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Monetize Your Online Community

With the right strategies, your platform can pay for itself! Learn how to generate new revenue streams with your online community.

Tags: Community Strategy,Non-Dues Revenue

Leveraging Engagement to Drive Revenue

Online communities are inherently good at driving engagement and improving member retention and loyalty. But they’re not only hubs for community members to interact and share knowledge. Their position as an engagement engine also makes them great platforms for generating additional revenue streams.

Using your community to drive awareness of your own programs and events can help you bring in more registrations. Your online community also opens up a new world of advertising space, giving you new ways to attract sponsors with compelling year-round opportunities. Believe it or not, partnerships, sponsorship, and advertising can completely cover the cost of your community software (whether you decide to work with one exclusive sponsor or open up opportunities for multiple sponsorships).

Whether you’re new to the idea of monetization, or wondering how to optimize your efforts, this guide will help you achieve those goals.

Will Advertising Hurt My Community?

Before we dive into monetizing options for your community, let’s answer one question: “Will monetizing my community destroy the engaging environment I’ve worked so hard to create?” It’s good to be mindful of this because if you’re not striking the right balance between community content and sponsored content, it could rub members the wrong way (think about how annoying it is that Instagram and TikTok are now flooded with ads).

But when it comes to the big picture, if you’re thinking about how ALL of your content creates value for members – including your sponsored content –  you can easily maintain your community’s authenticity while earning community-generated revenue. Blatant selling and self-serving marketing can hurt engagement, but sharing resources that solve member problems or make useful connections will resonate.

In the next section, we’ll discuss using advertising, partnerships, and promotion for existing products and services, in a way that both earns you revenue and maintains engagement.

3 Ways to Monetize Your Online Community

You’ve got lots of different options when it comes to generating revenue from the community. Keep in mind, your options will look different depending on the type of online community platform you have.

Traditional Advertising

When done correctly, online community advertisements can be very lucrative. Because community ads can be targeted to specific member segments and an engaged audience, they often generate more return for advertisers.

Higher Logic Thrive Community is designed with built-in ad space to help you balance promotion and community activity. Consider using these different ad types:

Daily digest email ads that go out in your daily digest emails, usually as a banner or button.

Discussion group messages  included in each online discussion post, or a “post powered by” hyperlink to the sponsor in every discussion post.

Leaderboard banners located on your community homepage.

Sponsored blogs featured on the community homepage, providing
visibility and prestige as a thought leader (and valuable content for your members!).

Page side bar column ads, featuring a mix of internal and external advertisements.

To keep the community from feeling like purely a marketing channel, think about limiting the number of advertisers you accept for community ad spaces and in each weekly newsletter.

community advetising

Partnerships & Sponsorships

Partnerships (where you ask an organization
to create valuable content) and sponsorships (when you have an organization sponsor something you’ve created) are a great way to generate material your members will find valuable, while generating revenue.

Partners often have information and knowledge that will benefit your members. Think about allowing them into your community, highlighting them in a directory, or inviting them to create resources for your members.

Read: 5 Ideas for Naturally Incorporating Sponsors Into Your Community

Promoting Products or Services

Let’s say you don’t want to put ads in your community or let sponsors in.
There are valid reasons to keep them out, or maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to maintain another program.

You can still use your community to highlight your own  programs. Each time you have a webinar, conference, etc., call it out in a few strategic ad spots in your community!

Though you won’t earn revenue from selling  those ad spaces to a partner, you can grow your own revenue by using that space to create more awareness for your own programs.

And selling ads vs. promotion of in-house programs doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can allow outside organizations to advertise or sponsor within your community, but also
save a few spots to promote your own products or services.

Job Boards

Companies in your industry are looking for highly qualified candidates who demonstrate dedication to their field. Your association is the perfect place for them to start their search – and they’ll pay for job postings.

With a job board built into your community (like Higher Logic Thrive Jobs, which comes built into Higher Logic Thrive Community) you can bring in revenue and help support members’ career growth at the same time!

How to Sell Your Community to Potential Advertisers and Sponsors

Your community is attractive to those who want to reach a specific audience. Plus, being online means you can use behavioral data to target specific ads and update ads in real time.

Create an Advertising Kit

Create a media kit (explaining everything that’s available for potential advertisers to purchase). This makes it easy to sell ad space and partner with new organizations. Include advertising rates for community ad spaces, information about your organization and your community (like community engagement rates, number of community members), audience demographics such as age, business information, gender, and location, and annual events that might include sponsorship opportunities.

Showcase Engagement Metrics

When an advertiser or sponsor is considering whether they want to work with you, they’ll want to understand how your community engages with content. This information helps them see what they’re likely to get for a return on their investment.

For example, you’ll want to share your community size and average engagement rates. Engagement rates include metrics such as number of newsletter subscribers, average email open rate, average email clickthrough rate, and number of community visits per day.

With a Higher Logic Community, community members can receive email digests in their inbox about what’s been going on in the community – and you can also include advertising on those emails. Due to the dynamic nature of the community digests, open rates are generally higher than typical marketing messages. The more engagement you have on your channels, the more inviting your sponsorship package will seem. People want to advertise in well-trafficked areas, especially when the space has the right traffic. Prioritizing the engagement growth of your community will help you grow your
sponsorship program.

Explain Community Targeting Features

One of your most compelling community features is your ability to target community members. Advertisers want to show ads to an audience that will
be highly relevant, so they’re most interested when they can target their efforts to a particular group.

With a Higher Logic community, you can personalize ad targeting based on engagement, activity type, or volume – or even to specific roles, depending on what kind of database integration you have. This is a huge win for advertisers, as these hyper-targeting abilities gives them a better return on advertising investment.

For example, if you have a group of highly engaged users, you could put those users into a group using Higher Logic’s automation rules. Then, once you’ve got the group set up, simply target sponsorship ad placements based on that group.

More Community Traffic Means More Revenue Potential

More community traffic is obviously good for member engagement, but your engagement efforts also help improve your advertising earning potential. Partners and sponsors are more interested in opportunities where their advertisement or content will be seen by a lot of highly engaged viewers. Here are three ideas for increasing community traffic, both from the outside world and your current community members.

  1. Leave sections of your community public: If you leave sections of your online community public, you can even advertise to non-community members. When Google indexes your community content, it boosts you in search, and gives you great exposure to the entire internet. To optimize for search, you not only want to keep some sections of your community open, but also be regularly creating site content that showcases subject matter expertise. This strategy not only increases your advertising potential, but you can also use ad space to promote your own organization.
  2. Create a strategic marketing campaign: Create a strategic marketing campaign specifically to promote your community – and promote your community across channels! For this campaign, identify communication channels where you can share updates and build excitement. For example, you can showcase and drive traffic to your community via social media, on your website, or via podcasts. Whenever you create a campaign, be sure to lead visitors back to a thread in the community.
  3. Take advantage of what’s working – and double down:  How do you get traffic to your community today? Perhaps users are coming in via your emails. If that’s the case, double down on an email campaign. For example, you could build a campaign that targets
    customers or members of your organization who haven’t joined your online community yet or don’t actively participate. Whatever the case, take a look at what you’re doing today to generate traffic. Often, that can tell you a lot about where you might be able to focus your efforts.

Higher Logic Can Help

With partnerships and sponsorships., your community can pay for itself – and more! Help your association become more financially flexible. Higher Logic Thrive Community comes with advertising space built in, which you can use to raise funds or raise awareness of your own programs. Connect with us to learn more.