The following is a sponsored post from Ning.com.
There are more and more people who realize the benefits of making money online. This is why blogging as one of the most common ways of delivering useful and engaging content to the internet users is rapidly becoming also one of the most lucrative sources of income on the web.
However, the market of software platforms offering casual users an opportunity to establish the online presence, share content, and make money from it is constantly evolving, bringing new players to the arena.
This time, we’re gonna talk about one of these players – NING. In this post, we will try to figure out what this platform is about and how to monetize a blog with its help.
What is NING?
NING is a SaaS platform for creating multifunctional social websites (or custom social networks if you please) which has recently acquired rather extensive monetization features allowing website creators to turn their little online projects into profitable businesses.
To set things straight, NING started out as a relatively simple website builder boasting a decent number of social networking features enabling users to create customized social networks that work in a fashion similar to Facebook and other social media, although with more flexible privacy settings and more freedom to share niche-specific content.
The platform turned out to be particularly popular among bloggers and other internet enthusiasts who set out to benefit from creating their own online communities around topics ranging from gardening to business analytics.
NING’s core competitive advantages used to be the user-friendliness and focus on social networking. The former allows creating a visually potent website with a multitude of inbuilt features even if you are an absolute dummy in programming or web design. The latter makes it possible to build an entire community out of your online following and interact with your network members in a number of ways.
However, recently NING has started to explore newer ground that is monetization. The platform has set its course toward catering to online content creators, both professional and amateur.
How to monetize content with NING?
One of the crucial virtues of the NING monetization platform is its versatility. It offers three distinctive monetization options. Each may appeal to different audience groups and suit different business models:
- Paid Access is the simplest way to monetize your content on a NING website. It’s all about selling content directly to your audience. NING allows you to create and configure any number of paywalls which you can then apply to your content, be it a blog post, article, or media like video, audio, and photos. It is also worth pointing out that users are free to sell their content in either single items (like a single blog post) or bundles (e.g., a blog post + video guide + podcast).
- Paid Membership is another straightforward monetization method which can be seen as a possibility to apply a single paywall to the entire website. Thus, your blog and all the rest of the website’s assets can be accessed only by registered members who pay the subscription fee. The platform allows for setting up both single-time and recurring payments so you can decide how often you want to charge your followers. Paid Membership seems to be the perfect option for bloggers with a reputation and a massive following, especially if they are capable of offering some exclusive benefits to their most loyal fans.
- Donations is the feature which may turn out to be particularly useful for newbie bloggers who are only starting out in their blogging career. At the same time, it is the ideal solution for content creators who don’t want to enforce monetization on their audience but prefer to rely on voluntary support from the most grateful followers. The feature comes with a multitude of configurable settings empowering users to modify the appearance and text of a “Donate” button, provide an accompanying message regarding the purpose of a fundraiser, and decide where exactly the Donation block will show up on the website.
Along with the three main features mentioned above, the monetization platform offers some extras, including an analytics tool making it possible to keep track of website visitors, conversions, and all kinds of financial transactions, as well as a versatile discount system which allows content creators to set special prices, arrange and manage promotion campaigns.
All things considered, the monetization possibilities provided by NING make the website builder a quite promising solution for bloggers who aspire to make money from their hobby. This is why we’re going to take a closer look at the platform in the following chapters and try to find out whether it is really so easy to monetize a blog on NING.
Apparently, before you can start a website on NING, you will have to create your personal account. Go straight to NING.com and click the green button “Get started” in the top right corner of the screen.
Along with filling the standard fields, you will be asked to select a topic of your future website (e.g. blog, music, sport, portfolio, etc.). This will determine your default website template. However, when you’re through with the registration, you will be able to switch to another one anytime.
Another important thing to pay attention to while registering your account is the URL of your site. The great news is, NING provides you with a domain name for free so you can save some money. What is more, you are allowed to enter any name for your blog/website that strikes your fancy (unless it is already taken). However, your URL will inevitably end with ning.com by default. But if you own another domain name and want to use it instead of the native one, you can later hook it up with your NING website thanks to the Domain Mapping feature.
Although NING offers a 14-day free trial, you will still have to leave the credentials of your bank card and select the subscription plan straight away while creating your account. However, there’s no need to worry. The money will not be deducted from your card until the trial is over.
As far as the pricing is concerned, there are three subscription plans available at the moment: Basic ($25/month), Performance ($49/month), and Ultimate ($99/month). It is worth mentioning that you get access to absolutely all features supported by the platform regardless of the plan you choose. The differences between the plans lie in:
- The maximum number of members and admins you are allowed to have;
- Storage capacity for your online assets;
- Number of marketing email campaigns you can run per month;
- Number of RSS feeds on your homepage;
- Support privileges (live chat, personal account manager, and 24/7 calls are available only on the Ultimate plan).
If you’re not sure what plan to choose, it is recommended to pick the Basic so you can get acquainted with the platform closer and then upgrade to a better plan once you feel you are going to stay.
Setting up your website
NING, just like most other website builders, is meant for casual users. This is why it is unlikely that you will face any difficulties with customizing your website design and managing your content.
The basic procedure for customization consists of two steps: selecting a design template and modifying the look of its elements. There’s a relatively broad range of templates to choose from, with most of them designed for specific themes like blogging, music, sport, etc. Almost all visual components of the templates (e.g. background image, fonts, navigation menu, page layout, header, footer, etc.) can be changed according to your own preferences.
Managing content is no harder. It is easy to create any number of pages on the website and fill them with content. Depending on the page type you choose, you can add different types of content including text, images, video, and audio. When it comes to blogging, text can be organically combined with images and videos.
What is more, the platform allows you to control the privacy settings for each blog post and decide who exactly can view the content (everybody, members only, selected members only). Besides, users are enabled to write tags for any posts they make to facilitate the search both on the website and search engines.
Monetizing your blog
Finally, we get to the point that most bloggers who have decided to make money from their blogs are concerned with – monetization and how it works on NING.
Selecting payment method
Before creating your first paywall, you will have to choose your preferred payment method. As for now, NING supports three payment methods: PayPal, Stripe, and iDeal. To activate one of these, go to your E-commerce dashboard > Settings > Payment Methods. You will then be guided through the rest of the process with timely pop-up tips.
Creating a paywall
As soon as your account on one of the above mentioned payment systems is successfully connected to your NING network, you are ready to set up your first paywall.
A paywall is essentially a price tag you can put on your premium content or even entire website. To create a paywall, go to Products > PayWalls and click on the “Create PayWall” button in the top right corner.
The menu that will show up on the left will allow you to configure your new paywall. On the right, you will see a preview of the payment page which will be shown to the buyers of your content or subscribers.
You can either create a paywall that will apply to a single product (a blog post or one page of your website) or multiple products at once. It is also possible to set up a trial period within which your content will be available for users free of charge.
Give your paywall a suitable name and write a brief description in which you can point out what your customers are paying for. Both name and description appear on the payment page.
In the “Add new subscription” section, you are free to specify the subscription period and price of your content/subscription, as well as the currency. If you want to enable the automatic renewal of the subscription for your customers, check the “Activate recurring subscription” checkbox.
When you are through with all the fields, click the green button “Create PayWall”. Your first paywall is now created.
Applying a paywall to a blog post
When your paywall is ready, applying it to content is really easy. Every time you will create or edit a blog post, you will find a “Make this content paid” checkbox at the very bottom of the editing screen. Just check it and select the paywall you want to apply from the drop-down list (the list contains all the paywalls you’ve created before).
As an additional option, you can allow free access to the content to specific network member or member groups. To do this, check the “Free access” checkbox.
Setting up Paid Membership
If you make up your mind to charge readers for accessing your website, start with creating a paywall in the same way you would do for your regular paid content. Then, go to the “Social Site Manager” tab in the admin panel, select the “Privacy” category in the menu, check the “Paid Membership” checkbox, and select the necessary paywall from the drop-down list.
You can choose to either start charging all your network members or new members only. Also, it is possible to schedule the automatic implementation of Paid Membership on your blog for a certain date.
Creating a Donation campaign
To create a donation campaign and give your followers an opportunity to support you, select the “E-commerce” tab in the admin panel, go to Products > Donations, and click “Create new donation”. Enter the title of your fundraiser and write a short description which can be anything you want to address your potential supporters with.
Then, specify the donation range (e.g. min. $5 – max. $100) and default donation amount. You may also want to offer your donors an option to donate monthly by checking the corresponding checkbox. The option will appear on the payment page.
After clicking “Continue”, you will proceed to the next step – creating a “Donate” button. You are free to modify both its text and appearance. The final look of the button can be previewed in the right part of the screen. There you will also find an HTML code of the button. When you finish configuring the button, copy the HTML code and click “Save”.
Now you can either create a separate Donation page on your website or add the “Donate” button to an existing page. In both cases, you will need to paste the code of the button to any HTML block on any page.
Creating a blog on NING and monetizing it by using one of the three monetization options offered by the platform seems to be among the easiest ways of making money online these days. As practice shows, getting started with the site builder and setting up its E-commerce system is not difficult at all and can be done with little investments of time and effort by pretty much anyone. So if you have firmly decided to start making money from your blog, take a closer look at NING and its new monetization feature.
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