The first question we are always asked about communities is what purpose they serve the average business? Most are now familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and the like, but fail to see how these technologies might be implemented on their behalf - to add revenues to the bottom line of their main business.
Most online communities and community solutions are limited to the traditional commercial paths of Advertising and Sponsorhip. Comrz personnel in the past worked on a number of commercial BBC communities - for UKTV, the big revenue earner here was selling demographic data. A leading sponsor would put up a prize for a competition, and then also pay for the complete demographic details for everyone who registered for and entered said competition.
Whilst Advertising and Sponsorship are perfectly respectable in most ways, most website users are less than happy with the thought of having their demographic data sold off to the highest bidder. It’s all done within the Terms & Conditions of the competitions - so it pays to beware, there is usually a hidden cost to most things in life; especially the offer of a free car.
For this author at least, selling your customer data, whilst potentially being a very lucrative business, is a little murky on the ethics side.
All your registered users should be treated as your active customer database. I wrote an article not so long ago about dedicated website Communities being the new dynamic CRMs (Social Networking is the new CRM / CRM 2.0). Users are encouraged to register their full demographic details with you to access community functionality - post their details and opinions, and even populate ongoing blogs. Here you use special offers and promotions as incentives for customers to keep their account details up-to-date. As every business knows, their most valuable asset is their customer database.
Anyway, the core of this article is about adding more commercial options to you business offerings; an Affino eCommunity can make you money in all the following ways and more:
- Community Advertising and Sponsorship: The traditional means of making money - as on Facebook, MySpace etc. The rule of thumb here is that the more targeted and focused your audience is, then the more an advertiser is willing to pay to target their perfect target market - this is where general sites like Facebook and MySpace loose out on the bigger revenue potential. A highly defined community with strict editorial controls on advertising policy etc. ensures a very focused and concentrated group of like-minded aficionados, just the type of audience that advertisers want to get their hands on
- List Broking (NOT recommended): The practice of selling off your customers’ demographic data to 3rd parties
- Membership: Paid for access to premium / member content - NOTE that for sake of general registrations and ongoing member uptake, it is essential to have large parts of the site unrestricted - i.e. open to everyone - to encourage participation and softly nudge registered users towards eventually paying for membership - to allow them to do more on your site
- Subscription: This can be similar to membership, or even included in membership, but can also be sold as an extra. Customers can be charged for access to certain types of media, communication or even newsletters, in addition to what is part of the core membership
- Content Access: Secure value-added articles / professional papers, such as PDF research reports or analysis, or forecasts, and charge for access or download
- Paid-for-publishing: Use Affino’s Social Content Management Workflows to set up a variety of commercial directories or listings - where customers / members pay to display / participate. This could be a certain type of offer listing; for instance on Filmutea.com it costs to list courses and seminars within their course listings; it could be the posting of certain types of jobs, the ability to publish a Blog, or simply the ability to add an entry to a specific focused online business or service directory
- Media Access: Video and Audio on-demand, pay-per-view, and pay-per-play. More and more websites are utilising Flickr style image libraries, YouTube style video libraries, and MySpace style MP3 libraries and players. Multimedia adds a key impact factor for all businesses, access to course or training or instructional media can be enabled in this way - with certain media being open to all, and others being paid-for only
- Media Sales: As opposed to just providing on-site access to media, you can sell actual downloads for a variety of media formats - so that users can aquire and store those files on their own desktop or server
- Content Subscriptions: These are regular update bulletins which you can assign User Groups to, or else users can assign themselves to; there are advertising opportunities here, as well as the ability to offer instant notifications at a premium, whilst all members or general registered users may only recieve weekly notifications
- Newsletter Advertising and Sponsorship: As well as having on-site advertising, advertising can also be carried to the customer on regular notifications and updates - aligned to specific noteworthy topics and complementary events and activities
- Facilities and services upgrades: Everything in Affino can be granularly secured; you can charge extra for access to high-value functionality, such as more media asset memory space, theability to upload premium media formats, or the ability to use one-to-one Affino Messenger
- Merchandising: In addition to all the digital forms of commerce, you can of course also sell traditional catalogue items which are either core to or complementary to you core offering
All of the above is natively available in the Affino Social Commerce platform, and we are adding more options on a weekly basis. We also have plans to add funding / donation facilities, and more specific online events based scenarios in the near future. It should be quite obvious though, that all businesses can benefit from the additional revenues that an Affino eCommunity can bring ...