For those of you familiar with the Social Networking platform Ning- which enables online community and social network creators - there have been some recent announcements which drive the business in new directions. The news may be valuable to MyVenturepad’s small and mid-sized companies looking to build a better online presence or community and improve search engine optimization results beyond the organic methods one may employ today.  Additionally, agencies, brand and digital strategists, and PR firms use Ning as a valuable solution for their customers.

During a series of announcement calls last week, key customers, or social network creators, participated to share their use and love of all things NING.  There are roughly 350,000 active networks today in use on Ning.

I had an opportunity to interview Ning’s Vice President of Business Operations, Anne Driscoll last week as she spoke of Ning’s new Services: which at the “NING Pro” level, include premium HD video support, social analytics, and the ability to offer and charge for premium subscription content, all within Ning. These features and more will roll out during the summer and this fall.

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Anne, tell me about your role at Ning: 

I've been at Ning for three months, and lead the company’s Marketing, PR & Partner Design efforts. In addition, I'm responsible for our Internal Communications and People Strategy. We are currently in a very exciting time at Ning as we shift our focus towards further developing features to support our most active networks, to help them scale and provide more value to their members. Right now, my team is working closely with the Product team on their upcoming features to determine how they will add value to current and future customers, and how to best serve the many verticals that use Ning. 

How can Ning help growth companies succeed?

Ning can be a key part of any company's social strategy. As people and organizations continue to become more adept at using all of the different social technologies available today, they are looking for ways to go deeper and engage with their audiences in different ways. The benefit of creating a Ning Network is that it is an entirely branded, customized experience that gives companies the power to have exclusive or public communities.

Ning can truly be the central hub to these activities, with features such as Facebook and Twitter integration. This integrated approach allows Ning Creators to tap into the mobilization and broadcasting elements of Facebook and Twitter while having Ning be a place for their most active members to engage. Our most successful Ning Network Creators use all of the social technologies available, and often have different conversations, or even audiences, on each. Members of these Ning Networks tend to be the most active and passionate, and are willing and able to give feedback and create content around the topic of their choosing. 

Building relationships with your customers is critical to building your brand. Ning lets you do that in an authentic way, and in an environment that looks and feels like the brand you are building. Understanding what you want from social media is a key element to success, and defining the right metrics - audience, regular interaction or loyalty - will help businesses create the best strategy first, even before figuring out how to execute and what tool to use. Ning has a wealth of use cases in any vertical from major consumer brands to activism, politics and entertainment. Tapping into Ning’s five years of experience with social technologies can  help you determine the right "hook" and goal to make social be a key part of your brand strategy. 

What advice have you gleaned to share from your experience with other women executives & heads of business?

Hire great people, and give them the freedom to do great things. As an executive, you need to be able to build and support your team, be the protector to gain loyalty and trust, and the challenger to keep them engaged and motivated. When you have that, anything is possible.

Next, embrace healthy tension amongst the leadership team, but let it go when the debate is done. 

The different perspectives of leadership teams create a natural and effective tension – everyone is bringing their context and priorities to the table. This tension is fantastic as we all debate the issues of the day and this debate helps us increase our shared understanding of other areas of the company and ultimately helps us make the best decision for the company. After we’ve had the debate and chosen our course of action, we leave the challenges behind, and move forward on the strategy in a united way.

The third and probably the most important thing is to love your job. I wake up every morning (well, almost every morning) looking forward to what is going to happen that day. If you have great colleagues and love the work you do, you will not only be able to weather the rough patches better, your passion and enthusiasm will lead to a better result every time.  

And one piece of advice I’m personally working on, never start a conversation with “Can I ask you a question?” – just ask it.