What's the single most important thing you can do when launching your Ning Network? It isn't adding snazzy CSS, tricking out your home page or inviting your entire address book. Before you ever do any of that, you need to define the hook for your Ning Network: Why will people join, contribute content and interact with other members? What is a compelling enough reason for them to come back to your Ning Network... every day?
If you launch your Ning Network around a general topic but fail to define a hook, you may drive a lot of visitors to your Ning Network, but few will join. Or you may succeed in signing up members, but few will contribute content. Either way, eventually visitors and members will stop coming back. Think about the people you want as members of your Ning Network, as well as those that you don't and craft a hook that generates passion with the right crowd.
Use visual elements to define your hook
Brooklyn Art Project is a Ning Network for artists both in Brooklyn and around the world. While their logo stays consistent, the imagery in their header reflects the ever-changing artwork of their members. Choose a logo, font, images and colors that show members what your hook is.
Capture it in a sentence — or in your name
Your hook doesn't need to be complicated. If you can explain it in your Ning Network's name, you'll be more likely to quickly attract members. It's no surprise that Offbeat Bride Tribe is a Ning Network for women planning unconventional weddings — its name gives all the info you need to know what the OBT is all about.
Explain it on your Main Page
Some hooks are more complicated than others. For example, 29 Gifts is a Ning Network for people who have the goal of giving 29 gifts out, 29 days in a row. If your Ning Network's mission is a little more complex, write out your mission in a Text Box.
Elevate features critical to your hook
Which one-to-two features are most important to your hook? Are they near the top of your Main page? Launchpad INW is a regional, professional networking site to help people build business relationships using both online and offline events. Not surprisingly, members and networking events are the top two features on their Main Page.
Rename features to fit your hook
The Kreg Jig Owners Community is a place for passionate customers of this woodworking tool to share projects, tips and advice. Derek Balsley, the Network Creator, used the Language Editor to rename his photo albums “Projects” and made it the third tab on his Main Page. He also renamed the Blog feature. Now, it's “Product Reviews”.
Tell new members what to do
Often the easiest way to communicate the benefits of participating on your network is simply to tell prospective members what to do first. Lost Zombies points prospective and new members to a “Get Started” tab with four fascinating pages that set up the context of their network: to “create the world’s first community-generated zombie documentary.” they provide detailed instructions that shows how anyone can contribute.
Why will people join, contribute content and interact with other members? What is a compelling enough reason for them to come back to your Ning Network... every day?
Be all things to everyone
If you try to appeal to too many different groups of people with your Ning Network, you risk not engaging with any of them. It's best to carve out your own niche. If you created your Ning Network around a broad topic, brand or cause, define how you want your community to engage around the topic.
Make it all about you
You are awesome — there's no denying that. You may have thousands of fans who would visit your Ning Network to read or view anything you contribute. But why would they contribute their own content or interact with other members? For artists, celebrities, teachers, consultants and other figures, it's extra important to define a hook that's about more than just numero uno.