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Social Media Guidelines. What exactly are they? How should they be written? Do we need them? How do we enforce them?  We’ve had this discussion a lot this year. From the firestorm that erupted upon the release of the Washington Post’s social media guidelines to the equally riveting conversation surrounding ESPN’s social media policy.

This was one of the biggest tasks I tackled for my company this year as head of our social media task force, and the approach we took seems to be working well. Because of my experience with this, I decided to kick off the lists for 2010 which are certainly to come in droves over the next few weeks. So here is my personal list of social media guidelines that I strongly discourage anyone from adopting across the board.

Don’t be Stupid!

This is an all-encompassing statement that you may think conveys trust in your employees but what it really does is set them up to fail. Let’s consider the word “stupid.” What exactly is the definition? This term is way too subjective and is often based on one’s sense of humor. My interpretation of the word will differ from yours. So imagine how many variations of stupid exist in a room of hundreds?

Consider this: Is it “stupid” to tweet that you had a bad day at work as long as you don’t provide details as to who contributed to that bad day?

Is it stupid to announce that you’ve acquired a new client? It may not be a smart move from the perspective of top management, but an employee who closed a deal may think that putting that out in the universe is a good move and could potentially attract more clients.

That’s the problem with merely issuing this edict. Stupid must be defined, and that means actually putting thought into a strategy to provide your staff with guidance and expectations.

You always represent the company!

Again, what exactly does “always” mean? Does the employee represent the company only when they are “clocked-in” during working hours? Are they representative of the organization on the weekends, during vacation? While the word “always” indicates infinity for some, there are many employees who disassociate themselves from their employers the minute they leave the premises. Sure, the die-hard company man and woman will get this because they are used to representing the company, especially if they’re a manager. You have to be clear with this type of directive. If everything that the employee posts on every social network represents the company then spell it out. Provide a definition that will leave little room for misunderstanding.

Be smart!

This is very similar to “Don’t be stupid.” However, it is more of a “we trust you” than the former. Translation: We are not going to spend our time worrying about this because you guys know how to conduct yourselves. But if you don’t, there will be consequences.”

Consequences for what? Not being smart? I might think it’s smart to share some details about the latest company-wide initiatives, especially if we are striving for “transparency.”  What? That initiative was confidential? I didn’t know. Guess that wasn’t very smart of me, was it?

(See, “Don’t be stupid.”)

We’re watching!

Scare tactics are a sure way to create bad blood between employer and employee. Maybe you are watching, and that’s fine, but is that how you want to rule, with fear? Consider providing tips on how the staff can use social media in ways that reflect well on the company, and watch that. In many cases highlighting favorable behavior is preferable than a detailed list of “don’t.” Encourage and reward the good, don’t hunt down the bad.

Add value!

Again, great intention that can be poorly executed due to misinterpretation. What is value? If my network of friends, followers and readers are all vegetarians, they’d be happy to know that I made an amazing vegetarian dish last night that would make Martha Stewart proud. Is that valuable to my company? Maybe, maybe not. It might be if our overall social media mission statement includes being personable and having fun so that people get to see that side of our staff. But let’s say I work for a huge meat manufacturer and they see me promoting the vegan lifestyle all across the social web. Is that a faux-pas in this case?

Please don’t think this is extreme. This is all still so very new and there will be instances when the most mundane issues take the forefront and cause a meltodwn or chain reaction that seems impossible to turn around.

So there you have it. Five ineffective social media guidelines for 2010 and beyond. Now, could you combine some of these and create a more cohesive message for your staff? Absolutely, but do stay away from the one-liners that lack context, and do allow your guidlines to evolve.

My biggest piece of advice here is to first start with a social media mission statement.

When you’re clear on your reasons for being in the space, the guidelines to support that mission will come.

Good luck.

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One of the 18 Rules of Community Engagement I outline in my book is simply “Ask Questions.” I believe that people want to express their opinions and asking questions is a sure way to get them to do so. Throw in your own personal story before asking the question and you may strike gold. I’ve gotten many great conversations started that way in the community I manage. It is quite effective.

But I am noticing a trend among bloggers, some that I really respect, and that is ending every blog post with a question.

Come on! Do you always have to ask what we think about something or ask us to contribute to the list that you’ve developed or provide additional steps for whatever it is  you’re providing steps for? We will probably do that anyway, so it really isn’t necessary. Not for every post.  And my favorite is “What did I miss?” If you know you missed something then maybe you should spend a little more time thinking it through and give us your complete thoughts on the topic at hand before hitting “publish.”

I know that asking questions is a way to ask for input and it really is effective in many cases but lately it has felt like  you are trying to crowdsource almost everything and I am just asking you to reconsider that approach.

See what else you can do to keep us engaged. We follow you because you’re smart. Now dazzle us.

 

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I received a nice surprise yesterday upon learning that I was listed among 451 Marketing’s top social media strategists to watch in 2010.  I don’t  look for such accolades, I just do my own thing…but it does feel nice.

So this is my public word of thanks to those who read this blog, follow me on twitter and elsewhere, send me emails asking for advice and insight, challenge my thoughts and share my work with their peers.

It is always my goal to inform, sometimes persuade, rarely convince but always provoke thought.

Here is the list. There are some really smart people on that list and I am just honored to be there.  Oh, there’s also a twitter list of everyone included on the list, here.

It was compiled by the very smart, Tom Humbarger. He should be on your radar.

 

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Have you thought much about how you will take your community to the next level in 2010. I’ve been giving that a lot of thought and I’m not sure that it’s new features for me. We’ve done that and I think our users like what we’ve offered. I’m thinking more in terms  of content and by content I mean multimedia content that adds value to their lives and what they indicate is interesting to them through their behavior in the community.

So when I received the latest briefing from Trendwatching.com, my wheels started turning. Instead of viewing it as merely a list, I am thinking more broadly. If these are trends for 2010, how can I be ahead of that and what can I do to bring that to the community?

I will share the list with you here and come back over the next few weeks as 2010 approaches and share what I think I can do to integrate this new list into my overall community strategy. You do the same.

Here it is:

Ten Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010 (Trendwatching.com)

  1. Business as Unusual
  2. Urbany
  3. Real-time Reviews
  4. (F)luxury
  5. Mass Mingling
  6. Eco-easy
  7. Tracking & Alerting
  8. Profile Myning
  9. Maturialism

See the full report here and further definitions here.

There is easily three on the list that should give you ideas right away. What do you think? Does this approach make sense to you? i say we try everything because with communities, you never know just what will stick.

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I received this note from a member of my community today and it came at a great time for me because I have been feeling the weight of community management on my shoulders for a while now.  I am sharing it because these are the types of comments we have to relish. We need them to get us through the tough times. So when you get one, hold on to it and read it on the days when you feel as though you’ve reached the end of your rope. Here it is:

Hey Angela, Just wanted to let you know that through the efforts of GOLO I was able to send my son, 82nd Airborne, Afghanistan, 100 packs of beef jerky. He said it was hard to find over there. I mentioned it in a blog and it snowballed into a ground swell of donations, thanks to Sandra, Lolly, and Gingerleigh, as well as other GOLOers that donated. Gingerleigh used her military credentials to buy the jerky at Fort Bragg. She’s so awesome. Zack said he would hide his stash and hand it out at church this Sunday. But anyhow I just wanted you to know that GOLO is doing good things, so don’t get discouraged by the trolls. We love you!

It’s nice to know that the members of your community care about one another and their actions underscore that sentiment. I can’t tell you how much I needed that today.

The next time you get one of these, please share it with me.

 

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Have you heard of GetGlue? It’s another sharing community that allows you to keep your friends in the loop on what you’re reading, listening to and other things you find interesting across the web. Glue shows you items that you’ll like based on your tastes, what your friends like and what’s popular with everyone else.

I caught up with Fraser Kelton, VP of Business Development to learn a little bit more about Glue:

 

Who is AdaptiveBlue and what is Glue?

AdaptiveBlue is a young NYC-based company that was founded by Alex Iskold. Our mission is to create a better browsing experience for individuals on the web. We’ve created a product that connects you to friends around the things you like on popular sites around the web.

 

What was your motivation for creating GetGlue, and what needs were you originally trying to meet?

The motivation for Glue was that the current web required too much work from people to get valuable information when looking at books, movies and music online. Currently, if you’re interested in books and you’d like to know what your friends are reading and what they think of a specific book you have to do a lot of work – you have to either send them an email, contact them via IM, or dig into their profile on a social network. None of this is easy work. Glue works hard to make it easy to find out what your friends think of the books that you visit on the web. When you visit a book on Powell’s (for example) Glue appears automatically to show you friends who visited the same book on any popular book site around the web. You can see who visited it, read their review, and then access smart shortcuts to interact with the book in deeper ways.

 

What made you decide to move forward after realizing it was a good idea?

Alex drives the vision for the company and the team is filled with stellar people who can help realize the idea. What has been awesome is that the community on Glue has really started to gel so we can get a lot of feedback and insight on changes to make to the product, features to add, and functionality that people would like to see.

 

When I joined GetGlue during the Tweetchat with you and Phylis Zimbler Miller several months ago, I noticed the ability to connect with my Facebook and twitter friends. Do you plan to add any other social networking sites?

Not right now. We think that between Facebook and Twitter we have most of your friend relationships covered and adding more sites would introduce additional complexity with minimal benefit. We do, however, allow you to claim a number of different social networking sites on the web – you can claim your Blog, LinkedIn, Last.fm, MySpace, and other online profiles.

How do you convince those who are on the fence or don’t really see how GetGlue will fit into their lives to give it a try?

We rely on the strength and passion of our user community to help spread their love to Glue. You can read some of the incredible testimonials on our website, on our blog or by doing a Twitter Search.

One of my favorite features is the 140 character reviews which you call “2 Cents” and the ability to interact with others via private messaging. What other features are you working on?

We’re really trying to keep Glue focused on a small set of valuable features. Glue-rs love the ability to add a short 2cent comment to a book and have it appear on all of the popular book sites. Another great feature is the ability to look at all of the books that your friends like. Probably the newest, most popular feature is the ability to see what’s most popular with your friends. You can go to a screen called Glue For You and see the most popular books with your friends.

You’re clearly building community here, or helping others do it. What are your thoughts on online communities overall, and how to make them effective and successful?

The best way to grow a community is to be authentic and genuine and take a sincere interest in each individual who contributes to the community. We pride ourselves on openness and excellent customer service. We actively engage with our passionate users and solicit them for product feedback. Part of being sincere and genuine is to only ask them for input when it matters – that is, be willing to execute on the feedback that’s provided. In the most recent release there are a dozen features that were suggested directly from people within the Glue community. Another way to encourage a healthy community is to appropriately thank those who provide so much. We’ve recently created shirts for a select few as a way to say thanks. We call them Super Glue-rs 🙂

What are your plans for the next 6 months? How about the next 2-5 years?

We’re going to continue to deliver an excellent product that people love and provide improvements to Glue.

Since I have you, in what communities are you active, mainstream and not-so-mainstream?

I used to be very active in a music community on IRC but I’m now predominantly active on Glue (it’s important to eat your own dog food) and Twitter.

And one final opportunity to toot your own horn:

Toot toot!

 

Who is AdaptiveBlue and what is Glue?

AdaptiveBlue is a young NYC-based company that was founded by Alex Iskold. Our mission is to create a better browsing experience for individuals on the web. We’ve created a product, Glue [link: www.getglue.com], that connects you to friends around the things you like on popular sites around the web.

What was your motivation for creating GetGlue, and what needs were you originally trying to meet?

The motivation for Glue was that the current web required too much work from people to get valuable information when looking at books, movies and music online. Currently, if you’re interested in books and you’d like to know what your friends are reading and what they think of a specific book you have to do a lot of work – you have to either send them an email, contact them via IM, or dig into their profile on a social network. None of this is easy work. Glue works hard to make it easy to find out what your friends think of the books that you visit on the web. When you visit a book on Powells (for example) Glue appears automatically to show you friends who visited the same book on any popular book site around the web. You can see who visited it, read their review, and then access smart shortcuts to interact with the book in deeper ways.

What made you decide to move forward after realizing it was a good idea?

Alex drives the vision for the company and the team is filled with stellar people who can help realize the idea. What has been awesome is that the community on Glue has really started to gel so we can get a lot of feedback and insight on changes to make to the product, features to add, and functionality that people would like to see.

When I joined GetGlue during the tweetchat with you and Phylis Zimbler Miller, I noticed the ability to connect with my Facebook and twitter friends. Do you plan to add any other social networking sites?

Not right now. We think that between Facebook and Twitter we have most of your friend relationships covered and adding more sites would introduce additional complexity with minimal benefit. We do, however, allow you to claim a number of different social networking sites on the web – you can claim your Blog, LinkedIn, Last.fm, MySpace, and other online profiles.

How do you convince those who are on the fence or don’t really see how GetGlue will fit into their lives to give it a try?

We rely on the strength and passion of our user community to help spread their love to Glue. You can read some of the incredible testimonials on our website [www.getglue.com], on our blog [http://blog.adaptiveblue.com/?p=1552] or by doing a Twitter Search [http://search.twitter.com/search?q=getglue]

One of my favorite features is the 140 character reviews which you call “2 Cents” and the ability to interact with others via private messaging. What other features are you working on?

We’re really trying to keep Glue focused on a small set of valuable features. Glue-rs love the ability to add a short 2cent comment to a book and have it appear on all of the popular book sites. Another great feature is the ability to look at all of the books that your friends like. Probably the newest, most popular feature is the ability to see what’s most popular with your friends. You can go to a screen called Glue For You and see the most popular books with your friends.

You’re clearly building community here, or helping others do it. What are your thoughts on online communities overall, and how to make them effective and successful?

The best way to grow a community is to be authentic and genuine and take a sincere interest in each individual who contributes to the community. We pride ourselves on openness and excellent customer service. We actively engage with our passionate users and solicit them for product feedback. Part of being sincere and genuine is to only ask them for input when it matters – that is, be willing to execute on the feedback that’s provided. In the most recent release there are a dozen features that were suggested directly from people within the Glue community. Another way to encourage a healthy community is to appropriately thank those who provide so much. We’ve recently created shirts for a select few as a way to say thanks. We call them Super Glue-rs 🙂 http://bit.ly/SuperGluer

What are your plans for the next 6 months? How about the next 2-5 years?

We’re going to continue to deliver an excellent product that people love and provide improvements to Glue.

Since I have you, in what communities are you active, mainstream and not-so-mainstream?

I used to be very active in a music community on IRC but I’m now predominantly active on Glue (it’s important to eat your own dog food) and Twitter.

And one final opportunity to toot your own horn: Toot toot!

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On several occasions I’ve shared with you one of the most popular franchises I created and continue to produce in my online community. What I do is interview members over the phone and then transcribe the conversation into a blog post. People love it.

Well, one day last year, members of the community were asked to turn the tables on me by a co-worker and they submitted their questions they’d like to have me answer. I answered them all and again, the community loved it.

I just realized that I never shared that with you and I think it is something you may want to consider in the future. Sharing a bit more of yourself with the community always makes it easier for them to share more of themselves.  If you’re interested in the 47 comments posted, here is the original interview.  But I’m also posting the entire interview below. Warning: Some of the screen names are a bit wild.  Enjoy!

 

Well, since you decided to go behind my back with the help of  web editor, Kelly H. with a sneak attack and force me to do my own profile, I suppose I had no choice but to succumb. And since it would be a bit odd to introduce myself in the third person, I won’t.  So, without further adieu, here are the answers to some of your questions. Enjoy!

Bosoxbaby: How in the world do you put up with some of the attitudes on here day in and day out?

Angela: I really don’t know. I guess I have a high tolerance for “crazy.”

 

Meh_whatever: I’d like to hear more about Angela’s history prior to coming to GOLO. What sort of jobs she’s held, etc.

Angela: I’ve worked in newsrooms my entire career. I started out in Cleveland, Ohio where I was an assignment editor at the CBS turned Fox station and Planning Editor at the NBC affiliate. I then moved to Tampa and worked at WFLA as an assignment manager. After that I worked at WPTV in West Palm Beach and then moved to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel where I was a broadcast producer and ultimately managed all of our media partnerships and served as multimedia editor.

 

Prayergirl: Do you read ALL of the blog posts everyday?

Angela: I could never get through them all but I do read a great deal. I suppose there are days when I read about 90% of them though.  It really depends on my workload, what other projects I’m working on and how much administrative stuff I have to deal with.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t sit on the GOLO homepage all day waiting for the latest posts. I will look at something if a person points it out though. And I do have to read those that are reported as abuse.

 

Mythoughts22: When you read racial comments does it bother you?

Angela: What bothers me most about those types of comments is the fact that the person behind the comment is probably raising children. I mastered the art of not caring much about what others say about me a long time ago. Particularly when I know it’s not true.

 

Beauty Comes from within: Did you know this was what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Angela: I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I love to write and research and I can never ask enough questions.  There was an anchorwoman in Detroit, where I grew up whom I admired a great deal. I thought she seemed so smart and I wanted to be like her. She’s still on the air.

 

Kewlmom: What is your criteria for screening comments? Do you try to keep people from being offended, or do you simply look for cursing/public attacks?

Angela: I try to be fair and adhere to our guidelines. But oftentimes I do it based on what my gut tells me.  I know that many will beg to differ, but it’s tough.

 

BlaBlah: How do you keep sane, Angela?

Angela: Why do you think I’m sane?

 

Rocknhorse: OK, here’s my question: We know by your comments and the job you do here that you are very dedicated to both your family and your job. But sometimes everyone needs those “ME” moments. What do you do for yourself that keeps you grounded and at peace?

Angela: I enjoy bubble baths and I love to read. Put the two together and I’m good for at least a day.

 

Historians_13th: Tell us about the report you wrote on Ella Fitzgerald in the fourth grade, and what it  meant to you then and now?

Angela: I don’t remember the details 100%, but listening to my grandfather talk about her and mimic  her singing and dancing was quite the treat.

 

Sue Donym: If you could have dinner with any famous person past or present, whom would you choose and why?

Angela: Past: Harriet Tubman. I’d like to understand that kind of determination and perseverance. Also (and this might sound a little crazy) Adolf Hitler. I once interviewed three Holocaust survivors for a story I was producing and the way they recounted their experiences has stuck with me since. If I could talk with him in a controlled environment where it was impossible for him to kill me, I’d like to get to the root of all of that hate. Present: Oprah Winfrey and Tom Brokaw. Oh, and maybe Alice Walker. Love The Color Purple. Okay, one more…George Washington Carver. I’d like to know how the heck he got so involved with the peanut.

 

Deer Slayer: Do you like venison?

Angela: I’ve never had it. Does it taste like chicken?

 

Squirrelingdervish: If the Mothership flew down and picked up one Golo’er and took them off forever, who would you pick?

Angela: It already came and got him.  But a few more trips would be welcome.

 

Godbless: When you started this, did you have any idea it would be as successful as it is? Or were you thinking this was temporary?

Angela: I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m pleased, but I’d like to see it grow exponentially. I keep a notepad in my passenger’s seat because I’m always flooded with ideas. My mind runs a mile a minute.

Full_Decker: What are some features that you feel would benefit GOLO even more?

Angela: It’s not so much the features. Those are easy. More members. More distinct voices. Active participation from the majority of the members. I’d like to see GOLO filled with invaluable content.

 

GoldenLvr: I would like to know what job you would like to move up to in the WRAL family after you finally go insane babysitting all us Golo’ers. By the way, Kelly is a cutie!
Angela: I’m not sure where my career will lead me. Hopefully to some amazing job that doesn’t yet exist.  Oh, and I’ll be sure to let her parents know you think they did a good job.
Sweet Rose: I’d like to know more about her growing up … where she was from … how she came to be in NC … how does she like the area.

Angela: I’m from Detroit. Most of my family is still there. I left for college at 17 and never went back there to live. I visit often. I enjoy NC so far, but I’m still learning. The verdict is still out on whether or not this is home for good. I don’t think I’ve lived here long enough to make that assessment.

 

Sue Donym: What advice will you give your daughters when they get old enough to start playing on sites such as golo?

Angela: Be smart, and use common sense.

 

Tarheel Army Mom: What kind of meds do you have to take to manage GOLO? 😀

Angela: I believe that’s classified information.

 

Sue Donym: It is clear that your work entails MUCH more than simply moderating golo comments. What are some of the other responsibilities you have as part of your job?

Angela: Well, I am responsible for all things GOLO and all things generated by our users for GOLO and WRAL.com.  I also hire, train and supervise the moderators. I interact with users a great deal so a large part of my responsibility is communicating with people. I manage the Pet Page on WRAL.com and make decisions about a lot of other projects. I am called on to incorporate community into our products.  There’s so much more…but I’ll stop there.

 

Rabid_Wolf_3: When I talked to you at the outing, you told me that your lawyer got you off of a triple murder charge after you spent 12 years in a maximum security prison, on a technicality! Can I have that lawyers name?
I really can’t believe they called you ‘Cell Block Momma A’ either . . .
Did you really make the warden cry?
I know, I know . . . rabid_wolf_4 . . .

Angela: Go talk to Tarheel Army Mom about getting some meds. You need them more than I do.

 

Nauticagirl501: How many children do you have?

Angela: Two girls. And they are fabulous!

 

Patty002: Angela, why do some of the blogs get through with offensive words and some don’t?

Angela: I can’t see everything. That’s the answer.

 

Iluvwilmy: How much does WRAL pay you? I would love to be a co-editor of Golo. Golo as a job? How awesome would that be?!

Angela: There are two things you never ask a person. When the baby is due, and how much money they make. Remember that.

 

Chill0913: Angela, if you and rabid_wolf? were driving in a car having a debate and he wanted to get out, whould you A: slow down and pull over, ask him to calm down, close door and continue your route. or B: Pull over slow down some when he opens the door shove his behind out and proceed on with your business?
LOL…Personally, I’m prone for option B. LOL

Angela: I would be hesitant to get in a car with him.

 

Con Amor: Angela… Does anyone in your family GOLO? …. Do you ever GOLO under a different profile? …. Do you secretly enjoy looking at the juicey hott hunk blogs that I post before they get pulled for being too hott?(hahahahahahahaha!)

Angela: No. I would never go incognito. My ethics won’t allow. No family members on GOLO. I plead the 5th on the hunks question.

 

NCMomof3: Angela, I think you do an awesome job referring, mediating, and just plain babysitting us characters on GOLO. Are there times where you have to sit back, take a deep breath, count to 10, then go outside and scream anyway?

Angela: Yes.

 

Made in USA: Angela… What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction and what part of your job do you dislike the most?

Angela: Making a difference is extremely satisfying to me. If I tell you what I dislike the most, I will be exposed and vulnerable. I don’t want to be either.

 

Steve Crisp: How much does Canada weigh?

Angela: I thought you knew everything. That’s what your profile says.

 

Javajoe: To our dearest, most tolerant Mother-of-GOLO, Angela — what’s your biggest, worst, skin-crawlingest, nerve-splittingest pet peeve?

Angela: The sight of chewed gum. YUCK! And please, NEVER read over my shoulder.

 

Halyard: If you only had ONE chance, what person, living or dead, would you like to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with?

Angela: My father. He died when I was 16. I’d love another chance to talk to him.

 

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I recently interviewed Ning’s Chief Operating Officer Jason Rosenthal  for an article that will appear in the January issue of EContent Magazine. (Update: The article can be found here.) Only portions of the interview will be used in the article, so I’ve decided to share the complete interview with you.

1.      How many Ning sites are there currently?

More than 1.6 million Ning Networks have been created on the Ning Platform and we currently have more than 36 million registered users.

2.      How would you characterize your growth since launch?

The Ning Platform has increased in size by more than 300 percent in the number of Ning Networks created, registered users and active Ning Networks in the past year.  We see approximately 5,000 new Ning Networks being created every day and we are adding about one million registered users every 12 days.

3.      Does Ning have any plans to offer more analytics as companies look more towards specific measurements to gauge the effectiveness of their communities?

We are committed to arming our Network Creators with the tools to make their Ning Network as successful as possible. We currently offer Ning Network Creators a variety of management features to optimize the effectiveness of their Ning Network. This includes the ability to edit the layout of their Ning Network, bring in features unique to their needs, and manage the invitation flow. We also give our Network Creators the ability to easily integrate Google Analytics into their Ning Network.

In addition, for those running Virtual Gifts on their Ning Network, we offer a rich set of analytics tools to measure and quantify gift transactions and frequency.

4.      What are some of the most successful communities using the NING platform?

Success on Ning comes in all forms depending on the goals of the Network Creator and the interests of their members. Some examples include:

The Twilight Saga – A Ning Network for fans of the Twilight book series with over 200,000 members

Brooklyn Art Project – A Ning Network for fans of Brooklyn artists  with over 6,500 members

GovLoop – a Ning Network for over 20,000 government employees and contractors at the federal, state, and local level

IPL Nation – a Ning Network for over 700,000 fans of the Indian Premier Cricket League

The Pickens Plan – a 200,000+ person strong Ning Network for grassroots organizing of T. Boone Pickens’ “wind energy army.”

5.      What are your short and long-term plans for the future of NING?

Ning’s vision is to enable everyone to live the most interesting and vibrant life possible by giving people a platform where they can join and create Ning Networks around interests and passions. We also want Ning to be a service that provides people with a way to become more and more unique through membership in a wide array of Ning Networks and express that uniqueness to the world. With this in mind, we want the Ning Platform to grow with people as their interests, passions and friendships evolve in ways that we can’t even imagine today.
We focus every day on adding more value for our Ning Network Creators and their members. We recently launched two new products, Ning Apps and Ning Virtual Gifts, which we will continue to expand upon. We will also have more to announce in the coming months – stay tuned!

6.      Do you find that many communities become dormant shortly after launch? If so, why?

We see a lot of experimenting on Ning, as well as Ning Networks created for timely topics, which leads to some Ning Networks becoming inactive, or having activity spikes at certain times of the year. This experimentation is natural in the area of social creation and technologies. However, many of our Ning Networks only increase in growth due to the way that we’ve built the invitation flow and other features inherent in the Ning Platform.

7.      What are your thoughts on what it takes to run a successful Ning community and how are you working to spread that knowledge to your users?

The Ning Help Center and the Ning Blog are great resources for Network Creators looking for ideas on how to maximize all the options and features Ning has to offer.


(Author’s note: I’ve also interviewed a slew of community managers currently using Ning and will publish their thoughts on it’s beneifits and shortcomings in the next few weeks.)

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I asked a question of the Social Media: Engage panel at Internet Summit ’09 about 30 minutes ago and since that moment I’ve been thinking about online anonymity. People seem to hate it.

When I blogged about the upside and relevance of anonymous comments as they relate to news stories, some people balked. Jason Falls said at Social Media Business Forum last month that he wishes newspaper sites would stop allowing anonymous comments altogether. I get that. I know the drama that ensues when people hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Heck, I live it as part of my job and I don’t always like it.

But I still maintain that there is a place for it. You shouldn’t always have to be who you are just to communicate across the web, whether you’re on a social site or otherwise.And not everyone has awful intentions. So, I am going to take this to the extreme.

If anonymity is no longer needed in society, let’s just get rid of the Witness Protection Program.

Let the people who snitch on the mafia boss and turn in the mass murderer come forward publicly and deal with the consequences that may come their way because they decided to speak up. It’s all about transparency and openness right? That’s what everyone is saying. Be who you are. Show your face. Is this a fair comparison? Maybe not, but I think you can better see what I mean by bringing it to that level.

The statement I made during my question of the panelists was that people are trying very hard to separate their personal lives from their professional lives in the social space, and even though that is probably impossible, they shouldn’t have to share their identity with everyone who visits your site just to interact with your content. That is how I feel about it. Alex Withers, head of Digital Media at the US Golf Association Association agreed. He discussed other options for registration on their site that do not reuire revealing your true self, as did Jennifer Sargent, CEO and Co-Founder of Hitfix. Withers had stated earlier that you should not create your own database of anonymous people, particularly when you can use Facebook Connect, something they didn’t do when placing a live chat window next to a live video stream of the U.S. Open. He went on to say that the content in that chat was not something they wanted on the site so they killed it. That was what they had to do. I’m sure it was ugly. But maybe it would have been better if it were moderated.  I know, I know you need resources to do that and not everyone wants to hire people to do that….

I also know this is a topic that many people disagree with me on, but we can’t agree on everything.

Forcing people to share themselves with your audience may keep them away. So let’s keep that in mind. Perhaps the strategy to focus on if you take this route is engaging lurkers, because I think you’ll have many of them. May as well figure out how to keep them.

 

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internetsummitI’m attending Internet Summit ’09 tomorrow and plan to live-tweet and live blog, sharing what I find most interesting. At this point, these are the sessions I will attend, unless I change my mind at the last minute. If you’re interested in these sessions, follow me on twitter. I’m @communitygirl. You can also check my blog for updates and I may post over on SiliconAngle.

Blogging: New Media and Personal Branding

Panelists: Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim; Brad Hill, Director of Weblogs; Rick Klau, Business Product Manager, Blogger/Google and  Tim Schigel of ShareThis.

Meebo: Social Graph Optimiztion Analytics

Panelists: Seth Sternberg of Meebo; Doug Miller of Expedia; Ricci Wolman of The Body Shop;  Matt Van Horn of Digg; Jermaine McPeek of the Phoenix Suns; Eric bBsco, formerly of AOL and Wayne Sutton of OurHashtag.

Social Media: Engage

Panelists: Robyn Cobb of Cliqset; Alex Withers of the US Golf Association; Jennifer Sargent of HitFix and Bob Butler of Best Thinking, Inc. and Matt Van Horn (mentioned above)

Others I will likely attend include:

Online Advertising Strategies

Online Video Discussion OR Digg: Social Media Integration for Content Producers

Twitter/RealTime

Panelists: Robbie Allen of StatSheet Network; Don Brown of Twitpay; David Eckoff of Revolutionary Ventures; and Jermain McPeek (mentioned above)

Keynote: Joe Kennedy, CEO of Pandora

Should be interesting.

(The pic above is one I took from last year’s inaugural Internet Summit, in Chapel Hill, NC)

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