I know that I’ve written about Nings for educators before, but I was recently asked by the National School PR Association to write a description of how Nings can be useful for anyone as a tool for social networking. The key thing to remember about using Ning as a social network platform (for adults) is that it’s NOT Facebook or MySpace. Although I have a fairly active Facebook page for professional and personal use, adults I speak to often cringe at the mere thought of creating a Facebook account.
So Nings are friendly, but generally free of rock music downloads, college drinking photos and references to “Jackass” and “The Real World.”
Here’s my description of how Nings can be used by thoughtful adults, along with links to several to which I can claim membership:
Using a Ning to Build a Network
Nings have become an increasingly popular way to network with other people and groups who share similar interests with you and your school district. Ning currently hosts more than 500,000 networks on the web, and that number is growing.
Ning provides free, easy-to-navigate online software that allows you to create a social networking website available to a larger group of members. Once created, it can be used as a platform for sharing best practices, links, photos, videos and other information. Generally, the success of a Ning depends entirely on its members and how they use it.
Here are a few examples of how you can use a Ning:
- PR departments can use a Ning site to share publications and news items about a school district with anyone who signs up as a member (parents, students, staff).
- School district administrative and leadership teams can work together and communicate via a Ning, and avoid having to use long email lists and attachments to share information.
- PTAs can create Nings for members.
- Teachers can create a Ning for their department, their school, their district, or for fellow teachers around the country.
Nings can be used for small niche networks (teachers within a department, for example) or in a larger way (national or state public relations professionals).You can set the privacy level, restricting membership by invitation only or keeping it open to anyone who wants to join. Free Ning tools include discussion forums, chats, video sharing, photo sharing, link sharing, and more. You can also set the frequency with which you’ll receive updates from your Ning groups.
The Ning Premium service, at $19.95 a month, allows you to point your Ning to a domain name and to add or delete advertising, among other details. But the free service fits most groups well. You can also choose the domain name option for $4.95 a month.
Here in the Hudson Valley region of New York, we have created a group Ning for school public relations professionals, where we can share best practices and put our collective brain trust together on such topics as the local press, school budget challenges, and upcoming meetings. We have also created several subgroups within the Ning, including one on using technology.
Here are links to the Hudson Valley PR Ning and other sample Nings on the web:
Classroom 2.0 (A professional development Ning for teachers with 18,000 members)
PR Open Mic (A Ning for PR students, faculty members and practitioners with 4,100 members.
The Hurricane Information Center (a Ning for individuals interested in hurricane updates, with 700 members)
The HudSPRA Network (A newly created Ning created for school PR professionals in the NY Hudson Valley region.)
http://hudspra.ning.com/ (We might be creating a new domain name for this site, so if this link doesn’t work, try http://www.hudspra.org.)
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