Ning Review

by Nicholas Ramirez on June 1, 2009

Ning Logo

What is it?

Ning is a web-based interface that bundles a number of separately available technologies in a single unified, hosted, people management platform.

Specifically, Ning integrates a blog, wiki, forum, photo/video gallery, “latest activity” micro feed, events calendar and member manager.

Extended functionality includes the ability to add widgets, form sub groups and organize projects.


Basic usage and functionality

The first thing that you’ll want to do as a new community owner is to modify the theme. Like WordPress, the initial theme is bare bones.


Network creators can select from roughly 30 cookie cutter themes to add a layer of basic styling to their site.

There are a few built in values you can alter to further personalize look and feel such as entering hex color codes (e.g. FF0000) and swapping masthead imagery with your own.

More advanced users have the ability to actually modify the CSS of their social network, which I appreciate :)


Search friendliness

The network I evaluated had roughly 13,600 indexed pages in Google, ranked highly for seemingly uncompetitive terms and carried a page rank of 5/10, if you believe in that sort of thing.

I see no reason why a Ning network could not be ranked for competitive terms except for the ridged hierarchal/site structure and limited control over meta variable granularity.

Something interesting of note; most of the cached pages seem to be group and user profiles belonging to the members rather than targeted, landing and information specific pages. Again, because the user demographic is not typically trying to sell something or channel traffic to a conversion, the above characteristics may be acceptable.

The best of Ning

1. Ease of use

What makes Ning unique is the ease and speed that you can deploy a new “social network.” Literally 5 fields and you are up and running.

2. You are part of a greater network

In other words, you are on Ning’s grid right out the gate which means that your network has a better chance of attracting new members and interest. When you create a new network profile on Ning you are in essence building a node on a greater network and making yourself accessible through Ning’s global search function.

It will be interesting to conduct some testing on how Ning weights its listings; it doesn’t appear to be driven solely by the number of members a network contains.


3. You can choose to be a node or a stand alone

Your addition to the Ning network is listed as a sub-domain of (e.g. You have the option of paying monthly for the ability to domain map your social network to your personal domain (e.g. Both options have their benefits mainly centered on intended longevity of the network and brand-ability of the network.

Later I envision Ning’s homepage to evolve into something of a and hybrid that informs both users and passersby of new networks, biggest buzz networks, RSS updates and featured networks.

The worst of Ning

1. Ownership

I foresee a power user exodus as early network builders attribute peers to worth. Say for instance a community of 10,000 members generates 6,000 hits a day to a glass blowing social network. At a certain point a network creator may find that he/she is spending too much time maintaining the community and decide to sell the user base to a stakeholder in the glass blowing industry. Because ownership originates and stays with Ning, there is no technical transfer of asset, rendering it a non-saleable commodity.

Somewhere in the 11,114 word count ‘Terms of Services,’ not to be confused with the 4,143 word count ‘Privacy Policy,’ I found the ownership rights.

Ning Ownership Rights

You agree that, as between you and Ning, Ning owns all right, title and interest, including, all intellectual property rights, in and to the Ning Technology. Additionally, there are two types of data provided by or collected from Network Members – Network Member Data and Ning Member Data. If you are a Network Creator or an administrator designated by a Network Creator (“Administrator”), you agree that, as between Ning and you, Ning owns all right, title and interest, including, all intellectual property rights, in and to the Ning Member Data. You shall not acquire any right, title or interest therein, except for the limited rights expressly set forth in this Agreement. Any rights not expressly granted herein, are reserved to Ning. You agree to abide by all copyright notices, information, or restrictions contained in any part of the Ning Platform. You must not alter, delete, or conceal any copyright, trademark, patent, or other notices contained on the Ning Platform, including notices on any Ning Technology you download, transmit, display, print or reproduce from or using the Ning Platform.

This is interesting because technically you have to be a Ning member before you can join a social network built on Ning. Therefore, one may interpret the aggregation of all implied interest by affinity to a given subject as built and compiled by Ning members, technically owned by Ning. Or in ten words or less; you do not own your network once it’s built.

2. Monetization

Out of the box Ning advertises on your network, which is how they can offer you a seemingly free service. If you begin to attract enough interest on a given subject it may be beneficial to lease the rights to advertise with Google Adwords. However, keep in mind that ads are worthless without a pointed demographic and either search traffic or a large member base.

The ownership clause implies the only way to monetize a social network built with Ning is either to lease the ability to place third party ads, send qualified traffic to an offsite conversion channel, or leverage your network to rally interest in an existing business model or product, which you may also advertise on your network.

3. What’s built on Ning, stays on Ning

The fact that Ning is a hosted solution is both a blessing and a curse. On the upside it is essentially free to maintain, on the other, one may find it difficult, if not impossible, to migrate to another platform. There are no migration, API bridging, export or transition aid tools of any kind to allow a network creator to transfer users or content to more common, creator hosted, technologies such as phpBB, vBulletin, Dolphin or Drupal.

Final thoughts

Ning is geared for groups and hobbyists without the resources or intention to develop a salable asset. I can see it being used for some grassroots organizations, fan sites, clubs, band groupies, hub affiliations and assemblies with a finite interest, like followers of a TV series or trendy phenomenon like Twilight where the population emulates the expo effect (e.g. large swell or congregation of participants followed by an inevitable scattering).

Stakeholders, entrepreneurs and small businesses should invest the time in a platform with a higher return on their investment of community strategy and user engagement.

Base Cost: Ning advertises on your network

Ease of Use: (9/10)

Extensibility: (2/10)

Search Friendliness: (4/10)

Business Value: (2/10)

Overall score: (4.5/10)

{ 3 trackbacks }

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

Simi Danz April 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thank you so much for your great review on Ning. Am needing to create a social network that is easy to set up like Ning and where I can charge a monthly membership fee to all members. I found when I did a google search which seems very similar to Ning. Would you please give your feedback about If you’d be open, maybe I could hire you to set up a social network platform? If yes, please send an email. Thank you.

Frankie September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

This article was super-useful. I almost signed up to Ning as a business user, I’ve had a lucky escape if the site is not transferable! October 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

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Ali January 22, 2013 at 10:44 am

great review; i have been thinking about starting a social networking website and your bullet points around ownership help me understand the strengths and limitations of Ning.

Brandon February 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I started a Ning GlamSocial community 6 weeks ago and I am very disappointed with the platform and especially the support is not responsive at all. The features that don’t work and lack of good support, Ning is a bust. Trust me, save your time and energy you can find a better platform…

Sam February 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Ning has been charging my credit card for 2 months and I never signed up with them. From what I can tell it is just a big scam. They wont stop billing me, so I had to call my credit card company.

Chuck March 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Do NOT give this company your Credit Card!!!! Find another solution. Buddypress, SocialEngine, .. there are a lot of options. Stay away from this company. March 31, 2013 at 12:05 am

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Lucy April 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I have a ning website and can’t wait to leave. It is the most appalling company to deal with. Customer service is zilch and its quite impossible to get a proper response from them most of the time that isn’t in the form of auto emails.

The amount of spam is quite appalling and the limitations go way beyond the advantages.

My advice having had a Ning site for 4 years is to stay well away.

Full Write-up May 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied
on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre
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Barb September 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Ning is terrible!! I worked on my site (during the 14 Day trial) to see if it was what I wanted. After day 12, I cancelled because I was not able to customize the site how I wanted. Day 12, for me, was on a Saturday. I received an confirmation email that they had received my cancellation. On Monday, I was checking my bank account and found that Ning had charged my account $588!!! Not the monthly option I had orginally chose but an entire year!! The worse part is that I had cancelled before the deadline and because that fell on a weekend, when they are closed, they charged my account. I have called customer service (which sends you to some foreign call center), they refunded me my money , after I was told it was my fought, but not immediately! I tried asking for a supervisor and was refused and hung up on. I called the corporate office and all I get is voice mails…still haven’t heard from them either! DON’T GIVE THEM YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER!! They are a ripoff and trying to get things resolved, through “tickets” as they refer to them, is crap. I should be able to speak to a supervisor, in the states, to solve my issues! Not get a “ticket” and wait for some person to resolve my issue when they see fit!

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smart circle October 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I don’t leave a response, but after browsing a few of the comments here Ning Review | Thinking about using Ning for your business?.

I do have 2 questions for you if you do
not mind. Is it simply me or do a few of the responses look as if they are left
by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at other online
social sites, I would like to follow you. Would
you make a list of every one of your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

paul October 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I tried the 14 day ‘free’ trial as I have been looking at various social networking sites and cancelled the site a few days into the trial. Received confirmation of my cancellation and an unambiguous statement I would not be charged from Ning. But I was still charged a monthly fee. Following up with Ning they claim they have not charged me.
So, trial-er beware. I have had to cancel my credit as my bank statements were telling a different story from what Ning were telling me.

There’s lots of other social network services, I would suggest those- steer clear of Ning.

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lpete January 23, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Yikes, I was about to use NING but now I know better – thanks to all who shared!

Alaski March 18, 2014 at 5:12 am

Thank you guys for the reviews. it has avoided a headache.

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Oscar Ocampo July 18, 2014 at 3:28 am

Thank god I found this and thank god you posted! Thanks Everyone! ,.. I definitely dont want anybody else to own my intellectual property, after reading this im glad I was so hesitant to sign up,.. I will definitely do my researh before I start any social web,.. thanks a million! (:

Liz August 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I had a terrible experience with this company! I tested the platform briefly and walked away, as you sometimes do. A year later, I got a number of harassing emails telling me I owed the platform $300 and that they’d come after my credit records. This was the first notification I received of such a bill. Be careful with this company – they have questionable business practices.

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