Ning is a great platform for amateur community builders to develop a thriving community. On my hourly consulting calls with those that use Ning, a question that keeps arising is what to do with Ning groups.
In light of this I've put together 6 simple rules for using Ning groups:
- Don't use Ning groups. You should only even consider setting up Ning-sub groups when there is a pressing reason for them. When you set up a seperate group you dissipate your activity across the community. That can harm your community. Not many Ning groups succeed and those that do usually only succeed on community's that have thousands of active members.
- Reactive Ning groups. If you are going to set up a Ning group, make sure that you do so reactively. Don't predict what you will need groups for, wait until you can see what's popular in the community and who needs the groups. Make sure they actually need a seperate group to talk and you wont annoy them by sidetracking them into a separate place.
- Give the group an interesting name. Don't assume the best name is descriptive. Make it a unique name, a name that will mean something to insiders but look somewhat strange to outsiders. Read more on names here.
- Don't run the group yourself. That's not very sustainable. Find someone that's very passionate about the Ning group topic and coach them to do it. Or better, find two people – possibly three. Give them all the support they need. Help them promote the group. If you can't find someone passionate about this, don't do it.
- Set up one group at a time. Don't try to set up 5 to 10 groups at once. Focus on getting one group running at a time. Find someone to run it, help them grow it (through your promotion and outreach) to 50 – 75 active members and then move on to the next group.
- Foster a group identity. Refer to the group, by name, and what it's members are doing often. When you recognise the group by name you highlight a collective identity over the individual identity. Talk about the group's achievements and plans. Foster a sense of friendly rivalry between different groups in your community. Interview members of the group as members of the group.
Not many Ning groups are active. They’re over-used. Few communities have enough activity to need sub-groups. It’s usually best not to do them at all. However, if you do decide to go this route, the tips above should help ensure your groups are a success.