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Stars Are Getting Their Ning On!

Whether you're into football or chess, bird watching or punk rock, sex or abstinence, Ning has an online community for you. This free social network platform brings together people globally who share common focus and passion. To date, its one of the fastest growing online venues. Launched two years ago, Ning lets members custom build their own social-networks based around the areas of business and pleasure that are of the most interest to them. Whether you are a neighborhood group of 5 housewives or a Boy Band attracting fans in the tens of thousands, we are all stars in our right. So if you're looking for community to spotlight your star power, Ning can socially connect you with like-minded individuals in an online neighborhood, built in less than 15 minutes!

As Facebook and MySpace connects people to friends and family, Ning gathers users around common interests. The site can host networks for classical music lovers, video gaming-playing adolescents or Dan Brown fans obsessed with cracking the Da Vinci code further. I personally am a site administrator for a network I developed called InnSocialMedia, a social network for hoteliers and social media folks.

With over 24 million registered members, Ning has surpassed 1 million social networks and has enhanced its offerings to include new features, such as a real-time activity feeds so users can get up-to-the-minute reports - not unlike Twitter's tweets - about what others are doing.

CNN.com recently spoke to Ning's CEO Gina Bianchini, a Silicon Valley native and former Goldman Sachs analyst, about the company and the future of social networking. Bianchini believes fervently that "niche social networking sites are absolutely something people want to do...as people get more comfortable with social networking via Facebook and Twitter, they will look around and say, 'I want a social network for this particular group.'"

Like Twitter, Ning's beauty, in my estimation is based on its simplicity. Basically any one can start a network, invite members, load photos and videos and a create a forum in less time than it would take you to read this blog. For those that don't believe me, or feel they need some assistance in getting set up,there are standard Ning guide manuals available.

In regards to celebrities, Twitter has garnered the most attention for its roster of star power with the likes of Ashton Kutcher and  Oprah. However, Ning has also stepped into the spotlight to become a viable online crib for the famous as well. As an early adopter to the space, the New Kids on the Block have not only reunited with their fan base on stage, they also have their own NKOTB presence on Ning.

To attract celebs like NKOTB, Ning very smartly allowed the New Kids on the Block’s social network to become fully integrated into NKOTB.com’s homepage. This key benefit allows celebrities to control the visual look of their own social network on Ning where the social network's design, logo and navigation mirrors the group's pre-existing website. The result is a seamless integrated experience for fans to jockey back and forth between the social network and the official NKOTB website.

So by simply clicking COMMUNITY on the NKOTB website...



a visitor will be taken to the NKOTB Ning Social Network...



With over 50,000+ members, NKOTB uses its social network to provide exclusive content and announcements to drive ongoing dialogue with a vibrant fan network. Interestingly, they’ve also used their social network to make decisions about where to tour and implement a variety of other interactive methods to communicate with their fans, affectionately called "blockheads." It’s their own survey panel that provides them instantaneous feedback.

As one of the first of its type, the NKOTB Ning social network soon became the prototype for other celebrities to follow suit. The Collective, an LA-based management and production company announced a partnership with Ning to develop customized social networks for a number of their clients - starting with Enrique Inglesias. With over 60 million records sold worldwide, Iglesias has achieved multi-platinum status on Billboard charts. As an international star with a global fan base, Ning will help centralize and localize Enrique Iglesias' diverse audiences through their social network platform.



Several other members of The Collective's roster of premiere artists will be launching social John LeguizamoJohn Leguizamonetworks under the partnership as well, including top international comedian, Eddie Izzard, and Emmy Award winner, Golden Globe and Tony Award nominated actor John Leguizamo. Additionally, Taylor Momsen, star of CW's routinely No.1 most-downloaded series on iTunes, "Gossip Girl," and Interscope artist, will be using her social network on Ning as the central hub for her budding acting, fashion and recording career.

These artists join other clients represented by The Collective, including multi-platinum selling artists, The All-American Rejects and the Grammy nominated artists the Plain White T's  who have both created successful social networks on Ning.

So, similar to Twitter, it appears that social networks continue to be a grassroots type of enterprise that build from the ground up. And then once successful, the folks at the top start exploring how these new platforms can benefit them. And in the case of musical artists, movie stars and pop icons, it becomes a means for celebrities and fans to connect in a way that has never been possible up till now.

So in world of Ning, move over hobbyists, enthusiasts, and even corporations. Your turf is now home to the rich and famous! The real estate of your hood just increased in value. Let's just hope Ning doesn't see this as an opportunity to start charging for their services?