Having a strong social media presence is great, but how valuable is it, if it ultimately brings in no revenue? Brands have spent heavily on social media to build a strong online presence; many of them treating social media as just a major channel to connect with customers. However, social media is a two-way street and as long as brands add value, they should also capture value in return. While many companies have built a strong following on social media, the question remains: How can brands monetize social media communities to get the best out of digital marketing? This guide is an attempt to explore answers to the above question.

In simple terms, monetizing social media refers to the conversion and utilization of social media assets such as consumer base, data, email lists, etc., and turning them into revenue. Thus, the ultimate goal for companies is to figure out how to transition from merely getting eyeballs on their products and services to actually generating revenue by leveraging social media.


Monetizing Social Media: Why is it important?

The total number of internet subscribers in Bangladesh has reached 43.419 million at the end of February 2015. Out of this, 41.9 million use mobile internet. Given the increased popularity of smartphones, people are very active in social media on their mobile phones. Communities such as Desperately Seeking – Dhaka and Shakib Al Hasan on Facebook are rich with followers, but they are not monetizing in a scalable system.

Digital marketers must carefully distinguish between consumer interest and intent, focusing on the latter to drive sales. Failure to do so will turn the social media marketing investment into a glamorous money-hungry sinkhole. While it may be difficult to monetize social media, it is not impossible. Some companies have done it well. With the help of this guide, your brand can do the same in the Bangladeshi market.


How To Monetize Social Media

Before any monetization model can be applied to a social platform, it is important to build a strong community around your brand. Thus this guide starts with tips on building an authentic community, following the steps leading to the implications of the right monetization model. Since Bangladeshi consumers are engaged mainly on Facebook, we will use it as our social media reference for the guide (the methods work for other social media platforms too).

Step 1: Building an Authentic Audience

The first step to monetize social media is building a strong community around your brand. The key point to focus on here is the debate between quality vs quantity. Brands often focus on the number of LIKES as a metric for success rather than the authenticity of fans, engagement rate, or loyalty of the community. While having a lot of LIKES (a large number of fans) is great, it does not necessarily indicate a large potential customer base. Your social media community might already have the right audience, but in case it doesn’t here are 11 tips to help you out:

  1. First, identify the right target audience. The key is to filter out those who are truly interested in your brand from random ‘like’ spammers. This can be done by matching the goals of your brand with consumer interests.
  2. Create contents that align with these interests. For E.g. If your product is chocolates, create contents that will delight chocolate lovers and give them some form of value.
  3. Engage with them regularly. This will help to create a bond with the community and gain their trust.
  4. Drive conversations. Make sure your community is lively and people interact with each other.
  5. Post regularly. The aim is to be available on the newsfeed of those who regularly engage with you. With the latest news feed algorithm update, the value of viral reach increased significantly.
  6. Avoid sharing or posting random things just to increase likes. Random followers offer no value in the long run. Irrelevant, but funny/interesting posts will ruin the identity of your brand eventually.
  7. Establish your expertise by solving problems publicly and offering useful insights.
  8. Offer exclusive deals to your community. Make them feel special and they will give you their loyalty and WOM recommendations.
  9. Every interaction a consumer has on social platforms leaves a trail of useful information behind. Successful brands simply follow the crumbs (consumer co-creation through social listening) and translate data into something actionable: Carefully crafted messaging and ad targeting intelligence.
  10. Become a friend to your consumers. Constant interactions will help to achieve this and give your brand a “human” like identity, not just another business trying to sell something.
  11. Facebook LIVE is a new way to connect with your audience, take questions, and solve problems. Public figures are primarily using it more effectively than brands. Here’s a great example from Solaiman Shukhon.

Identifying consumers who truly intend in engaging with the brand and championing it can be a valuable asset. They are your evangelists. These consumers can provide endorsements, reviews, insights, and feedback. Once loyalty is built, we can take it to the next level. Rannar Golpo is a great example of a well-built, niche community of recipe-loving Bangladeshi homemakers.

Step 2: Leveraging the Audience

Social media offers a great opportunity for brands to extract insights about consumer behavior. Once you have successfully identified your audience and messaging, why stop there? Leverage your audience to identify other consumers like them. Here are a few tips on how you can do that:

  1. Use your social media profiles as sales channels to generate leads. Every existing lead can potentially create new leads.
  2. Offer special promotions, discounts, and sales through your social network to drive shares. The more visible your contents are, the more people will find your brand.
  3. Offer value to your audience, and they will add value to you by giving their trust and attention. Make sure your audience find your content valuable.
  4. Make your audience talk about you. Word of mouth marketing is very effective to bring in new leads.

People will trust you more when they see someone they know is engaged with your brand. IFAD EGGY and ASUS Bangladesh are examples of brands that increased their reach by hosting contests and campaigns to promote shares.

Step 3: Choosing the Right Method to Monetize Social Media

Once you have the right audience, it is time to think about converting them into revenue. Having an authentic audience of more than 10,000 followers is enough to build upon. There are many ways to monetize your community, we are highlighting the most popular and effective ones. You should use these strategies depending on the nature of your product or service.

  1. Freemium Model: A model that provides a free or trial version of its product or service and encourages the purchase of its advanced features. This is a classic, tried, and tested formula. Offer a basic or trial product to your audience for free through your page. If your product satisfies your customers, guess who will be willing to pay for more of it? Now you can sell the advanced features through your website and your page. Having an authentic audience ensures a high conversion rate. Kaspersky Labs is a great example of a freemium model. They allow their Facebook followers to download a free Kaspersky Password Manager. This gives their potential consumers a chance to experience their quality and eventually buy their antivirus products.
  1. Affiliate Model: There are countless pages and groups on social media that have an authentic, loyal community, but no products to sell. On the other hand, there are many businesses that have a product pipeline, but no community to sell it to. This is where the affiliate model comes in. This is a model in which a platform (online community) makes money by driving traffic, leads, or sales to another, affiliated company’s website. Businesses that sell a product, meanwhile, rely on affiliated sites to send them the traffic or leads they need to make sales. If the product has a specific target audience, any group with that audience base can become an affiliate, sharing sales revenue and monetize the social media community. This works effectively because a community consists of people with a similar mindset, interest, and intent. When peers of a group you are a part of talks about a product that interests you, wouldn’t you give it a try? Amazon Affiliate Program is a great way to monetize social media community focused on a particular niche. It will earn you revenue for each conversion through your traffic source (with tracking pixels).
  1. Lead and Sign-up Generation: Did you know you could do it? No matter what business you are in, if you can prove your value and expertise, leads will follow. There are various ways to do this, by offering discounts exclusive to group members, incentivizing sign-ups, or use e-mail applications such as MailChimp to enable email sign-up through Facebook. You can also add Call To Action to your Facebook page. The ultimate goal here is to bring in new people with the help of your existing audience and drive them to take a specific action. Sign-ups will enrich your email list. Email lists can be used to sell products and bring additional revenue. This is a good example of lead generation by adding value.  
  1. Sell your Products: Facebook can be a great asset if you are selling products online. This can be done by adding a custom tab on your Facebook page that allows you to directly sell the product through Facebook. People can browse your products, and then click through to your e-commerce site or a marketplace to make the payments; Facebook doesn’t have a payment integration for the Bangladeshi market yet. ShopUp solves this problem for you. While this is handy, Facebook also allows you to promote your products to the right audience. This can be enhanced by using the Power Editor feature of Facebook Ads and targeting custom audiences. Feature your best selling or new products on your page. If the audience is right, they will eventually transition from online to in-store. There are various tools out there that can make your life much easier such as iFrame that allows you to import your online store to Facebook. This is a popular model used by most online boutiques and online stores such as E-ShopBD. If you have something to sell, use your social media platform.
  1. Advertising Model: For those who have a large follower base on their social media platforms and high traffic on their website, they can adopt the advertising model. Websites that have high traffic can earn by providing space for ads to others who are looking for such a traffic presence. Through effective community building and engagement strategies, you can drive significant traffic to various sites. Tools such as Google AdSense and G&R can be used to monetize these opportunities. E-commerce platforms such as Bagdoom.comDarazKaymu are great examples of brands who can use their social audience to drive traffic to their websites and monetize by advertising besides selling products. Many celebrities, publishers, and Facebook communities also share branded (sponsored) posts from their social channels. Check out this post from Tahsan.

Step 4: Going Beyond

While following the suggested methods are great, sometimes we must look further. As technology evolves, so do the people and the processes associated with them. Thus, brands must be proactive and constantly work towards strengthening their community and methods to monetize social media. Here are a few tips being used by proactive brands that will help you out:

  1. Use data to determine which platforms and content make sense to your audience and your affiliates’ audience.
  2. Every member of your brand must accept and adapt to your brand identity, especially those who are in charge of social interactions. It is important that your brand always speaks and interacts consistently, just like a human being.
  3. Leverage relevant live events to engage your community. Open a channel for your fans to engage with live events whenever possible.
  4. Take advantage of Apps and look for ways to monetize them by offering virtual goods. Ads can also be sponsored on Apps.
  5. Be honest and publicly resolve any problems or complaints that your audience might bring up.
  6. Remember, your brand is a “person” too.

Recommended Tools to Help Monetize Social Media

We understand how difficult it might seem to conduct proper market research and analysis. Thus we recommend a few tools that will make your monetization and strategy crafting much easier.

Buffer. Allows you to create a custom schedule for posting updates to your Facebook profile or page. Add posts to your Buffer and they will automatically be assigned to the next open time slot.

HootSuite. Allows you to schedule posts to your profile and page. Also allows you to monitor your news feed in one dashboard.

SumAll. Lets you view your Facebook Insights alongside business data from a variety of sources in a graph so you can see how a spike in Facebook activity affects your business.

Cyfe. Prefer dashboards? Cyfe lets you create dashboards with business data from a variety of sources.

Social Report. If you’d rather get your Facebook Insights and activity delivered to your inbox.

Rival IQ. For those who need to constantly monitor their competitors, Rival IQ lets you see your competitor’s Facebook page description and activity levels. It will also notify you when any significant changes are made to the page.

Klout for Business. Klout for Business helps businesses identify influencers in their own social media circles to allow them to reach out to those individuals to spread their message.

Rowfeeder. With Rowfeeder, businesses can gain insight into topics that are trending, including topics that concern their own industry. This analysis can be used to tweak your own campaigns, allowing you to reach out to consumers using the terms that interest them.

Mention. This alert program monitors a user’s social media accounts and sends notifications when a specified search term receives a mention.

Shortstack. Shortstack helps businesses create professional-looking Facebook pages, complete with polls, forms, and more.

Infogr.am. Infogr. am is a tool that helps businesses put together infographics that convey a message for free.

Feedly. Feedly provides a way to keep up with what’s going on in the world, with information delivered in one compact dashboard. Feedly is also a way to keep up with information your social media contacts recommend to better keep you informed.

We hope this guide would help you monetize your social media and digital assets. Please share your story and/or feedback with us in the comments section or at ovick@webable.com.bd. You can also download the pdf version of this guide for future reference.