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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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Ning communities can be compared to your average dinner party. Nobody wants to be the first one at your house. If the conversation is boring, your guests will likely not come back. If you tell them about an
exciting “multi-level” marketing opportunity, they will resent you.

Below are the top 5 reasons ning members leave, and tips for how you can prevent it. This is copied from a post on my blog: http://petermoorman.com/top-5-reasons-ning-members-leave-and-how-you-can-get-them-to-stay

  • “My inbox is full of your broadcast messages, and they don’t even have anything worthwhile in them to read”

The broadcast message is a powerful force in growing your network, but it can be abused. Send broadcast messages no more than 2x a week, and make sure they have useful content for your community. Nobody likes
Spam.

  • “The forum is confusing, how do I even post a question?”

Forum setup is frustrating for new users. Make it simple. Do not have 10 different categories. It’s much better to have few categories with lots of posts, than 20 categories with little to no activity.

  • “Wait. You’re charging me how much to continue my membership in this network?”

You want to start your network as an open community with no charges. If you decide to charge a premium for membership, let your original community members in for free or at a deeply discounted rate. There’s no
better way to drive off membership than to start charging the very
people who helped your network get off the ground in the beginning.

  • “My eyes hurt after 5 minutes on your site.”

Do not have a black background. Do not have flash animation sirens in the sidebars. If you want members to stay, create a network that is easy on the eyes.

  • “There’s no discussion or interaction here. What’s the point of staying?”

With a new network, you have to get the discussions going. Invite your close friends to join, start discussions in the forum, and make the network buzz with activity. Users will leave if they see no signs of
life.

  • “Whenever I go to your network, I get confused about how to navigate and posts”

Navigation is key to promoting network growth and retention. Make it easy for users with less experience with the internet to navigate your site. Just because you can speak CSS and HTML as fluently as English,
doesn’t mean your users can.

Feel free to add any other tips in the comments below.

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As we announced last month, Ning.com Network Search is making a comeback!

We have been working hard to make it easier than ever to find Ning Networks for your interests and passions. So we’re happy to announce that in the next few days, search will be back on Ning.com! We’ve heard a lot of feedback about how important this feature is from Network Creators as well as from members looking for Ning Networks.

For your Ning Network to appear in Ning.com’s Network Search, it must:

  • Be public. Prospective members won't know too much about or be able to join your Ning Network if
    it's private, and we want to protect the privacy of private Ning Networks and their members.
  • Be active. If your Ning Network has thousands of members but hasn't had new content in months,
    it's not likely to be ranked highly in searches.
  • Be launched and accessible. We don't want to showcase Ning Networks that aren't yet ready for prime time!
  • Not contain content that violates our Terms of Service.

For information on how to optimize your Ning Network for search, or if you have any search-related concerns about your Ning Network, please contact us through the Help Center.

Thanks,

Brent

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A digest for Creators of discussions, blog posts, and interesting things found along the way in the past week — on Ning and across the Internet.

On Creators

Spam: Beat It

If you haven’t seen it yet, we have a dedicated page where we’re posting updates on any spam-related issues.

Content Flagging Now Live

We released a new feature this week for NCs: Content Flagging. It’s entirely optional, and it allows you to give trusted members the power to hide content that is clearly inappropriate — like spam. You can read all about it here.

Want to appoint some of your most trusted members as Content Flaggers? We've put together some boilerplate messaging language that we hope will help you reach out and invite them.

SXSW Roundup

Two of our SXSW contest winners report how you can really make a bang with very little cost but also how SXSW isn’t for the timid — or camera shy.

Popular This Week

The 90-9-1 Rule

10,000 Strong Contest (We’re at 9,471 members — getting close.)

What’s in Your Dream Text Editor?


Across the Internet

Thoughts on Community Management. One of the best general blog posts about tending an online space we’ve read in a long time. Superb.

What to do after you lower the ban hammer: Replying to a Banned Member Who Wants to be Unbanned.

Some great points made here about where to place your energies when moderating an online space: Pre-Approve The People Not The Messages

We’re Addicted to Social Networks: A new study uncovers a lot of interesting stats, including this one: 28% of iPhone owners visit Twitter or Facebook before getting out of bed in the morning. (Guilty as charged!)

Do People Really Need Your Online Community? This is an excellent reality check for a community that feels dead and needs reviving. Favorite quote: "If your community has died, don’t throw in the towel…. Sincerely reach out to each person with this question: ‘What would make you want to spend an hour a day in this community?’ "

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Just as we did a few weeks back when we announced our Facebook App, we wanted to offer you some boilerplate to use for your Ning Network around the idea of content flagging. If you have decided to appoint Content Flaggers on your Ning Network, you may want to let them know with a simple message. We've put together some boilerplate copy that we hope will help, along with some copy to use after people reply to your message.

Of course, all of this — including Content Flagging — is entirely optional, but our hope is that this might help Creators be more efficient, while still being high-touch with their most valued members. Hope it helps!


Invitation to content flagger

Subject: We’d like you to be a content flagger

We recently added the ability for select members to flag content that seems inappropriate — stuff that seems spammy. Since you seem to be one of our most helpful members, we wanted to reach out and ask you to be a content flagger for the community.

We’ve asked some of our best members to take on this role, and the way it works is pretty straightforward. If you see spam or content that is clearly inappropriate and violates our guidelines, feel free to flag it. Once flagged, the content will be hidden from view unless it is unflagged. This will help us fight spam by spreading the ability to help keep the community clean to our most trusted members.

Of course, there’s no pressure for you to flag anything or do anything different, but we hope you’ll want to join us in keeping an eye out for the rest of the community so we can continue to make this a great place to interact. Our admins already do a great job of monitoring the site, but adding flaggers helps them be even more efficient.

Thank you note

I’m thrilled that you want to help watch over the community. If you ever see a blog post or photo or video that seems spammy, you can click on the Flag icon to hide it. If you’re ever unsure about whether something is inappropriate or not, you can simply err on the side of leaving it up. Our admins will be on the lookout, too. Thanks again for being such a helpful member!


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The 90-9-1 rule

A fantastic blog post was put up last week, which has lead to a number of great discussions about member traction and engagement within communities. Dr. Mike Wu, Ph.D. posted metrics based on his study of over 200 online communities here.

As he writes, "The 90-9-1 rule simply states that:

  • 90% of all users are lurkers. They read, search, navigate, and observe, but don't contribute
  • 9% of all users contribute occasionally
  • 1% of all users participate a lot and account for most of the content in the community"

The data he present generally backs this up. The comments both there and in a related LinkedIn community explore how he defined his terms, constraints of the data, and how to encourage engagement.

Do you agree with his findings? Do you see them reflected in your Ning Networks?

I look forward to his future posts, where he promises to "dive deeper into the contribution level of the hyper-contributors, you community's real superusers."

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Hey guys! So I was one of the lucky winners to spend some time with Ning down in Austin, and I just wanted to drop in to give some feedback from the perspective of Creators.

SXSW is billed as a Tech Conference, but it's really a Festival. I think what that means to Creators is the following...

This is aimed towards those who are interested in making money via your network, and feel ready to do that (big audience, big traffic, unique segment of a market). I know that's not everyone, but I feel like it'd be one major agenda that might drive you to consider going to SXSWi if you haven't been.

  1. Industry People: Austin is all about people. Everyone is there. Bloggers, Company Founders, marketing teams, PR people, advertising people, and thought leaders. There's lots of educational and non-profit conversations happening. If you wanted to meet them, hear from them, or pitch them (in a non-pitchy way), Austin is a great opportunity. I'd build a list of hopeful meetings, reach out beforehand to set a few coffee chats up, and then spend your time there using Foursquare/Gowalla/Twitter to track down the one's you don't have on your schedule.
  2. Feedback: The early adopter crowd is there in full force. They're willing to hear your ideas, your community dynamics, and your story. Literally everyone there has a story, and is open to share it in exchange for yours. There's no reason to be shy, because rather than criticize or shoot you down, you'll get valuable feedback and insight into what else is happening in your space.
  3. Promotions/Marketing: I was really underwhelmed at the 'buzz building' tactics in Austin this year, despite the opportunity. With 15,000 early adopters/open minded geeks walking around, all carrying with them an audience of interested parties, you can really make a bang with very little COST. It's more a matter of doing something really innovative. Perfect example: the Ning team hands out free pie slices during their 'office hours'...and they were not only gone in short time, but generated buzz that I heard for the next 24 hours at parties and via twitter.
  4. Parties: Parties are a big, big part of the agenda down there. Problem is that they're expensive and exclusive, generally. Thing is, the best ones happened off the radar. If you want to bring people together to talk about you or your community, do that in a social setting 'off campus'.

I'm sure there's more, but that's a lot. If anyone has questions, just let me know...I'm happy to share!

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We're Back from SXSW! One of our SXSW contest winners, Darcy of Swap Mamas, acted as our reporter in the field this week. She wrote not one, not two, but three (!) blog posts to highlight what she saw at SXSW. Nicely done, Darcy! (Never been to SXSW but curious what it’s all about? The SXSW Experience! captures the spirit of SXSW in stunningly beautiful time-lapse video.)


We Have a New CEO: Get to know our new CEO and let Gina know how much we appreciate her hard work by signing a virtual group card.

Our 10,000 Strong Contest Rolls On: We crossed the 9,000 member mark this week, and we’re headed toward 10,000. We’re giving the lucky 10,000th member a Ning Timbuk2 bag and 10,000 Gift credits. If they mention you or your Ning Network, we’ll give you the same. More here.



Popular This Week on Creators

New Spam Update Page for Creators

How to Customize Your Sign-up Page on a Public Network


Across the Internet


How to Build A Massive Online Community has an excellent interview with someone who built a very large (48K+ people) and very successful online community from scratch. My favorite quote, when asked about member growth milestones: “The most exciting member was number two.”

A good post from the consistently interesting FeverBee: Making Things Happen In Your Community. Best quote: “Stop trying to get your community to do things they don’t want to do.”

With so many new tools at their disposal, what did the attendees of SXSW use to communicate with each other? The Social Technologies Powering SXSW 2010 points them out. A lot of them are, not surprisingly, location-aware online tools.

Ning gets a shout-out as an inexpensive tool to use when considering how to represent a business online in Make it Simple, Focused, High-Performance, and Polished: My Web Philosophy. It also theorizes that there are three kinds of people on the Web. (We’re a #3. We’re guessing you are, too.)

If Your Online Community Is in Trouble Turn to Grass for the Answer. No, it’s not about drugs, it’s an extended metaphor about gardening and people in online spaces.



"Best of the Week" is a digest for Creators of discussions, blog posts, and interesting things found along the way in the past week — on Ning and across the Internet.

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Hi everyone,
Over the last 18 months, I’ve met many of you in person or online. For those I haven’t had a chance to meet, let me introduce myself — I'm Jason Rosenthal, and I'm honored and very excited to take on the role of CEO at Ning. When looking at the 2.3 million Ning Networks that have been created to date, I’m amazed at what you've all accomplished and inspired by your creativity. As CEO, you can expect to see us continue to rapidly innovate the Ning Platform, strive to provide you with the support you need when you need it, and to keep listening to and learning from all of you.
I'd also like to take a moment to thank Gina for building Ning and infusing our employees and you, our Network Creators, with her passion and enthusiasm. Gina built an amazing team at Ning, and I am lucky to be working with some of the most talented people I've met in my career. I share Gina's vision for Ning as the place for people's interests and passions, and plan to continue to build on what she — and our team here — have already achieved.
Thank you for making Ning what it is today, and I look forward to many more conversations with you in the future.
Jason
PS: You can always get in touch with me here on Creators with feedback, ideas and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Last day, and Mama's headin' out the door to an SXSW party (Get OUT. Reeeeeally??). Unlike last night and the night before, tonight should be a fairly early one (*snort*), seeing as my flight leaves at 8:30 tomorrow morn.

What a fabulous experience this trip has been. I've been inspired, learned some new things, met some great people, made fantastic contacts (fingers crossed!), and hopefully turned a bunch of people on to the awesomeness that is Ning.

I'm SO grateful for such an amazing opportunity -- I have no question that with all I've gained these past few days, Swap Mamas will benefit immensely. I owe it all to you, Ning. I'll definitely be posting better pics when I get home ... catch y'all soon!

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Today was FANTASTIC. Great sessions, great parties, and now, at 11 pm, we're on our way BACK out to meld into the fray -- first on the list, the Mashable Party (if we can deal with the line wrapping around the block)!

I'm spreading the Ning luv aaaalll around -- hoping to catch up with the RVIPers shortly. (Ning has an RV. They drive around. They let people on. And they SING KARAOKE. It's a beautiful thing.) One thing's clear -- EVERYONE knows what Ning is. And convincing them of it's awesomeness has been unnecessary.

Best session today? Peter Shankman of HARO (Help A Reporter Out). If you're not already familiar with his site, do yourself a favor, head over and sign up for his 3x daily newsletter. His best advice? Be kind to people. When someone asks what my business model is, it's hard not to respond, "Be good to people and good things will come to you." It's how I live my life and it's how I run my network.

Sadly, tomorrow's my last day ... I'm packing in as many panels as I can. As for photos? Of course, I have a bunch. But, um ... yeah, left the cord to download 'em at home. Lovely. Sooo, I promise to post as soon as I get back. For the time being, this crappy phone-photo should whet your appetite.

To be clear, this is NOT the Ning RV. (One can dream ...)

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Day One at SXSW and seriously? I heart nerds. And I say that with all kind of luv, seeing as I'm a complete nerd myself. (Self-love is good, no?) Which means I'm in H-E-A-V-E-N.

So far, best part of the day, was the Opening Speaker, Danah Boyd. Boyd works at Microsoft Research New England and also serves as a fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She's doing some fascinating stuff with regard to privacy and publicity. And one of her comments struck me as particularly relevant to many of the conversations going on in the Ning Creators Community. In a nutshell, she makes the very valid point (IMHO) that when it comes to social networks, more is not necessarily better. That just because we CAN "optimize" the user's experience, doesn't necessarily mean we SHOULD.

Hallelujah.

I've often felt, that as much as I ADORE social media, it's important to remain grounded and remember that nothing replaces the human touch, metaphorical, or physical. Leaving just a little bit of that "human" experience in my network is integral to my network, and I would argue, ANY network. And when you can create a community that successfully straddles the chasm between the virtual world and reality? Gold.

So, enough of the soapbox. Needless to say, I was impressed. And inspired. And later, when I attended the panel, "The Socially Conscious Geek: Making Money While Doing Good," I was inspired even more.

Like I said, I heart nerds. (Oh, and Ning, btw. :D)

PLUS ...

they party like ...


Forever's gonna start tonight.

But more about that tomorrow. (RAWR.)

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Many Network Creators continue to report high levels of spam on their Ning Networks.

What are we doing about it?

First of all, I want you to know how seriously we consider this issue. Spam isn’t just an annoyance for Network Creators and their members. Spam gets in the way of member participation and interaction, which is the lifeblood of a successful, vibrant Ning Network like yours. We have a dedicated engineering team that is focused on spam prevention led by Martin Westhead.

Unfortunately, the current spam attack promoting “Canadian Pharmacy” is a sophisticated attack attributed to a Russian cyber-criminal organization. As with other sophisticated spammers, this organization employs dozens or even hundreds of people to create accounts, resolve CAPTCHAs and verify email addresses, then passes the accounts to a large botnet to post spam from thousands of computers, each with a different IP address.

Due to the sophisticated nature of the attack, there aren’t any quick fixes. We have already implemented several steps to block spam and plan to deploy a number of other features in the next few weeks. These measures are already blocking and disabling thousands of spam accounts each day. Here’s an update:

  • Yesterday, we significantly tightened our rules for new blog posts, which has been the primary type of spam for the “Canadian Pharmacy” attack. These rules identify and remove spam accounts automatically. You may have noticed a decrease in spam based on this action.
  • Next week, we will test and begin implementing temporary blocks on members that look suspicious based on their recent activity.
  • Within the next two weeks, we'll roll out a new feature for NCs — you'll be able to give specific members of your Ning Network the ability to easily flag and hide spam on your Ning Network.


How can you help?

We are using the data from the “suspend for spam” feature to automatically disable thousands of accounts across the Ning Platform each day. Please continue to use this feature when you suspend spammers.

We recommend that you turn on blog approval on your Ning Network. This will help you block new spam posts. While it's not optimal for some larger Ning Networks, we also recommend that you consider turning on member moderation.

As we implement increasingly stringent anti-spam measure, we are working hard to minimize the number of legitimate members that are incorrectly blocked or disabled. We apologize if this happens to any of your members. Please have them write in to our Help Center and we will re-enable their account as quickly as possible.

John McDonald
Vice President, Advocacy

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We're turning 10,000!

Since Creators was relaunched — just four months ago — we’ve seen an outstanding up-tick in membership. Our growth is really a testament to you, the members of Creators. You make this place a welcoming one. Thank you!

To celebrate our 10,000th member of Creators, we’re running a very simple contest. It starts right now. If you’re a member of Creators, you’re already entered. How’s that for a low barrier to entry?

What’s the prize?

A black Ning Timbuk2 Messenger bag.

10,000 Ning Gift credits.

The bag looks a lot like this one, but with a beautiful Ning logo on it:

Who can win?

The 10,000th person who joins the Creators Ning Network automatically wins.

You can win, too! If the winner is recommended by you, we’ll give you a messenger bag and 10,000 Gift credits, too. Know someone who's not yet a member of Creators? Have them mention you or your Ning Network when they sign up. If they win, you win, too.

When does it end?

When we hit 10,000 members, of course! You can follow the counter on the Members page if you like:

We’ll also be tweeting about it (@ningadovacy), so follow along if you get as excited as we already are! We’ll announce our winner in a Broadcast Message when we hit 10,000, at which time you’re encouraged to shower the winner(s) with hearty cries of congratulations.

Good luck!

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Also called "The Social Media Scientist", Dan Zarrella shares boatloads of useful advice to help others achieve social media success.

His latest blog post was as fascinating as the finding he published The Science of Retweets. In today's post, he states that articles published/shared on Facebook in the course of the weekend are shared A LOT MORE than articles posted in the course of the week.

It kinda makes sense, if you come to think of it. Besides the reason Dan shares (that so many companies block Facebook to help with productivity), the weekend is also the time when we slow down, so we may catch up on the latest in the lives of our Facebook friends.

Anyway... just thought I'd share this useful post with you all, in the wake of the recent update to our networks integrating them with Facebook more.

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Many Creators have noticed an increase in spam in the last couple of weeks on their Ning Networks. Starting around President’s day weekend we saw an increase in the amount of spam reported, reflecting an industry-wide increase, particularly from Canadian pharmaceutical companies.

What are we doing about it and how can you help?

We are aware of this issue and have been working hard to provide short term fixes for this increase and long term solutions to harden the platform against these trends. A lot of our work is in the background and not directly visible to Network Creators or Members.

That said, here is a run down of some of the features that you may see:

  • We continue to tighten and refine our rules for identifying and removing spam accounts automatically, which you should see as a decrease in unwanted activity.
  • We recently released the “suspend for spam” feature. We are now using this data to automatically disable accounts and analyzing it to help improve our ability to spot and remove these accounts more quickly.
  • Last week, we introduced a Captcha feature for Ning Networks who do not use member moderation.
  • We are working on a feature that will allow Members designated by the Creator to flag content and hide it from view...more details to follow.


We’re very aware of how spam affects Ning Networks and we are working hard behind the scenes to tackle this issue. In the next few weeks and months you should see significant improvements in our ability to block spammers before they hit your Ning Networks as well as new tools to help you manage unwanted content on your Ning Networks.

Martin Westhead (Martin runs the Spam and Abuse Prevention team at Ning).

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Thanks to all the amazing Network Creators who entered our Ning + Austin contest! We’re thrilled to announce the three winners:

Swap Mamas is about getting to know other parents, making connections, and doing a little old school trading with friends. The more you give, the more you get.


Amped 4-a-Cure uses the universal language of music as the vehicle to deliver the message to the masses of the importance of getting behind the efforts of cancer research.



20 Something Bloggers has brought together thousands of bloggers from all over the world, and spawned a vibrant community of like-minded, fascinating people who thrive on one another's support and feedback.


Stay tuned – we’ll be announcing another Creators contest this Monday - open to every member of Creators!

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I created whyleaveastoria.com nearly two years ago as a means for young adults to connect with their neighborhood. During this time, the site has become the most trafficked in the entire borough of Queens and one of the most heavily trafficked in all of New York City. Members have made countless new friends, businesses have prospered, and as we approach our second birthday and 4,000th member, our page rank keeps getting better and better.

However, we've now grown to a point where we have an exceptionally deep penetration into the target market of 25-35 year olds in Astoria. So now the challenge has become, rather than making the network bigger and not necessarily serve our target market as well as we could, lets make it better. In case you're curious, to us, better means:
1) More time spent on the site by users
2) More traffic via search (both of these equating to more advertiser dollars)

Over the course of the last two years, moderately tech savvy businesses have created user profiles for their restaurants, boutiques, dog walking services, etc. However, the issue here is, standard profiles often don't adequately address the needs of a brick-and-morter business.

Additionally, there is no effective way to filter or categorize proprietors from standard users in a generic site search. This is why I have created a new ranked business directory that will help my users identify the best establishments that meet their needs.

It's been a major challenge integrating this functionality into Ning--as the API can be a little frustrating at times when trying to access dynamic content and pull user information. However, after a year of planning (and mostly failing) my small development team and I were able to roll out a creative solution to allow users to create Business Pages featuring dynamic data pulled from my site, while still maintaining a direct URL that can be crawled by Google and deeply linked from other sources.

The first challenge to overcome here was creating a way to determine the logged in user. Once we could identify the user, we then needed to create the ability for them to build a new page on my Ning network. Once this functionality was created, we built in the ability for someone to become a fan of a page--giving us a database of users. Next, we built a form that could be embedded in an iframe that will allow the user to input a business name, address, photos, category, tags, and various other parameters. We also built in a conflict detector that will determine if a similar business is already in the directory. Once the information is submitted, it's sent to my database which then runs a chron job to post the new page to Ning.

Once a new page is created, users are able to rate and review any establishment, become a fan, add a tag, submit photos, request an edit, and even use the default Ning sharing utility to reach beyond the Ningosphere!

Now, business owners logged in as members of the site are able to "Claim this business", giving them the ability to attach their RSS feed to the business page (Twitter, blog, whatever), correspond with the page's fans, and view some simplified page metrics.

Coming up:

  • When a member becomes a fan of a page, we know they like the business. When they rate an establishment four or five stars, we know they like it, too. This gives us the ability to make recommendations of other establishments they should also consider--based on peer review.
  • Members of my site have actual membership cards that feature a magnetic stripe on the back uniquely identifying each person. When they make a purchase at a partner business in Astoria, the proprietor swipes the card--which hits my database to determine who the cardholder is, allowing the proprietor to issue a discount and us to track offline user activity. The discounts accrued over time (and nights spent on the town) are stored in my database and will be displayed on business and member pages--allowing our community to find out where was last night's most popular venue and also which members are saving the most money by staying local.
  • Since we know certain categories and tags for business pages, we can target page advertisements to keywords like "brunch" or umbrella categories like "Restaurants"--giving us a much deeper ad inventory. Additionally, businesses we choose to feature will appear more prominently in search results and be recommended more highly in the suggestions.

The directory is still very much a work in progress, but was a very important first step in our growth--as now users will be maintaining and growing the site while we focus on making it better.

We launched this new feature on Friday and by Sunday had over 150 new pages submitted by users. In the last week, we've seen an approximately 50% increase in pageviews and anticipate this will continue to climb as more pages get indexed. This was a big win for my network and I look forward to adding even more creative solutions like this throughout the spring and summer.

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