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NC for Hire
My first community Turned Ten Years Old March 10th!
After a decade of community building, here are a few things I have learned
Some Observations About Planets and Such
Online communities are like little planets, each with their own ecosystem. As a community manager, you provide the venue for conversations to happen. Once they happen, it is your job to make sure the content becomes categorized, tagged and grouped with relevant items. Of course you must make members aware that such place of your creation is the type of a place for people of suchness to discuss what it is worth discussing. In order to help others of such suchness find your place for discussing such so that they might discuss such too. As such, you must "do" certain things outside of your community, like linking back to those discussions and photos which continue to bring in new members. Only the best of the best content originating on your site will attract visitors. Visitors interested in such may become members in order to join such discussions. Then it becomes up to you to decide what you need to know about their relation to such through profile questioning. As founder, you must gauge whether or not they qualify for membership. There is a good chance that a follower of your facebook page will already be interested in your topic, as long as you stay on topic. If you stray too far from the topic, members will leave.
The Questions We Ask
The questions you ask them should require answers by which you test their humanity and sanity, unless you're building a social community for robots and refrigerators, think of it as a quiz. This quiz is the best kind of quiz because they can always change the answers to reflect who they actually want themselves to be seen as online. The answers they save become the about section on everyone's profile. With the right tuning, a member's profile could be as impactful as a living resume. The answers they provide can tell you whether they are joining for the right reasons. Their profile become the criteria upon which all other members will gauge them as well. You shouldn't accept every person who joins to increase numbers. The person who joins must be deeply interested in the specific subject matter of your community. If not and they still try to join, they have ulterior motives, which may cause you stress eventually. In my experience I have noticed that if a person will not take the time to fill out their profile, they will never contribute anything to your community. Avoid the pain of spammers joining by asking well thought out questions in addition to using the other social platforms as your qualifiers for new members. That is where facebook, twitter, tumblr, pinterest, instagram and any number of other services become your community satellites, amplifying your message to other planets and to people in the future who haven't even been born yet..

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  • First off, congratulations on your success with this project. It has been my pleasure to follow your work over the years.

    One of the initial points that comes to mind about this, right off the top, is the fact that every network creator is inclined to develop their own perspective about their projects. It's rather a big deal when you put forward the notion of a platform where you are the owner, in control, and at liberty to create your own "social network" - which was what brought you and I onboard as customers in the first place I think.

    The company behind the platform goes a long way in helping frame that initial experience, and I personally feel this could be one of the most significantly under-rated and under-utilized aspects of Ning's customer community. It's simple, what excites you about your project, what do you envision is possible, and in your own words... what are you trying to create / do.

    I think to describe it as a sort of world with it's own ecosystem is very constructive. The connotation "network" is semantic, right, where others might use the term "group" or "community" for instance. Each term carries with it some implicit connotations, and every person that codes or decodes some communication with these terms is likely to have a unique meaning / interpretation.

    As a person driving some kind of online aggregation of people around some kind of theme, it's one of the first challenges you face, but just defining what the experience is - that value proposition obviously - but also the social ramifications. Even though Ning has been around for over ten years now, the underlying sciences, terminologies, etc, remain new frontiers.

    Fortunately, it's an area of network management we all end up becoming resident experts on - more or less. The insights on that kind of thing are wonderful to explore NC to NC, but overall, I would love it if Ning itself paid attention to the research and experience unfolding in their mature user base, and saw to it this info was getting to new Network Creators just embarking on their respective journeys.

    • NC for Hire

      I couldn't agree with you more, Anthony

      As a person driving some kind of online aggregation of people around some kind of theme, it's one of the first challenges you face, but just defining what the experience is - that value proposition obviously - but also the social ramifications. 

      Many new community managers have the problem of "failure to launch" simply because they are trying to do too much initially, realize it isn't working as they predicted and simply stop.  The trouble is there is no specific formula that works for everyone so when they quit, it is simply a matter of giving up, not the fact that it is not possible.

      I also agree that Ning could be 10,000 times stronger if they were actively showcasing best practices across industries and community types.  But, low and behold, they don't.  Couple this with the fact that many who find they are doing something right do not want to "give away the secret sauce" and you have a recipe for lots of fumbling around in the dark.. 

      i appreciate your comments bud and hope this conversation continues..

  • Certainly Justin ;) Look, it's the essential question of "What is a Social Network?", right, because if you take the sort of industry hype out of it, you know, people upselling society in general in order to sell their software, device, app by suggesting all that is great and possible through online and technological advancement - but a developer looks at the site as a container and the users as profile modules - just because they happen to be in the business or have the skills to build the tools, doesn't mean they know a thing about social networking. 

    A company like Ning can look at us as amateur network builders, and think my comments are referring to the learning curve us NC's have to go through, but the fact is I am pointing at them - they are the ones who are demonstrating a lack of knowledge here.

    You and I are a social network, and we transcend platform. We've connected on other networks, over the phone, and so on - relational in a way that is completely autonomous from Ning. It comes down to something more along the lines of Peer to Peer, every person has their own terms for a relational model, and you kind of have to negotiate that each time - sort of contrary to the ideas of economies of scale or scaling through automation.

    You've just created an online environment, turned to the task of populating it, and yeah it's going to be a sort of world in itself, a living and breathing mass of unique individuals, most likely attracted to some manner of common interest or goal... what do you do? Well, you are looking to facilitate interactions between you and those people, create opportunities for these people to connect with each other, and so on...  why is this more constructive than talking about what color your background should be or how to get your links to sparkle?

    Thinking back a ways, I was real disappointed when Ning started outsourcing community management content here on Creators. Shoot, the insight is right there among your own users, why would you curate "in" articles from outside context like that - or hire some supposed "forum expert" who never created a Ning and got their know-how from setting up company intranets and email list-serves?!

    Failure to Launch is sort of a profound topic in itself. Most people do fail by trying to present a concept that is credible in the sense of being a company or branded experience. Here you've got this site you are paying for, so first thought that crosses mind is often what to call it and what to put in the header, right?  Well, if you try to call it Big Box or whatever, you've almost immediately walked yourself into a line of logic that is setting you up for failure... with other people. I always say, just ask yourself, someone presents their site or  business project to you on the web, how much does that really impress "you"?

    It's a thought-process evolution that has to occur, and like I said usually has very little correlation to the actual platform developer's logic. You and I used to review countless "Critique My Site" posts here on Creators, and virtually every time it's the same things... people entering a whole new world, not having the slightest clue, and going through all the same first things that come to mind.

    Now, this is not unique to Ning Creators either. As a digital strategy consultant, I've had to go through the same thing with everyone from small business owners to large scale organizations, but inevitably you have to cover the elementary things things like user experience, customer journey, effective value propositioning, calls to action, the importance of information architecture, etc, but in a new kind of relational context that is far more customer-centric than brand-driven.

     

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