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       Thousands of us that own Ning based websites have one thing in common: Activity on our websites. We want the members we have whether a hundred or tens of thousands to visit, not only visit but stay and interact. If you are like me, one of those NCs having a network with less than a thousand members, then you surely brainstorm daily on how you can get new sign ups as well as get current members to interact. People have come up with many ways to do this. Give something away free. That's what the owner of JQuery Help is doing and probably the reason why I am a member here. Others say, run contests. Yes that's true too and probably the reason why I am writing this article here right now instead of writing it on Creators Ning. JQuery Help has done both and this is one of the best Ning based websites I have joined. I have a hobby of joining Ning based websites.

 Giving something away for free is a good thing but the down side is that your webiste sooner or later becomes a grab-and-run website. People come there to grab what you are offering and once they get it, it's good bye. I therefore prefer the second option mentioned above: Running contests. It does both. It gets you new members and make current members stay active on the site. In this small write up I am going to focus on sharing some ideas for contests on ning websites (pro package). These are all just ideas my administrators and I have come up with during the last three years. We have not tested all of them and I will try to add the strengths and weaknesses of each one of them below if we found some.

1. Photo Contest

If your Ning network is based on photography, this is probably not a very good idea. You probably have better ways of doing this your members supposedly being professionals. Judging professionals is a hideous task in contests. For networks that don't focus on photos, a photo contest is seen as a new thing. A fun activity. It arouses excitement as members try to test their new skill. It's like asking American students to compete in Kungfu. You have to define guidelines for the pictures to be sent in and how you are going to judge the pictures. The good thing on our Ning websites is we can like photos and see how many views a photo has. Number of views and number of likes are great objective ways to judge without even having to hire a judge.

The good side:

>> Members whose pictures aren't getting enough views and likes will go convincing friends to join your network and like their pictures.

>> If you are counting number of views, contestants will stay on you website for as long as possible everyday trying to view and review their pictures so that number of views add up.

The downside:

On ning websites we can't display full sized pictures side by side on a page. When viewers click on next to the next picture, their judgement is not as objective as it would be if the pictures were all displayed on one page. 

If you allow a professional photographer to join the contest against non professionals some will lose their motivation.

2. Video contest.

For a video contest you can apply most of what has been said above in item one. However there is an additional tip to make the video contest more useful to you the website owner. You can make the subject of the video content to be "What I like about www. (yoursite).com" You will see awesome videos about your website which you can then use for your site's promotion on video sharing websites like You Tube, Videojug, Vimeo, etc.

3. My Page design contest

For those NCs who have enabled the design studio for their members, this is a great idea they would like to compete on. Define the rules for the contest, put in place a team of judges and launch. You will be surprised. Here is a tip you might want to add to the prize of the winner. The winner with the best personal page design will be given admin access to design the main page of your network. Members love this because it gives them a chance to show off their talent and look superior to other members.  

The good side:

>> You will have a lot of them staying on the website modifying their pages over and over.

>> Some will invite their friends who are IT savvy to join and help them or compete

Downside:

On Ning websites you can't count the number of likes on a personal profile page. This will make the task of picking the winner harder because people are inspired in different ways. You won't know whether to judge color match, graphics or layout. Well you could make awards for all aspects. 

4. Music playlist Contest

We all know that on Ning networks we have a limit of 100songs per member. To make this a contest you need to be creative so that it doesn't end up being just a matter of uploading songs. Here are some creative tips to add to the rules of your contest. *No two songs from the same artist. *Name genres of music to be covered. *Name the period. For example: Playlist must contain only songs from the 70s to the 90s. If you add these kind of rules to the contest, at the end of it all your network will stand out as one with the best music playlists.

The good side

>> Network gets lively as members go search for songs for your network.

Downside

Ning doesn't provide a great way to rate music playlists.

5. Find it Contest

Design a small nice image or graphic and put it on a page (accessible to all members) somewhere on your network that can not be found easily. Ask your members to look for it. The first person to find it will have to announce it on the status update and paste the link where he or she found the image in the status update box. This is a simple contest to run and you can even do it weekly.

The good side:

>> It gets your members to visit every page of your website. They will even have to look into discussions, blogs and some will join groups just to search for the small image if your prize is attractive.

Downside:

If it is too hidden they give up. More suitable for youths. 

6. Referrals Contest

The member of your website who brings in the highest number of new members gets the prize. Make sure you have a sign up question Referred by: ________. It's a simple principle. Pick a month for your contest and ask your members to start referring new members to your network. Remind them that their referral has to mention their names. Get one of your admins to keep track on the counting. First it starts up slowly but by the the 20th day of the month you are likely to see it heating up. Come the 30th, announce the winner, give out a prize then wait for one month to pass and start all over again.

The good side:

>>You will have new members sign up everyday.

>>You will have old members on the site all the time checking on their referrals

Downside:

Many people are not happy to know that a friend got them to sign up on a website in order to win a prize.

You might have members creating duplicate accounts in order to win the prize.

7. Captions Contest

Take a funny picture that can be intepreted in several ways and upload it then ask your members to suggest a caption for the picture. Set rules for the caption for example, two word only. Set a deadline for the submission of the captions. If it is a good picture you will see a lot of creativity in the captions they will send in.

Good side:

>>This contest makes members more creative.

Downside:

It's hard to decide which caption wins. Ning doesn't provide us with a good polling script but a good search online will get you one.

8. Chat Room Regular

One thing most of us Ning network owners want is to log on to our websites and find the chat room with a long line of members listed. It is not only because we like it that way. It is because it is a great incentive to urge a newly signed up member to explore our networks. If Ning could make guests to our networks see members listed in the chat room this would even make more sense. So here is the idea: Throw a prize for the most regular member of your network in the chat room in a given period of time. You can be sure many will just log on and leave their PCs 24hours / 7 without actually doing any activity. Not bad still. Chances are, you will have some of them chatting.

The good side:

>>It is going to keep people logged on to your network showing it to new sign ups as an active network

Downside:

It's tedious to keep track of this especially on large networks

Visitors to your network who have not signed up yet don't see members listed in your chat room.

9. Games - Top Score contest

In the days when Ning collaborated with Mindjolt Games, this was perfect and easily done. Now owners of Ning webites are exploring other games websites. On my network MyEE Online, we have carefully selected games from several websites and embedded them in pages of a group we have named Games. With this system the scores of the games played neither integrate with the website data nor show in the activity feed. There is a way to make it competitive still. Encourage members to take screenshots of their scores and upload them as comments on the pages where the games are embedded. In this way all members who play a particular game can see top scores that have been obtained by other members already. This is very successful on one of my networks.

The good side:

>>You can choose a particular game related to your network niche you want members to compete in and embed only that one on the page without having other games show up and distract the players.

Downside:

>>Some members might be lazy to take screenshots of their scores and upload.

10. Best Profile Picture Contest

Do you have one of those networks where most of the members use default profile pictures? It doesn't look nice at all. The first impression people get when they visit your site and see such profile pictures is that you the website owner probably created all those profiles yourself. So the hidden objective in this contest is to get that mess cleaned up on your network. Therefore rule number one for the contest is: You profile picture must be your real picture. No flowers, animals, scenery etc. Now imagine your network with all the members having their real pictures on their profiles. Colorful and professional. However, you don't want to make this mandatory for all members as you may lose some. Some people just don't want to use their pictures online for personal reasons. Make it optional but those who opt to use their real pictures, feature them. You can also set only those members' pictures to show on the home page members list.

Downside:

 It's hard to find a way to pick the best profile picture.

Some naughty members will trick you by using pictures that aren't theirs.

11. Best Blog Contest

This is probably one of the easiest to run because blogs are pretty well set up on the ning platform. You can use the view count or number of likes as your method of judgement. The important thing here would be to define the themes in a way that suits your network themes. It would be pretty difficult to judge a blog on Chemical Engineering on a dating website for example.

>>The good side:

If the contestants come up with great content, that might really promote your network.

12. Hottest Forum Topic

This is also a very simple idea but if well managed it can really generate activity on a network and can even lead to new sign ups. Again judgement is made easy with the view count, likes and reply features.

13. Most Populous Group Contest

This is a very good contest idea for a new network looking to proote the Groups feature. We gave out a great prize for this last year on our network. Pick a number and set a deadline. Say on December 31st 2011 we will reward the top three most populous groups on our network. That's it. You will get people coming up with family groups, company groups, etc. if your prize is attractive. Here is some fun about this contest. Members invite new members to sign up and join their groups but when the new members find out it is a contest they decide to set up their own groups too. Hence, you have to carefully define rules for this contest to avoid having hundreds of groups. Here is a tip. Have a pre deadline at which some groups without a maximum number set by you get eliminated. Discourage groups with similar themes. For this reason you might want to set the groups feature to approval so that contestants apply with a full explanation of the idea behind the group they want to create.

The good side:

>>This could easily swell numbers of new sign ups on your network.

Downside:

Could easily lead to conflicts if not well managed.

14. Lucky Number Draw

Start a forum topic "Submit your lucky number here". All members have to do is reply to the topic with their lucky number. On the date of the draw, say at an annual party, you simply copy all the numbers that have been submitted on separate pieces of papers, fold them up and spread them out. Get a non member of your network or better still a kid to pick one. That's the lucky number. You can choose to have many winners depending on the number of prizes you can afford. If you get persons or companies to sponsor your prizes, ask their representatives to be at the ceremony. It's a lot of honor for them to pick that lucky number and give out the prize which is usually a product they want to promote. 

The good side:

>>Very easy to manage and easy for all members to take part.

Downside:

>> Many members might have the same lucky numbers. (You can choose to disallow that)

15. Best Helper Award

This is a contest idea born from the idea of social networking that we try to promote through our networks. The idea of having members help eachother. In this contest you have to announce that at the end of the year for example there will be a prize for the best helper on your network. Start a forum topic "Submit Nominees for the Best Helper Award here". The fun part of the contest is that you can't nominate a member for this vote. A member can't nominate himself or herself. This makes it really objective. Nominees are voted at the end of the year by all the members. (You will have to look for a good polling script that you can embed on a page on your network). A good thing to do is to find a way to have all the nominees win atleast a prize.

The good side:

>>Members of your network make an effort to help new members or other members of your network having problems. This greatly reduces your work as admin.

>>In helping others, friendship and the spirit of social networking is established. That's the mark of a successful network.

Downside:

You may end up having too many nominees. (Well not a bad thing really. Many nominees = a lot of help to your network members)

 

There must be other website contest ideas out there. I'd love you to share them by commenting here so that at the end of it all we have a great resource page for ideas for contests on our Ning networks

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Denis DNT

Shanghai, November 17th 2011

 

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Comment by Dave on June 2, 2012 at 10:12pm

I also mentioned a while ago that we could have a home page contest to see who had the best dressed home page at jQuery, members love a good contest and it's fun to dress up your page

Comment by Denis on May 28, 2012 at 11:24am

Yes, it's hard to come up with a fair criteria for selecting the pictures.

Here are some pointers I'd consider if decided to run such a contest:

1. top 10 pictures with the highest number of views.

2. network members with the highest number of friends submit a picture of their choice for voting. (I saw this idea on one website working really great. Don't remember the link. Your members will make lots of new friends overnight in order to be eligible.

3. using number of likes as a criteria to nominate a picture also works well.

Let me know if you get through what you are planning to do successfully.

We just finished a contest on my network last month. It brought us 400 new members.

Volunteer to help English learners
at www.myeeonline.com
All you have to do is chat with them.
Comment by Dave on May 28, 2012 at 6:40am

Hi Denis, Great Idea, I'm not sure how to pick particular photo's for an Album ..but it's worth looking into as having the top 100 photo's from the site to make up a album would be Great.

Comment by Denis on May 28, 2012 at 6:26am

Networks that have thousands of pictures turn to suffer from the fact that members are not willing to click through the thousands of pictures. For this reason some great pictures just get buried in the lot. Broadcasting the url of a specific album is a great idea. Another good thing is NCs can assign any picture to any album. I am not very sure about this but I have heard something like that. The idea is, a team of admins can pick out particular pictures, following laid down criteria and assign them to an album created for the purpose then all members get to vote for pictures in that album.

Volunteer to help English learners
at www.myeeonline.com
All you have to do is chat with them.
Comment by Dave on May 28, 2012 at 5:50am

I members who upload a lot of photo's so i click on one of there albums then click view slide show and then grab the URL and then post a

Broadcast message to all the members and when they click on the link or the photo i have provided with a link embedded they all start showing up to watch the latest Album it's good fun and the get to see the photos without anything else distracting them on the site.

Comment by TJ @ jQueryHelp on December 4, 2011 at 8:56pm

These are very good ideas!

I have attempted some of this with the jPoints program.  People in the Chat room get random jPoints, so active chatters are rewarded.  We now give jPoints for blog posts and some photo uploads, and for commenting on the highlighted video.  I will be coming back to this blog post often for inspiration and new ideas.  Thanks for posting this here!

'TJ' is the Owner of jQueryHelp.
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