Many business executives have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace, and Linkedin useful in making money. Building genuine online relationships that are also good for the bottom line is not so easy. There is a lot of trial and error.
But while monetizing social media is difficult it is not impossible. There are companies that are getting the word out about their brands using social media and are turning a profit.
Take The New York Jets. The NFL team launched their Ultimate Fan social game in September 2010, which was the first revenue generating Facebook app to be backed by a pro sports team. The application lets football fans do online what they would normally do at home and in stadiums—root for their favourite teams and players, predict game scores, and hold a virtual tailgate party with other fans from across the globe.
Ultimate Fan has since lured four major sponsors integrating their brands: MetLife, Motorola, SNY and HotelPlanner.com. This year, 10 per cent of Jets sponsorships include a social media component; the team is planning to bump it up to 50 per cent by next year, according to a spokesperson.
The Jets also communicate regularly on Twitter. They even advertised a Twitter-based contest to win tickets to their 2011 AFC playoff championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets are able to engage with their fans and make them feel like they are part of the team. They are leveraging social medial to capitalise on their fans’ passion for the team and their willingness to share that fervor.
Like many companies, your social media efforts have started small and grew organically. To capitalise on those efforts to generate sales and revenues you need to have a team of people dedicated to your social media presence. You also will need a deep understanding of your audience, a creative vision, and a way to measure results in order to execute a successful strategy, says industry experts.
Here are some ways your social media can be monetized >
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The first step is to use traditional media or word-of-mouth advertising to drive awareness and traffic to your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin or Myspace pages, says Jamie Turner, author of How to Make Money with Social Media. Unless you already have a recognisable brand like Nike or Apple, your brand needs to develop social media magnetism before you can look to make any money.
You also need to create circular momentum across many platforms when designing your social media campaign, says Turner. By providing multiple channels for users to talk with you, you let customers choose the channel that they are most comfortable with, he adds; and by doing that you increase the likelihood that they'll connect with your brand in any number of ways.
Social media is about having a dialogue. When you have a dialogue with a customer or prospect, the communication is much more fulfilling and much more profitable, says Turner. The PETCO brand has developed a strong presence in social media.
The pet store chain has a YouTube channel, its Facebook page generates a lot of discussions among pet owners, and there's lots of activity on its PETCO Scoop blog, which has received hundreds of 'likes' and comments. PETCO's customers are true pet lovers and treat their pets as part of the family.
The company tries to keep conversation going by aiming Facebook and Twitter posts so that there's an explicit question to answer, or at least a specific piece of information to which people can react. Industry experts stress that you have to know your community and know how to take part within that community and through that create great content or conversation that will raise awareness and increase sales.
Dell Computers exemplifies a company that is selling products using social media. Its Twitter page, @DellOutlet, offers discounts exclusively to followers. Dell might tweet 15 per cent off any Dell Outlet laptop or desktop with a special coupon code entered at checkout so they'll know which tweet you are seeing. @DellOutlet also points you to a specific web page. There is some interaction in terms of chats with tweeters. @DellOutlet has garnered more than 1.6 million followers and generated more than $2 million in incremental revenues for Dell. Traditionally, Dell would have spent a lot of money running print ads. Today, they can write a 140-character promotion to reach customers.
PETCO is yet another example. The company provided a promo code to their customers for $40 in free shipping. The person who shared their code with the most people won a $500 PETCO gift card. About 40 per cent of the sales that resulted from this promotional push came from new consumers. The desire to save a few bucks drove loyal PETCO customers to connect with the larger pet owner community and spread the word about the store via social media.
Many companies have used display advertising (banners) and contextual advertising such as Google Ad Words. Many bloggers use Google Adsense to make money. There are plugins to help; you make money from clicks. There are also ad networks that you can join that pool several advertisers. You get a code and banner ads rotate from their network. This is an item that you will want to include in your advertising rate sheet.
Major advertisers who buy display ads are finally beginning to figure out how to reach audiences through social networks, and have begun to shift significant dollars into Facebook. Research firm eMarketer estimates Facebook display advertising revenues will grow 80.9 per cent this year to $2.19 billion.
Instead of a typical banner ad, consider offering a micro site, which would be equivalent to a paid supplement. For example, you could devote one page (a link on your website) specifically to an advertiser's products and services. Or you can become an affiliate. With affiliate marketing you get paid to refer people to another business.
Consider combining rich media advertising with display advertising. Video advertising and promotional material can be quickly and easily streamed to your social community. Another consideration is charging for sponsorship on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Of course, attention needs to be paid between balancing the delivery of the rich media advertising against the comfort level of your customer base.
The best way to use apps is to create something that is functional such as a calculator, entertaining such as a game, or provides some sort of social connection such as an app just for your community. Your app can be fee based or you can give it away to build a relationship with customers. A number of well-known company brands use mobile apps to interact with their loyal customers, including Target, Coca-Cola, Nike and Gucci.
The fashion designer touts a luxury lifestyle application that is a quintessential example of branded mobile marketing. Through 'Gucci Connect' users were able use their mobile devises, such as iPhone or iPad, for virtual access of a Milan fashion show, watch live runway and behind the scenes video coupled with live chat between virtual guests through Facebook and Twitter. Exclusive also to iPhone app subscribers are interactive games. The 'Gucci Live' section features a music channel. Subscribers stay 'in the know' with a calendar of upcoming brand events and feature articles. The Gucci 'Little Black Book' provides recommendations to the hottest restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels in various cities throughout the world.
Facebook fan pages are another way to generate sales and enthusiasm especially if you have loyal fans that follow your updates. You can list your products on your Facebook page for fans to easily share with their own friends and essentially allow your product offerings to go viral.
Businesses are increasingly selling their goods on Facebook. There are various e-commerce solutions available. One is 8thBridge which is helping companies like 1-800-Flowers and HuateLook sell from Facebook. A special deal 8thBridge ran for the designer brands retailer HauteLook along with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg generated more than $100,000 in sales in one day, 40 per cent of which came from new customers. Users were given a $10 coupon for every new member that they brought in. Using 8thBridge, 1-800-Flowers is drawing people into buying flowers and other gifts for friends and family while they are already thinking about them on Facebook.
Payvment is another storefront option that provides online stores for companies to sell on Facebook. It has a network of more than 60,000 merchants using its self-serve technology. Payvment generally serves smaller clients while 8thBridge caters to small- and medium-sized businesses. According to a study released by Forrester Research, Facebook is more suitable for small retailers, niche products, or steeply discounted items. Most of the benefit that big retailers get from Facebook is branding their company but not actual purchases, Forrester further reports. Moreover, some products are inherently social such as books, DVDs, and event tickets, which have been successful because they are easy to buy and sell online.
Companies don't always need to use social media as a sales tool or to acquire news customers, says Turner; they can use it as a customer retention tool. If someone likes or follows your business, it's because they're interested in hearing from you on some regular basis.
It's important that you have a routine schedule for your blogs, tweets, and postings. Keeping your fans and followers up to date on what's new and happening with your business or industry will keep them engaged with you and keep your brand top-of-mind.
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