Chances are you’re either an active participant on social networking site Ning or have at some point visited a Ning site. Founded in October 2004, Ning was created with the intent of providing a basic, customizable platform for anyone and everyone to develop their own social network.
The beauty of the platform is that it requires no technical capabilities and similar to sites such as Facebook and MySpace, incorporates popular application tools that allow you to add photos, video, post events, create groups, generate discussions, etc. In addition, you can choose to make your network public or private as well as pay a small monthly fee to remove advertising for branding control.
As of October 2008, Ning announced that they surpassed 500,000 social networks. According to Lindsay Peifer, about 65% of those networks are active. As for user demographics, the site tends to skew toward 18-34 year olds.
If you’re working to build community, you may not need to jump in with starting your own network. It’s often easier and more strategic to seek out, join and engage in an online community as opposed to trying to start a community from scratch. As an example, I’ve made great use of Transplant Cafe as well as Twitter Moms for digging up appropriate people to connect with for various work projects. The simplistic search functionality of Ning makes it easy for you to do a quick assessment of existing networks and to gauge level of activity within that network.
At the least, you can always isolate your Ning URL to prevent being brandjacked in case you want to return to the site for future use.
There are a few disadvantages to the site including the overall broad notion that people may view the site as yet another networking site to join. That being said, remember, it’s free and it’s a good platform for creating niche communities.
Are you active on Ning? How have you made use of the site and what’s your assessment of the benefits or downfalls?