Today the social network platform Ning announces two major new features for its new virtual gifting feature, one of the few ways the company currently has of monetizing. The most prominent of the new features will be "variable pricing."
At launch all Ning virtual gifts cost 75 credits, or roughly $1.50. In the future, users will be able to create gifts that cost 25, 50, 75, 100, 200, or 500 credits. This will allow the price of virtual gifts to range from $.50 to $10 each, with prices to be set by the Network Creator of each individual Ning social network.
Network Creators will also be able to sort gifts by category, essentially letting them suggest which gifts a user might want to buy to express specific sentiments like friendship or even simple self-expression. Obviously, what sentiments users find appropriate will vary in each of Ning's social networks, which rules out a one-size-fits-all approach like Facebook's.
The idea is to let users with high enthusiasm and deep pockets spend more on elaborate virtual gifts that suit the particular needs of a given social network. Since launch the virtual gifting feature has proven very popular on Ning, with 500,000 virtual gifts given in the three weeks since the feature was added. On average, 25,000 virtual gifts are given on Ning each day.
Although Ning provides "pre-made" virtual gifts for its client networks to use, the company's press statements happily admit that user-created gifts are most popular– and, in the future, may enjoy the highest price tags. This suits the "long tail" nature of a project like Ning, which distributes its 39 million users among 1.6 million different user-created social networks.
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