What is Ning?
Ning was one of the first community platforms to support online businesses and was created in 2004.
Its main feature is to allow you to create your own social media platform by providing a space for members to engage in different ways.
A lot of membership and community platforms have emerged over the years to compete with Ning and we’ll see how they compare now.
Ning claims to have 21,000 active customers worldwide serving over 44 Millions users.
The platform does more than just provide a place to create channels and allow members to make a post…
In fact, many users use it at their one and only platform, depending on your needs.
Let’s take a look, on paper, at all the features you get with Ning:
- File storage, including video (based on plan)
- Community and forum
- Page builder
- Checkout & payments
- Emails to members
That’s a good overview but now let’s dive into some of these core features a little more.
One thing to say overall about the look and feel of the platforms is that it does feel a little dated. Which does not have to be a deal breaker if your audience is a bit older.
This is the main selling point of Ning and what everything else is centered around.
You have the ability to create a forum for members to post directly in.
Each of these posts can be Liked or Commented on, just like you would on any social media platform.
Members also have their own customizable profile, with a banner picture, a friends list, and a direct message inbox.
You can even allow them to add their own CSS code to customize their profile further (similar to what MySpace was doing).
You can set up profile questions which will be prompted for new members to answer and appear on their profile for everyone to see.
Ning allows for a few ways to boost members engagement such as for example a leaderboard with points depending on difference actions they’ve taken on the community:
Another way to do that is by using the Event feature or the Poll feature to create exciting things to do for your members.
The last note-worthy feature here is the email broadcast capability Ning offers for you to send a message to all members (not to non-members).
Note that this cannot be used as a traditional email marketing software with an email list, but is a great way to communicate with paying members through another channel.
Pages & Payment
On top of the threads and conversations you and members can create, Ning also allows you to build standalone pages.
These can be either public or private, based on the setting you prefer. They are fully customizable using the visual drag and drop builder:
Although this isn’t the most advanced page builder out there, it can help get the job done.
The way it works is basically in building blocks that are preset and you can add on top of each other.
These aren’t very flexible in terms of their layout but you can edit the contents, colors and images in them.
These pages can be used as part of a sales funnel and send people to a payment page, which Ning also supports.
You can connect your Stripe and Paypal account to receive payments.
This is also where you create your offer and pricing as well as the frequency of payments:
There isn’t much you can customize on the checkout page itself but it’s fairly well-designed out of the box.
If you don’t want to charge a fixed price or want to raise money instead, you can create a donation campaign.
One of the best parts of building a thriving community is for it to be dynamic and self-sustainable.
An important part of allowing that is for users to be able to create content themselves so you don’t have to!
Ning has a few ways for you and your members to do that with user-generated content.
This can be in a form of a simple post but also as a Blog or Article:
By letting all members or a sub-set of them do that, you can encourage engagement and networking.
Something else Ning helps doing is to effectively monitor this kind of content in the back-end to approve or disapprove them easily:
This goes for images, videos and any type of content users can bring to the table.
Of course, you have the ability to restrict this as much as you want.
This may be for safety reasons or simply to make sure you don’t exceed your storage allowance on the platform.
Ning offers a 14 days free trial on any of the 3 plans it has.
The main difference between its 3 plans is the members and storage limit.
- Basic ($22/month): 1000 members and 10GB of storage
- Performance ($45/month): 10,000 members and 50GB of storage
- Ultimate ($82/month): 100,000 members and 100GB of storage
This is relatively affordable compared to other community platforms out there such as Circle.so or Mighty Networks.
Of course it’s hard to compare these directly but Ning offers a good value for your money when taking into consideration all the features you get with it.
Depending on your need you might still need other tools to complete your tech stack (email marketing, fully-fledged funnel builder,etc.).
Ning Support & Community
Having been around for so long, Ning has built a large community of users.
The platform uses its own technology to host its members community that has around 35k people in it, though a lot may be inactive:
This can be a great place to connect with other Ning members but also to see what’s possible using the platform and get some good ideas!
In terms of support, when in your admin back-office you’ll have a live chat bot which can help with some of your basic questions.
If you pair that with the Help Center available, that should be enough for most problems you might encounter.
For anything else you can still contact support directly.
Our Overall Rate: 3.5
Community & Support Rating:
Ning is impressive by its longevity and value proposition as a platform that’s been around for almost 20 years!
There are a lot of ways for you to engage your community and build a thriving place for your people to connect.
We wish the platform kept up to date with a fresher design and progress in user experience.
That being said, the value you’ll get for your money is definitely worth giving Ning a try on the 14 days free trial.