Last week for WeAreMedia project, I put a call on Twitter for case studies, best practices, and links about nonprofits using social networking sites, including Ning. Ning, which lets you set up your own custom
social network, has attracted attention for its ability to create
communities that are more functional than those created through
competing services from Google and Yahoo listservs. Nonprofits, support groups,
and nonprofit professionals have found their homes on Ning.
LauraatNing was listening and just pinged me to point me over to this blog post about nonprofits that are using Ning with their donors and supporters. She interviewed Manny Hernandez from Tu Diabetes and Es Tu Diabetes, and Ayumi Stubbs from the ASPCA Online Community. Combined, these networks have almost 20,000 members, a testament to the hard work (and networking expertise) of these two network creators. Here are their best tips and advice — whether you’re thinking of launching a network, or are already building up your member base for an already-launched network.
- Build off your existing brand
- It’s about more than raising money
- You don’t need to be established to start
- All about the Forums
But many nonprofits are using Ning for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and learning. Take for example the Community Media Workshop's Ning Site which is used to complement their face-to-face training session. Recently, Thom Clark, Gordon Mayer, and Demetrio Maguigad did an email interview with me.
1.) Tell me a little about your organization's social media strategy for its ning site? What did set out to accomplish? Who were you trying to reach?
Community Media Workshop’s Ning site began as a way to solve a very practical solution—keeping workshop participants and trainers connected. During a social media workshop, trainers Demetrio Maguigad and Gordon Mayer covered a number of online tools with attendees. During the workshop, a number of participants requested that there be a place for them to stay connected and acquire additional materials for their work after the workshop. A Ning site was developed in order to answer this specific need.
For every online social network training we do, we actually present the ning site and demonstrate ways participants can create and customize profiles, syndicate RSS feeds, post blogs, photos and videos and more. We then invite participants to join. After the workshop, we post a discussion topic on the specific training with attached handout materials and links to further help participants of our training.
Other then this practical reason, we also syndicate headlines from our blogs, podcast, and videocast in order to pull them into the Workshops resources and eventually to our flagship website to purchase our media guide, sign up for additional training, and subscribe to our electronic newsletter.
Every broadcast of our subscription based e-newsletter highlights headlines not only from our online broadcasts but also user generated posts and also a call to join the network.
Because both participants and trainers are members of our ning site, participants can continue discussions with trainers where they left off in the classroom and share the discussion with others.
2.) Why did you choose Ning?
Developers can also pay a premium fee to remove all Ning branding on their site, as well as remove advertisements. You can even use your own custom URL! Compared to other “out of the box” social website apps, Ning seems to be the most flexible, the most affordable, and easy to use. Ning also allows open API to work with other popular social networks like Flickr and Facebook. Users can import their Flickr photos from their account and promote their profile pages and widgets on Facebook.
3.) How are you measuring your success with the site?
Our Ning site currently has over one hundred members who post videos, start discussions and connect with others. Also, approximately 6% of visits to our main site is referred by visitors to our Ning.
The goal of our workshop is to provide media training for nonprofits, including training on using these new tools. The Ning site provides a comfortable place for people ask their peers for advice and to experiment before they bring these tools back into their organizations. For example, we had one participant who started a blog on the Ning site who told us they never would have started if it had not been due to the encouragement of peers. This is what we were trying to reinforce with our workshops.
4.) Tell me a couple of stories about how the project has delivered value to your organization?
Staff members have attended local face-to-face professional networking events and got to meet people face-to-face that they first "met" on the Ning site. There was instant rapor. The Ning site has given us the ability to connect different people with one another and keep them informed about happenings and campaigns they are working on.
5.) How much time did take to launch and maintain? Who on staff is the "community manager"?
It took us about 20 minutes to set up the intial site, but has gone through a series of revisions based on the user experience and feedback. Our cmmunity manager was Maude Carroll our former Marketing Coordinator, who used the site to build personal relationships with our audiences.
6.) What would you recommend to other nonprofits who are considering doing a similar project?
If others are to develop a Ning site, we suggest thinking of it as a very specific tool that should support your main online goals or main wesbite. Audience and users should be identified and the site should be developed based on their needs and wants. Its worthwhile to consider psycho graphics or the general psychology of the user experience you want to convey. Take time to develop a theme or metaphor to keep users thinking of the site as fun and common place to meet but still get the resources they need.