Yes, even you can create a simple Ning social network. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of a Ning? It’s virtually free. And you can do it in a couple hours. With Ning.com. (Update note: In 2010, Ning changed their pricing, and charges small sites $2.95 per month or $19,95 per year. Guess that’s almost free.) New competitors are SocialGo and Grou.ps, but you’ll get the idea as I discuss Ning.
Ning Social Networks
Ning “lets you create and join new social networks for your interests and passions.” It’s actually free social networking software with central hosting. The site is comprised of numerous individual social networking websites. As of April, 2009, users have creates over 1, 000,000 Ning social networks. Want to see if there’s a Ning network on a subject that interests you? Check for competitors to a site you are thinking about creating? Click here and enter your keyword.
Advantages of a Ning Social Network
Cemanthe on Business Angel lists 7 business advantages of Ning in Using Ning For Business:
- It’s free. (I say “virtually free” because you should use your own URL, not xxx.Ning.com, and Ning charges $5 a month to do that.)
- Inexpensive upgrades allow you to use your own domain and get rid of Google ads
- You can run ads and even charge members to advertise
- Ning site contents ranks well in Google search
- Built-in promotional tools make easy for you and your members to promote your network
- Ning has good support available. It’s free in the help forums, and you can buy upgraded support
- Later, you can buy the source code if you want to move your community off Ning and onto your site.
This is Ning’s schedule of Premium Services. I personally think that, if you have financial constraints, Ning is a great way to test a community idea and find passionate followers. You can always get fancy and upgrade later. But do build the community on your own URL.
Potential Disadvantages of a Ning Social Network
What are the potential disadvantages of creating your social network or online community on Ning ?
- Bandwidth limits and fees. As you grow beyond free limits, you must pay for additional bandwidth. Advantages and Disadvantages of Ning’s Free Social Networks
- Central hosting. You cannot host the network on servers of your choosing. Your business or community depends on Ning’s system to be up.
- Potential for spam and abuse. It is both an advantage and a disadvantage that members of your network are also members of Ning itself. Larry Brauner, an online social networking expert and creator of his own Ning network, mentions that the ability of members to share their favorite Ning social networks and content with all their friends across Ning sites has lead to some spamming by members and intruders.
- Reputation for being inexpensive. If your potential members are likely to expect something slick, Ning may not be the option for you.
- Friend request limit of 50 per user. While Ning previously let any user have 100 outstanding friend requests, it’s now down to 50. Ning changed the limit to reduce the potential for spam, but this affects the ability of individual users to reach out. (Many people ignore or don’t know what to do with such request. Users must delete some outstanding requests to initiate more and stay under the limit.)
How to Create a Ning Social Network
It’s surprisingly easy and intuitive to create a new network. Here is one post and one video to give you the overview. The software is constantly changing, so it may not work exactly as described now.
Video How-To: Create Your Own Ning Thing TBunzel, Presentation Professor
How To Create Your Own Social Network on Ning David Nations, About.com
Or you can use the Ning Developer network to create or customize your community.
Creators of Ning Networks
Allan Woodstrom, who used Ning to build a network for a group at North Dakota State, offers these tips and insights: Success Building A Social Network with Ning.com.
And here are more Ning creator stories.
This is a test Ning network that I created in a couple hours for SCORE Chicago on Ning (It’s inactive — please do not ask to join.)
You can now add and use Apps (applications) with Ning. That means, for example, that you can incorporate polls with Polldaddy or display Twitter feeds to your network. See this Mashable article for the news.
General Caveats of Running a Social Networking Website
Brauner also recommended that I highlight two general caveats about social networking websites:
- You have to work to grow them. Social networks don’t expand automatically. To increase members and encourage activity, you have to feed it with new content, send emails, and interact.
- You have to monitor activity constantly. Says Brauner, it’s not “set it and forget it.” You as the owner/manager must handle potentially undesirable activity like harassment, hate speech, spam, and porn.
Even if you start your own network, you should also plan to be active outside of it. Brauner believes that with Facebook’s growth and expanding features, small businesses need a brand presence there too.
What’s Your Experience with Ning?
If you’ve got a Ning network, please let me know the pros and cons with a comment.
Here are Ning’s instructions on creating a network. Create Your Perfect Social Network
More Ning Links This page has links to Explore Ning, Sign up for a social network, Find people you may know on Ning, Attract members to your social network, Integrate your social network with your website, Choose your privacy options, Customize your social network’s appearance
List Building Using Ning Social Networks Larry Brauner, Online Social Networking
Introduction to Using Ning Social Sites. A how-to from a user perspective. Larry Brauner, Online Social Networking
Video of Ning for Nonprofits
Ning’s Infinite Ambition, Adam Pendenberg, FastCompany, April 2008. For background on the company and the concept.
6 Ways to Use Ning for Business. Mashable post with 6 interesting examples of applications. Also look at them for professional looking Ning sites.
Customer feedback — Seesmic Discussion — NavyforMoms Content and Media — ImSaturn Inspiration — DreamersintoDoers Networking — TravelBlogExchange Empower Evangelists — Cookie Exchange
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