One key concern for site owners is how to take their online community from a friendly place where people with a similar interest can talk with one another to a business that can generate income.
To date, the primary method of doing that is through advertising. But not all communities are in a position to charge companies to advertise on their site. Perhaps your community is still very small; or the topic is very focused and finding advertisers has proved difficult. And who really likes those obnoxious banner ads anyway?!
If paid advertising is not possible, or you simply do not like the idea of your community being subjected to ads, there are other avenues to explore. In this blog we will look at three in particular. A key aspect to keep in mind for any sort of revenue-generating feature for your community is that you must provide value to your members. If members don’t receive anything of value they will quickly become disenfranchised and leave the community. Monetization features that provide value to your members will not only improve your retention rate, but will also serve as a catalyst to grow your community as existing members invite people they know to join and enjoy the value you provide.
Just by being a part of your community, members have shown an interest in the topic of your site. As such, you are in a very good position to provide them additional value with paid or premium memberships. Maybe you can allow paid/premium members attend special offline events associated with your community? Or meet a “celebrity” speaker? The speaker doesn’t have to be world famous, just well-known within YOUR community.
Products & Services
Before diving in and having all sorts of mementos made that you can sell to your community, find out what your members want. You will have much greater success selling items that your members have requested. Again, this is all about creating value. Physical merchandise, like items branded with your community logo, are certainly one option. But you can also provide non-physical items like a customized profile or access to exclusive content. (This can tie in well with the paid/premium membership option.)
As your community is focused on a specific area, members will more than likely have information and access to new jobs that may otherwise not be known. Members can pay to post their resumes. Likewise, recruiters can pay to post jobs or have access to a “jobs only” area of your site. The fact that your site is very specific can be a strong marketing tactic. Job seekers and recruiters alike will know that they won’t have to wade through irrelevant jobs searching for something or someone of interest.
These are just a few ideas on how to monetize your community. There are certainly many, many more.
Please comment with your suggestions below or tweet me @mikemoloughney