Seven Steps To Financing Your Online Community by Michelle Waters -

04-01-2014 14:57

Seven Steps To Financing Your Online Community by Michelle Waters -
Setting up a message board on your site is an excellent way to build a community of loyal customers. Your community members can help each other use your product effectively and provide you with fresh ideas. The message board itself gives your customers reason to return to your site often, sometimes even daily. So, the next time they need your product -- guess who they think of first. Giuseppe Zanotti Femme Shearling Lined Zip High Top Sneakers In! And even better, customers will tell their friends about your products and your community, resulting in viral growth that will keep the incoming pouring in.

Or so it would seem.

Let's take a look at the reality of setting up a message board.

Jenny, a cloth diaper seller, decides to setup a forum so her customers can share diaper care tips, parenting advice and ideas for new product designs. She chooses the message board software recommended by her hosting company and hires a web designer for installation and customization of the forum. Then she emails all her customers about the new site.

A few months later, her forum is booming! New members are signing up daily. Search engines eat up the content on the message board, boosting her page rank and helping her site appear high in the rankings for many related keyword phrases huanghaiyan214. The problem? She's using up too much bandwidth for her existing hosting account. She purchases a larger account and the community continues to grow.

But then her hosting company contacts her and tells her that the forum is using up too many server resources. She needs to move to a dedicated server. She looks at several $99 per month server options -- but they don't include the technical support she will need. The hosting companies that do include the support she needs cost several hundred dollars per month -- more than she can support on her own.

Jenny is faced with a choice that many small business have had to make: Close the message board to the public or shut it down completely.

Both options will hurt her business.

But wait.

Those aren't the only choices that Jenny has. She can also monetize the site. Her community is the best asset off her website. She should be taking advantage of the traffic to it and monetize the site.

Monetizing a site means leveraging the traffic and resources it provides to earn money -- at least enough to pay server costs. Jenny has many option available to her to create streams of income from her message board. Below of seven of them:

1. One of the most common methods for generating income from a community is to place banner and text ads in the header, footer and sidebar sections. If these banners appeal to your community (work at home moms advertising to each other, for example), this could be a lucrative endeavor. However, there is a downside. Ad blockers may prevent your community members from seeing the advertisements. Your members may ignore the ads. And if you place too many ads on the site, it becomes cluttered and may drive potential members away.

2. You could charge a membership fee for the community. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this for a product support community. However, you may setup special forums within the message board, that are for paid members. Perhaps these paid members would have first access to new products. Be creative, talk to your members and find out what they would find valuable.

3. Join affiliate programs of complimentary businesses and promote them on your website through advertisements, articles and community messages. For example, Jenny is sells cloth diapers that she makes. She could join an affiliate program that sells diaper covers, liners, wool soakers, baby wipes, etc. Join venture partnerships with these businesses would also be an excellent way to earn additional revenue through community promotion.

4. Jenny already sells a physical product to her community members. She can add to her arsenal by creating a digital product. Perhaps an ebook on the benefits of attachment parenting, or how to convince dad that cloth is best. Talk to your community members, and consider what you know about your target market.

5. You can accept donations from your community members. The downside of this is that oftentimes people attach strings to gives (such as donations) which can cause problems later on, if you make a decision regarding your forum that said donator does not agree with. In my opinion, you'd be better off offering an upgraded membership, in which your community members purchase specific upgrades and agree to follow your rules, in exchange for a set amount of money.

6. Selling targeted sponsorships is an option that I haven't seen around much. However, you can charge more for them than for regular advertising Giuseppe Zanotti. In a targeted sponsorship, a company pays for advertising space in a specific section of your website. For example, if Jenny has a forum on her community dedicated to breastfeeding babies (who are cloth diapers, naturally), a company selling cloth breast pads may sponsor the just that forum. Jenny would place a banner or text ads in just that forum. Perhaps she could promote the company in articles or her posts in that forum as well, depending on her agreement with the company.

7. You may use a combination of all of these things to diversify your income so if one source of revenue dries up, you're not left holding a hefty server fee with no money.

While online communities can be a great asset to a community, they can also be a huge liability in terms of server fees and time spent moderating the community itself. Planned wisely and carefully monetized, a community can pay for itself.