Millions of people get together online under a common cause, value, or interest they share in what we call communities. It’s not a new phenomenon, per se. Humans have always wanted to band together for support, guidance, and leadership.
That’s what most digital creators offer to their followers today, leadership. And it could be in many forms: thought, knowledge, culture, values, anything. But once a match, a remarkable bond is achieved – one that is a massive opportunity for digital creators.
Direct monetization of an online community
The journey for content creators has been unique. Typically it’s started from creating unique and valuable content, building a community based on that, engaging them with more, and making ad revenue from the traffic by consistently being active. It can be rather tiring and it still happens. But it’s not the only way anymore.
What this means is that content creators don’t solely have to depend on big company ad budgets, high traffic, and an ever-increasing number of followers to make money. The same followers can be monetized, by offering them value and a stronger, meaningful relationship in exchange for some dollars.
Factors to consider before monetizing an online community
Before you plan on going ahead with monetizing your online community, there are some factors to consider.
- Great content quality
- Well defined audience
- Big enough audience size
- Audience engagement and satisfaction
Most people who create digital content have large fan followings and that’s because the audience may find their content relatable or simply unique. Out of these fans, almost 2% to 10% could possibly be known as superfans.
Superfans are dedicated followers who help creators not only in terms of likes and comments on videos but through purchasing their products to support them. These fans also suggest their friends and family check out your digital content, thereby growing a fanbase.
Image Source: Heavy.com
Just imagine K-Pop sensation, BTS. In 2019, it was reported that the band’s merch sales reached over $130 million. That’s a lot of books, t-shirts, dolls, cosmetics, and jewelry.
Depending on the niche, digital creators have the potential to make decent money even with a small audience size. Let’s say 200 people follow you and you have a $35 membership for early-release content. Almost 4 to 20 people could sign up for that monthly subscription. That’s not too bad, and it gets better when you build and grow your audience.
Here are 5 ways you can earn an income through an engaged online community.
Memberships can be used to turn existing superfans into a source of income by providing exclusive access to upcoming or already present material. This method is usually used when your fanbase has complete trust in your digital content creation skills and would give anything to see more of what you have to offer.
Due to the rise of on-demand consumption, several tools have been developed to support subscriptions and memberships, like Ko-fi.
Image Source: Kofi.com
An example of someone using memberships is Becky Mollenkamp, a business mindset coach and content creator. With the help of her community across various social media channels, she began her membership program. Now her exclusive memberships, alone, passively earn her more than $10,000 annually.
2. Affiliate programs
Affiliate programs have been around for a long, and community builders are in a great place to use them to their advantage. At the core, affiliate programs happen when a business pays commission to a partner for ensuring traffic and/or sales for the business.
Basically, tracking links are added to blogs, social media – anywhere where the traffic is high and relevant. When a prospect clicks the link and performs the required action, the affiliate is paid an agreed-upon commission.
The best example and pioneer of affiliate marketing is Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Affiliates were encouraged to share affiliate links for books on sale at Amazon. Those who had influence and a pull in book clubs, reading, and literary circles, made a considerable commission.
The same model is used today, not just at Amazon but by several other businesses hoping to bring exposure and also increase sales. It works.
After carving out their brand, some digital content creators start selling merchandise. Creating merchandise is a unique way to monetize an already engaged community. Babak Tafreshi, an Iranian photographer, now sells fine art prints of his work. Babak started night sky photography in the early 1990s. His rise to popularity initially happened through television and radio by being associated with Nat Geo and winning awards, but he’s a real superstar online.
Image Source: Instagram
Nearing 1 million followers on Instagram, he continues engaging his community with remarkable photos of the night sky. But he doesn’t forget to remind them that his work is up for sale. Those who want to install his work in their homes are prepared to pay anything from $125 to $3000. All Babak has to do is keep doing something he loves, keep communicating with his audience, and he comes out of the bank a happy man.
4. Online courses
Another way to monetize a community is by imparting knowledge and skills to those who value what you share. So what do you do? You can create online courses on platforms like Airschool, Teachable, or Thinkific. Content creators with dedicated communities are in a great position to share their knowledge.
An example is Ali Abdaal, a doctor, YouTuber, and podcaster. Ali started off his YouTube channel in 2007, making content around productivity and health. This resonated so much with his audience that he went on to create online courses and offer weekly email newsletters. As of now, he has multiple courses on popular platforms.
Image Source: Airschool
His niche remains the same, helping others achieve their goals, video editing techniques, and even support material for those applying for medical school. Many people like Ali are choosing to go this route – some have built million-dollar empires around it.
5. Sponsored posts
Digital creators with engaged audiences now also have the option to be approached for branded/sponsored posts. Community builders, now, can be more selective about which products they want to promote to their audiences. In a similar fashion, brands and companies specifically target accounts that match the needed demographic.
For instance, Canada-based blogger Tamania, better known by her blogger name, UrduMom, has an audience consisting of young mothers looking for tips on nutrition, culture, lifestyle, fashion, and more.
Image Source: Instagram
This is why Tamania receives different items ranging from haircare and skincare products to cooking products and even home décor items. In turn, she talks about her experience with the products, gives a review for them, and offers a promo code. Since her fans trust her opinions, businesses that have a similar audience tend to contact her. This boosts sales and once the promo code is used, UrduMom gets her commission for posting the review.
Monetizing your audience may seem like a daunting task at first, but the right amount of commitment and determination can have you earning an income, often passive, from the comfort of your home. It is best to develop an understanding of your audience and what they feel is the main attraction point of your content. Then find which approach works best for you and get monetizing!