Ning Boosts SocNet Engagement

Social media technology company Ning has launched a set of tools designed to help publishers and community leaders to identify their most popular users — and potentially turn them into brand advocates.

The much-hyped company, which is in the midst of transforming itself into a subscription-based social services platform, has introduced the Ning Engagement System. Individuals and groups that use Ning to host social communities — ranging from media personalities like Ellen DeGeneres and Martha Stewart to bands like Linkin Park — can now track which content drives the most traffic within their networks.

They can use that information to program the front pages of their networks, and reveal the most popular fare via Ning Leaderboards, which generate automated rankings of top members and content.

Also, network managers will have access to analytics to help them figure out which community members attract the most traffic or consistently produce the most comments. Theoretically, these managers could provide marketers access to these vocal community members — even paying them to promote their brands to the network at large.

“This is the next logical step in social marketing,” said Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal. “On the user side, it’s really all about driving engagement. For marketers, this is the whole concept of finding the most committed users [on a given network] and turning them into brand ambassadors.”

Ning was  founded as a free ad-supported platform for Web users looking to establish niche social networks focused on a given subject — everything from music to politics to sports. Earlier this year the company shifted its model to focus on premium services. According to Rosenthal, the number of Ning premium nets is growing rapidly, jumping from 40,000 to 50,000 in just the past week.