The Ning Thing

Cross-posted from Social Media Manchester.

Ning, ning, ning. I’ve been tweeting about it lots, so I’m spending some time actually writing about it. Excuse me if I cover stuff you already know, but I thought it worth explaining everything from scratch.

What is the Ning?

A Ning is simply a customised social network for any group of users, based on underlying technology from

The Social Media Manchester Ning group is one example. The basic package is free and that’s what’s been set up.

The Ning is open to anyone and can handle everything you’d expect from this type of system:

Who set up the Ning and what is it for?

The Ning was founded by Rob Gough, who is a regular attendee of the Social Media Cafe (SMC). As the SMC tries to operate like a collective, it’s a great example of someone within the community going ahead and trying out something. The community decides to pick it up and run with it, if it’s a good idea. There are already over 250 people signed-up to the Ning group, more than the core attendees at the SMC, because the Ning is aimed at anyone in Manchester with an interest in social media.

Therefore, it’s become a great way for people with an interest in social media, based in-and-around Manchester to get talking, meet and set up events and activities. This helps fulfil some of the things that attendees asked for at the SMC feedback sessions – a way to keep in touch between meetings and carry on the debate.

Already, the Ning has helped facilitate or become a part of a number of projects: the Manchester Social Media Surgeries, the Manchester Aggregator and the upcoming Teawitter party.

Of course, the Ning is definitely rooted in the Social Media Cafe and, I hope, will continue to grow as a hub for discussion of the event and networking in between. The SMC has grown massively since it started back in November 2008 and the Ning is a great place to help serve the wide network of people who come or are just interested in what’s going on.

How can I get involved?

Sign-up to the Ning for free, and get posting! If you’re already on another Ning network, you can use the same email address and save filling in your details again.

You can also link it with your Twitter account and subscribe to the RSS feeds. There are feeds for all activity or just for events, as well as other parts of the site.

Right now, myself and Ricky Chotai are looking after some of the basic admin functions of the Ning and helping to promote it. Anyone who wants to get involved is more than welcome – just drop us a line through the site.

Why the Ning is a good way for the social media community to talk in Manchester:

There’s no escaping it – there has been some criticism of the Ning, and I think it’s best to approach this up front:

In it’s basic form, the Ning is free to set-up and use. There are some paid-for options that might improve the way it looks and feels, but right now, the SMC is a collective without any bureaucracy that would be needed to support anything that involves money.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means the community can direct the growth of the social media cafe without needing to abide by any strings that would be inevitably attached to sponsorship or any of the complexity of formal membership. This flows through to the Social Media Manchester Ning, as an off-shoot of that. However, that’s not to say that this situation won’t change in the future.

The Ning is also really easy to administer. A bespoke solution using, for example, WordPress and/or BuddyPress to support community blogs and networking, might be sexier, but require the donation of lots of free time to setup, and maintain, notwithstanding the cost as the network grows in popularity.

Perhaps most importantly though, the Ning is a growing outpost of the social media community in Manchester that has a recognised presence online. It’s in the top three Google search results for ‘social media in Manchester’ which has no doubt contributed to its growing membership, despite very low-key publicity. The Ning has the potential to act as the ‘shop front’ for the community’s opinions, thoughts and achievements, but it can only do that if we all get involved and help populate it with content.

Do you have any thoughts and comments about the Social Media Manchester Ning? Log on to the Ning and drop me a comment.