There are many great reasons to build a community for your brand, such as providing better support, increasing engagement and converting loyal customers into advocates. All these can add enormous value to the brand, but there’s another important benefit that’s often overlooked. Online communities can also drive sales directly and even add entirely new streams of income to boost your return on investment yet further. Here’s our step-by-step social media monetisation guide.
Step 1: Create your own community
Social buying is rapidly shaping up to be the next big thing, with one study claiming that almost a third of shoppers use social networks to browse for things to buy. At the same time, just 18% of consumers have ever purchased through social media directly. This shows that most people use mainstream social media for window shopping. After all, there’s a big difference between ‘liking’ and actually buying.
When you have an online community platform of your own, you’re in control. Not only do you have more options to preserve your branding; you can also shape the entire user experience. With your brand placed front and center, members will be much more likely to be in buying mode when using your community platform. You can create your own community using forum software or a purpose-built community mobile app.
Step 2: Integrate web payments
The key to successful social media monetisation is the right payment system. With more online payment platforms than ever before, it’s never been easier to buy and pay online. Yet, lots of companies still don’t seem to be getting it right. In fact, 30% of consumers abandon their shopping carts because they have to re-enter their payment card information. Other common reasons are concerns over security and hidden costs and inconveniences like having to re-enter shipping information with each purchase.
You can’t expect to successfully monetise your community if members don’t have a safe and easy way to pay online. A payment gateway securely processes transactions through a range of platforms, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal or direct card payments. By integrating a secure third-party payment processor, there’s no need to develop your own solution or worry about all the compliance and security implications that come with it.
Step 3: Include a loyalty program
Things like brand communities and community marketing might be relatively new concepts, but they have a much longer history than you might think. Today’s brand communities grew out of loyalty programmes, which have been around since the dawn of modern commerce. A lot of companies still seem to think that the customer journey starts and ends when a payment is made, but it’s leveraging the loyalty and influence of existing customers that really counts towards business growth.
A loyalty program doesn’t only serve to entice new and existing customers to spend more by offering exclusive discounts. It’s also a way to grow your community and encourage customers to sign up and participate. That’s why many successful brand communities are tied to loyalty programmes. But, there’s a lot more to a loyalty program than discounts alone. It’s also about asking for and acting on feedback and giving loyal customers the recognition they deserve.
Step 4: Sell your expertise
As soon as online commerce and affiliate programmes became a big thing, people have been selling their expertise online through coaching, online courses and downloadable guides. The first wave of online knowledge-selling saw a whole lot of spam peddled by those expecting to make easy money, but the market has come a long way since then. Things like personal and professional development are now some of the hottest topics in social media monetisation.
Chances are, there’ll be members among your community who have personal or professional goals they want to achieve. If your brand can provide that expertise in the form of specialised, high-quality content, then many people will happily pay. By adding a paid subscription option or freemium content to your community, you’ll be able to increase customer lifetime value and boost authority in your industry.
Step 5: Explore sponsorship programmes
Almost three centuries ago, royal endorsements were used to promote products. In the early nineteenth century, big brands started leveraging the influence of celebrities to help sell their products. Today, we have online sponsorship programs, the holy grail of social media monetisation. Running a thriving online community gives you the chance to get to know your members, which better positions you for exploring sponsorship opportunities.
Many brands will happily pay premium rates to get direct access to your community to promote their own products and services. If those offers complement your own value proposition and are relevant to your target audience, you’ll be better placed to build an affiliate network that provides enormous value to everyone involved. Your community members will also appreciate having easy access to a greater variety of relevant offers.