Building a private social network is fun. It’s exciting, it’s rewarding but when you’re building it as part of a business, it should also be profitable. Not only is it possible to make money with a community, it’s also possible to do it in a number of different ways.
Advertising is the most obvious way to make money out of a community and the simplest—it works for Facebook! But it’s also the most intrusive. By all means, use advertising to fund your community but don’t depend on it.
A less intrusive form of advertising is to use your community to promote your own products or those of partners. Mumsnet (www.mumsnet.com) has an Offers section that promotes products from its partners. Members get exclusive offers; partners get sales; and the community gets a cut.
Interest-based communities will attract members with different degrees of knowledge. Offer courses and ebooks to bring newbies up to speed and you’ll both deepen the quality of your private social network and earn some valuable cash.
An online community is great but if you can bring your members together offline, then you’ll really cement the sense of communal identity. Organizing an event will take a bit of work but share it out among other members and charge a fee to participate, and you’ll have an enjoyable way to pay for the community.
Members who feel a close affinity to the community will want to show off their membership. Use sites like Zazzle and Cafepress to offer print-on-demand hats, tees and tote bags and you’ll make sales while advertising your site.
There are plenty of other ways to monetize a community, from building a marketplace to charging for premium services. If you’re not making money out of an active community, you need to take action.
That’s all for now! Next time, I’ll talk about the other benefits a community can bring.