Ning: A Place To Build Customized Social Networking Web Sites.

Over the years, the Internet has become more than a place to find information about anything. Facebook and Twitter opened up this area first.  But with Ning, the Palo Alto, CA startup takes the best elements of these two social networking giants and incorporates them to give users the ability to create a personal social networking site.

What Does Ning Do?

Ning relies completely on the vision and creativity of its users.  As stated in its mission statement, Ning sees itself as a “platform to create powerful, custom social websites.”  In other words, they give users the tools and the coaching (if needed) to develop a site where visitors/ members can blog, post updates, or interact with each other about whatever subject they choose while using a Facebook or Twitter like platform.

How Does It Work?

Ning simplifies its setup so users can get going quickly.  No coding is involved to create a site.  The company provides point and click templates that allow users to design the layout of the site.  Of course, if the user so chooses, he can build his own Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and the site however he chooses without input from Ning.

On the other hand, a user can also work with someone at Ning to build the kind of site he wants. For around $1,000 (961.00 in Australian dollars), a Ning employee helps customize the site and provide coaching and training via WebEx.  For $3,500 (3,366.64 in Australian dollars), the user gains more design input with three site modifications, and he also has access to web based tools, such as a content slider and HTML splash screen.

Ideally, Ning encourages users to build their own sites. In return, Ning gives the user Data Analytics, Search Engine Optimized (SEO) content, public or private site availability, and accessibility through mobile devices. Pricing structure for individual users also reflects Ning’s desire to give users control.  The company offers a 30 day free trial of their services, then from there offers three plans: Plus for $24.95 a month (10,000 members, 10 GB storage, email support), Pro for $59.95 a month (unlimited members, 20 GB storage, email and phone support), and VIP (unlimited members, 1 TB of storage, and a dedicated account manager).  Ning even offers what it calls a “mini plan” for as cheap $2.95 a month that allows 150 members and 1 GB storage.

For a 2004 startup with about 100 employees, Ning’s business model has succeeded in generating 120 million in revenue. Glam, an advertising and promotion web site, took notice and acquired Ning in September 2011.  Personal social networking sites are probably the future of the Internet.  They ask users to be more than passive viewers or gatherers of information.  It gives them journalistic power, a way to interact with others in a virtual community setting, and a platform on which to explore their motivations, emotions, and desires.