For years, monetisation has been the elephant in the room for online communities. On the one hand, all that moderation, content creation, love and - let's face it - server capacity doesn't pay for itself. On the other hand, you didn't set this community up to make money, and no one joined to make you rich.
The brilliant writer Patrick O'Keefe went a huge way towards smashing that taboo with his latest book, Monetizing Online Forums (he's from North Carolina so we'll forgive him the spelling). But what about social commerce? Can you tap into the latest tools and trends to make money out of your community without alienating your members?
1. Quite simply, brands pay to run Co-buys. We've helped set up thousands of Co-buys with partners ranging from The Mirror to the motorcycling mecca, Visordown - and brands have been queueing up to get on board... at a cost.
2. Co-buys can be sold either as one-off marketing events, or as entire Co-buying channels. Brands can either take over those channels - supplying and promoting all the products made available for sale - or they can sponsor a channel where other brands' products end up on sale, giving them authority and dominance over a sector. Whichever way you cut it, this can be monetised.
3. We've helped all kinds of communities to sell Co-buys as a new, exciting and interactive form of advertising. Because the Co-buys are often supported by rate-card-able assets (display ads, newsletter inclusion, etc), brands are happy to buy bundles of activity - adding up to a total fee for the campaign.
4. Just as brands often provide free stock as competition prizes, they're often happy to write-off the cost of stock against the marketing benefits of running a social commerce campaign with your community. Even if stock isn't provided for free, most brands will be happy to provide sellable inventory at cost, meaning that you can grant some utterly unique promotional discounts to your members and still retain some margin.
5. Your community is a vast, untapped pool of qualified leads, and brands would love to be able to send emails to your members (providing they are happy to receive them). Because our Co-buys generate hundreds more communications opt-ins than there is usually available stock, there's great potential for sell-through. Crucially, though, because the community has taken part in an enjoyable and rewarding promotion in partnership with the brand in question, the warmth and familiarity generated means that these monetised communications are overwhelmingly welcomed after the Co-buy.
_And here's the most important bit - because our Co-buying solutions are entire ecosystems of social commerce and advocacy (community members request Co-buys, brands join the party, great deals are enjoyed and shared), there's no element of forcing anything on your members. This is marketing they've actually asked for, rewards they're keen to earn. It's good for them, it's good for the brands and it can be very good for you. _