A lot of people argue that online communities can’t make money. Indeed, I wrote an article back in October of last year entitled, ‘Warning: Big advertisers hate forums‘. The fact is though, online communities can make money, you just need to ensure your advertising is targeted and focused towards your audience.
Always consider your audience
Let’s start off with the basic stuff – if your community revolves around video game discussion and reviews, then a good choice of advertisers would be video game stores or other related sites. Running untargeted ads on your site is a waste of your advertising inventory. Unless you are getting paid on a CPM basis, it is in your interests to choose advertisers that are as closely related to your site’s content as possible.
How to make money from general online communities
Online communities that have no specific focus or subject, such as Just Chat, can still make money; you just need to experiment with your ads to see which ones are the most effective. I recently moved away from Advertising.com as they were selling less and less of my inventory. I know from experience that dating sites work well at Just Chat, but wanted to use the opportunity to explore other effective ads for my 728×90 banner slot.
I logged into my account at TradeDoubler and applied for every single available programme. I then added the first 100 programmes I was approved on into a pool of ads that would be served on my site. Over time, I will assess which programmes are generating the best CTR (click-through rate) and eCPM (effective cost per thousand impressions). Those not performing well will be removed, and I will replace every programme that is removed from the pool with a fresh one that I have on my ‘waiting list’.
Sure, whilst I am undertaking this experiment, the main 728×90 banners on Just Chat will barely be making me any money. However, as I have mentioned before you should always consider the long term success of your online community. I may lose a few hundred pounds over the coming weeks, but I expect to make this back when I have learnt what advertising campaigns work best for my site. Even if I find that none of the programmes on offer with TradeDoubler work effectively, I have still learnt that fact – so even then, the loss of income has not been wasted.
Involve your community for financial success
You should always consult your community before making any major changes to your site. Additionally, if you are ever unsure as to what your community members want, you should simply ask. Advertising is no different. Why not ask your community what kind of adverts or offers they would like to see on the site? You could even shortlist a number of potential advertisers and ask your community to vote on what sites they would prefer to see advertising within the community.
By getting your community involved in this decision making process you will not only learn more about them, you will also engage with them, show that you value their opinion and ultimately end up serving ads for companies and services that they have already expressed an interest in. The result is more effective ads for your audience, meaning more money for you.
Have you struggled to make good money from your online community? What techniques have you employed to increase your revenue? How does your online community make money? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.