and music embeds, the Plus Plan is awesome. This is why.

  • Unlimited Members
  • All the features premium Networks enjoy today, with that one exception of no uploads on video and music.
  • Removal of all Ning Branding. Now you can promote your brand completely.
  • Ad-free - - you can run your own Ads, even if just Google Adsense. You can sell whatever you want - - I suppose as long as it's not illegal or something in the porn arena.
  • Your site will no longer carry the Ning brand/name. When a new member signs-up, they will see your name, your brand.
  • And this simply ROCKS! Sign-in with Facebook, Twitter or other authentication services
    (Coming soon)
  • You will have the option of using your own domain name.
  • You will have new features like special text boxes for the header/footer.
  • Small yet very powerful new features like: being able to choose the home page - - what your members and visitors will see first.
  • Member Stats
  • 25 Text Boxes and 25 RSS Feeds
  • Feature controls like: Hide invite, share, Facebook or Twitter links, turn off private messaging, and strengthen member verification.


Here's another topic that of course got my attention - - optional premium Memberships:

I can't remember if this was available for Plus and Pro. If any other attendee knows, please let us knowand I will move it up to the bulleted items for the Plus Plan.

You will be able to choose whether or not you want to charge members formembership, and the way I heard it: you should be able to choose areas of your Social Network, and enable a membership fee for that specific area. It wasn't clear on when this level of membership fees would be available, and I may have misunderstood how this will work. Time will tell. I do believe however, the basic "membership fee" feature will be available soon. Additionally, the Ning platform will process the payments for you, via PayPal.

There was definitely more covered in the call, and especially with the unique questions/answers asked by fellow Ning Network Creators. For example: a fellow Network Creator asked if Ning would raise their rates. The Ning Team was very quick to answer, "We have no plans to raise the rates." You had to be there. It was very convincing. But, time will tell.

I have covered the main points I caught. If anyone else reading this blog attended a call, and you want to add more, or correct anything I've stated, please do. :-)

Hoping everyone is able to make the absolute best decision.

Best,
Jen

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I can't really say it better: "National High Five Day falls on the third Thursday of April
each year, which falls this year on April 15, 2010. "

That's right! Tomorrow is the Day to Celebrate high fives, by indeed, giving out high fives as much as possible. We're going to be offering virtual high fives here on Creators, to all of you who contribute positively to the conversations here.

Have you thought about celebrating this on your Ning Network? To help, here are a few high five graphics:


Check out more content (including videos!) at the National High Five Day website.





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Can content enhance your Ning Network?

Yesterday we interviewed Box.net Platform Manager Jeremy Glassenberg about the Box.net Ning App, and how Ning Networks can use it to help manage and share content. Today, the friendly people at Box.net are giving away one year of Box.net Business service for 20 seats — a $2,400 value!

Entering is super simple. All you need to do is comment on this blog post, and let us know how your Ning Network would benefit from Box.net’s Cloud Content Management capabilities. Please include both your Ning Network’s address (http://) and how you would use Box.net in your comment on the blog post. One winner will be chosen by overall best use case. Hurry! We’re accepting entries up until Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m PST.

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The Ning social network we used in our BYU Comms230 class this semester was a useful tool that was wholeheartedly embraced and endorsed by class members. Powerful, intuitive social media tools aren’t just for marketing. They represent and facilitate fundamental shifts in human interaction—shifts that can improve university learning.


>>> 43 out of 43 students said such a network would be helpful in ALL of their classes.


>>> The following few quotes represent hundreds of positive comments from class members:


“The network took class discussions and extended them into online conversations.”

“Seeing my classmates’ work sparked my own ideas.”

“The professor has talked a lot this semester about building a personal online brand. Blogging has helped me do that.”

“I got many more insights through sharing ideas on blog posts.”

“The network unified our class and facilitated communication.”

“I was motivated to submit higher quality work because I knew my peers would see it.”

“It’s simple. I don’t have to print assignments. I can get things done from anywhere. It’s quick. The communication is instant.”

“Everything I need for class is in one spot—the calendar, syllabus, class video stream, lecture slides, and quick ability to contact classmates, the professor, and the TA.”

“My questions are answered and my comments acknowledged much quicker than in regular classes.”

“Blogging forced me to think. I wasn’t just memorizing material.”

“Blogging has helped me feel like I have a jump on the industry because I’m actually in it.”

“It was really motivating to me to make my blog posts good so that others would respond to them.”

“Comments left on the posts unified the class, and we were able to bounce ideas off each other.”

“Blogging made me think, and put those thoughts into words. When you have to explain yourself to others it makes you dig deeper and find out why you think that way.”

“Yes. I recommend it for other classes. The world is more technologically savvy. Students must be too.”

“Blackboard is functional, but the Ning network is fun and so much more interactive.”


You can read the full post by clicking >HERE.


You can visit the class network by clicking >HERE.

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Important! Maintenance on Friday

Important notice for all Network Creators: All Ning Networks will be down for scheduled maintenance this Friday (tomorrow), April 9th from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. PST. Since this is planned downtime, your Ning Network will display a branded message (with *your* Ning Network’s name) to any visitors. If you have any questions, please let us know here.

10,000 Creators Strong Contest Winner(s)

It’s official. We’ve now reached our 10,000th member and awarded our contest prizes: John and Jennifer, FTW! Thanks to everyone for helping us celebrate this milestone.

Want to Connect Your Ning Network to LinkedIn?

Someone asked for a clever way to connect their Ning Network to LinkedIn, and a Creator had a really nifty idea about how to use a simple RSS feed to connect the two. Great answer, Steve!

Made by Awesome Creators

Jen: Check Credentials of Potential New Friends Before Accepting Friend Requests

Joseph Porcelli: Teaching Members Which Features to Use When! and How to Export Your Members to a CSV File

Amit S: Running a Ning Network Isn't a Child's Play!!

Across the Internet

Fundraising from Online Communities: Love this quote: “If you want to fundraise from online communities, don’t start by asking for money.”

Is your Ning Network F-U-N? Don’t Build a Boring Online Community

This is (in theory) written for PR folks, but a few of these tips could be invaluable for Network Creators (check out BackTweets and Wordle for usefulness and fun, respectively).

Excuse me, sir. Are forums going to be replaced by something shiny and new? Forums Are Everywhere and Here to Stay, So Skip the Tools Discussion and Focus on Your Objectives

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Fellow NC's,

This is Joseph Porcelli, one of Guides here on Creators. This week, I'm spending some of my time reminding our members which feature to use when so I thought I share some of our process with you.

Have you ever noticed (or gotten frustrated) that you members will post content in the wrong features? Blogs in forums, forums in blogs, events as blogs…ring a bell?

A while back a study was conducted on our networks. One of the major observations was that there was no continuity to where our members posted and found content. To address this we've taken the following steps:

  1. We distinguished and published how each feature is best used and gave concrete examples.
  2. We used the language editor to change the names of the feature on the front page. See what it looks like.
  3. We made a Prezi.com presentation that quickly explains which features to use when. Feel free to use our prezi or save it and customize it for your own networks.
  4. We edited our welcome message to mention which features to use when. Here is the link on how to edit your welcome message.
  5. In our weekly broadcast messages we remind folks what feature to use when and event break out forum posts by category to reinforce how to use the forums . Here is a copy of our most recent broadcast message NFN_Broadcast.pdf
How are you teaching your members which features to use when?
@JosephPorcelli
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If you joined Creators recently, you may have known about our contest to reward our 10,000th member with a Timbuk2 Ning bag and 10,000 gift credits. We’re happy to report that we have a winner! Well, actually, two.

Please join us in raising the roof, hoisting a glass, and high-fiving Creator John Freeman! He’s located in the U.K., and his Ning Network, Down the Tubes, is all about British comics. Congratulations, John! You are our 10,000th member!


We always ask folks to let us know how they heard about Creators, and some people regularly tell us that they heard about us from an existing member of Creators. We wanted to reward one of those people who get mentioned a lot, so we tallied up the person with the most recommendations and came up with a second winner: Jennifer James. It makes sense for us to see so many people listing Jennifer as how they heard about Creators; she runs a number of very successful Ning Networks, including the Mom Bloggers Club.

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer and John. You'll both be receiving a Timbuk2 Ning bag like this one in the mail, and you should soon see 10,000 gift credits attached to your account. Go crazy with the gifts!

We also wanted to say thanks to everyone else who’s been following along as we grow. The Creators Network as you see it now has only been alive for five months, and we’re thrilled at how much we’ve grown. What makes it especially wonderful for those of us who work at Ning is how we can take the combined wisdom of our members and apply that directly to how we build Creators. Like many of you, we’re building up a Ning Network from scratch; having so many smart people around to offer suggestions and feedback moves us along and inspires us to keep building new things.

Thanks again, everyone! We’ll do some more contests soon. Feel free to suggest an idea for one, too. Always open to suggestions.

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10,000 Creators Mark Reached

We reached our 10,000th member! We’ll be announcing the winners (there’s two!), but it looks like that might be early next week. We’ve contacted them and are awaiting their responses. Thanks to everyone who entered — which is everyone. We’ll definitely be doing more contests in the future. We’d like to also spotlight contests NCs have run in the past that were successful. Everyone can benefit from that kind of shared knowledge.

April Fools!

Jen, one of our superstar Creators members, totally tricked us with an April Fool’s joke. Most April Fool’s jokes don’t work on us, but this one did. Apparently, it worked on a lot of people. Nice one, Jen!

DIY: The “Hero” Box

Lots of Creators have been asking about the new carousel of rotating images at the top of the Creators Main Page. Here’s a tutorial that shows how to make something similar.


Made by Awesome Creators

JP: 5 Free Matching Ning Backgrounds and Ning Headers

Joseph Porcelli: How to Export Your Members to a CSV File

Jen: Add Google Ads in Header

Peter Moorman: Top 5 Reasons Ning Members Leave and How You Can Get Them to Stay


Across the Internet

Developing Online Community Guidelines: This is some great advice for anyone who ever plans on revising their Ning Network guidelines. It includes a comprehensive list of all the things you *could* restrict — but with reasons why you shouldn’t.

Ever wanted to go beyond the virtual and actually meet the people in your Ning Network? Here’s 8 Ways To Merge Your Online Community With The Real World

The One Thing About Building a Community asks the question: If I had to start over from scratch and build a new online community, what would I do different? Good quote: “Community is not something that happens when you need it, it's something that you build over time that is suddenly there for you, when you need it.”

From the shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater department: Does Free Speech Apply to Communities? Favorite quote: “Those accusing you of censorship are a bit like those friends of friends who appear in your house, smoke in the kitchen, turn the music up a little bit too loud and suggest you should chill out when you challenge them.”

Community Resource: We discovered some new online resources; especially good for larger Ning Networks.

Can you answer this question: “People will participate in my community because…” If not, read on: Why Will People Participate In Your Online Community

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Fellow NCs,

Once a month we do an export of our members and import them into our CRM database. We do this for two reasons:
  1. So we have a back up our members locally.
  2. We run queries against donations made by email and name (we are a non-profit), and based on profile questions answer, invite members to groups and events that might be of interest.
Here's is how to export your members:
  1. Log into your network as either the Network Creator or a user with Administrator rights.
  2. Go the Manage tab and under "Manage your members" section click on Members button.
  3. On the bottom right hand side of the members page click on Export All Member Data (.CSV)
Depending on the size of your membership you either be prompted to..
  • "Click OK to start the export. If you have a lot of members, the process might take a few minutes.",
Or, if you have lots of members you'll get a message that says..
  • "Click OK to start the export. We'll send you an email with instructions for downloading the data as soon as it's ready."
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Joseph
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Welcome to the fourth in a series of Ning Creators blog posts focusing on simple design tricks you can use on your network.

Trick #4: Adding a Two-Column Hero Box

The following code, used on the homepage of Ning Creators, will insert a "hero" module that spans two columns at the top of your network's Main page content area. This area could be used to insert an image, a custom Flash/JavaScript piece or just a simple text introduction.

Here's an example:

To get started, 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):

.space {height:270px;} /*Height of the Hero Area */
.module_text .xg_module_body {overflow:visible;}
#spotlight {margin-left:-245px;width:741px;}
#spotlight img, #spotlight embed, #spotlight object {padding:0; margin:0; max-width:741px;}

Next, visit the "Analytics" area inside the "Manage" tab, then paste in the following snippet (underneath any other code that may already be there):

<script type="text/javascript">
if (typeof(x$) != 'undefined') {
x$("#xg_layout_column_2").attr({_maxembedwidth: "741"});
}
</script>

On the "Features" area inside the "Manage" tab, add one new Text Box at the top of the left column, then a second Text Box at the top of the center column. Save your changes.
Here's an example:

Back on the Main page, click the "Edit" button on the new Text Box in the left column, then insert the following snippet:
<div class="space"></div>
Now click the "Edit" button on the new Text Box in the center column, and insert this snippet:

<div id="spotlight" class="space">ADD HERO CONTENT HERE</div>
Replace the "ADD HERO CONTENT HERE" text with your custom content (whether it's an image, embed code, HTML, etc.), then save your changes.

Enjoy!
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Last week, I returned from five days at South by Southwest Interactive – an annual conference that focuses on technology and social media. The most interesting panels and talks that I attended while at SXSW focused on the ways that new social media technologies - like Ning! - are shaping the newest generation of non-profits.

Kiva, a non-profit that is arguably the most well known microfinance organization today, has engineered a fantastic online social network for their organization. The engineering team at Kiva has built a robust social network that allows lenders to connect with entrepreneurs in the developing world, which includes photos, descriptions, and updates on the portion of the loans that the entrepreneurs have been able to pay back. DonorsChoose is another non-profit that's been helping support teachers for the past decade. They're using a social network to allow donors to choose which projects they want to contribute to, and they've done a fantastic job of building a website that's truly interactive. When someone adds a donation on their website, they encourage them to write a note explaining why they decided to give money. It's a great example of using a social network to create an authentic and personable experience for donors.

While these organizations may be building their own websites with the help of a team of engineers, many of the strategies that are working for them can be applied to non-profits using Ning to provide the framework for a non-profit network. I can't think of a better place than the Ning Creators Network to share the lessons I learned!


Be transparent.
People like to know where their money is going. The more that you can do to explain what happens to the money after you’ve deposited a check (or accepted a donation through Paypal), the better your donors will feel about giving you money. Use the Pages feature to create a help center on your Ning Network, and let people ask you questions directly using your Discussion Forum. You can use the Blogs feature to update your Ning Network with the latest news from the organization. Ask your employees to create profile pages, so that donors can see the faces behind all your hard work.

Let them spread the word.
You don’t need to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to telling people about your organization. Let the people who are already supporting you be your advocate. If people believe in your non-profit, they'll want to tell their friends. Encourage the members of your Ning Network to invite their friends to join, and you can focus your energy on creating the best possible way for them to learn about your cause. That said, it never hurts to show people what your focus is. Greet new members who join your Ning Network, and reward members who invite their friends with Award gifts.

Use your Ning Network to build a relationship with your donors.
Once someone has joined your Ning Network, it's much easier to keep them involved. Send out broadcast messages to announce new initiatives, and update your Blog to let your members know what's going on. Ask your members for feedback using a Forum discussion, and find out what you can be doing better. Here on Ning Creators, we get loads of ideas about how to make Ning better and what we can do to get our Network Creators to love us. This can work just as well for your non-profit!

Connect with Twitter and Facebook.
Chances are you already have a Facebook fan page and/or a Twitter account to keep donors involved. It can be daunting to manage all of these social media outlets, so let your Ning Network help you with this! Connect your Ning Network to Twitter and Facebook, and you can push your status updates to all three places with a single click.

Thank people in public.
Show the people who have contributed how much you appreciate them by thanking them on your Ning Network. Use profile comments or customized gifts to say thank you, or use the Pages feature to post a donors directory. Just had a volunteer event? Post photos on your Ning Network to show off how well it went!


The best part of my job is seeing the way Network Creators like you are using Ning in creative ways. If you have more suggestions for using a Ning Network to help grow your non-profit, let us know here!

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Meanwhile, you can check our social media channels