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Building Communities Part 4: Monetizing Your Community


This part 4 (final chapter) of an ongoing series about building communities. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Now let's get started

 

For any product or service, monetization is a key area of the business and is usually connected to the most valuable aspects of the business. Similarly for communities, in order to effectively monetize, you need to look at various elements of value for different stakeholders and figure out which one is best suited for your community.


Here’s a list of some of the key elements of value and the stakeholders associated with it that can be monetized:


  • Ads: As the number of members and their interactions grows in a community, it becomes lucrative for advertisers to tap into it. This is also a great way to keep the community always free as the funds to run the community come from the advertiser.

  • Member Access: You can monetize access to a community if you want to keep the members curated. Usually, this acts as a friction point for the growth of the community, however, if the goal is to keep the community curated with members who are vested in it from day 0, this can be an interesting model to explore. Ex - BNI is a business networking community where the members of each chapter help each other with their businesses. In order to be a member you have to pay a membership fee which allows the community to only have serious members who have their skin in the game.

  • Enhance Member Experience/Freemium: This is a great fit for communities where you are noticing power usage of the platform, i.e. producing members are producing high amounts of UoV and consuming members consuming high amounts of UoV. A common way to monetize here would be a subscription model for additional value that you can provide power users who are looking to enhance their experience of being part of the community: Producing members | Better insights into their UoV producing journey. Ex - Data insights into what kind of members are finding their UoV valuable. Editing tools for their content, etc. Consuming members | Better ways to consume. Ex - Ad-free experience or offline consumption experience. All members | Have any feature that signals their personality of connection with the community. Ex - custom skins for their profile, badge for being a paid member.

  • Units of Value A community’s interaction is centered around the Units of Value (UoV) that are produced and consumed by its members. As they are the heart of a community, they can also be monetized from consuming members. However, as the UoV are produced by another member, their monetary interest also has to be kept in mind while exploring this option (mostly they would get a part of the payment that the consuming member pays). Some models that can be explored here are:

    • Unlocking exclusive value: For a popular piece of UoV, consuming members who have already expressed their connection with it in the form of likes, comments, etc. would be willing to pay an extra amount to:

      • consume more UoV connected to the original UoV or/and

      • consume UoV before everyone else

Ex - If there is a very popular video on Youtube, the creator can charge an amount for its sequel or behind the scenes shots from the viewers who have already signaled their connection with the original video. He can further monetize for early access to the sequel.


  • Bidding/paying to own: Extending the above point, consuming members can show their connection to a UoV by paying to own it. Ex - If it's a community of painters where UoV is paintings by members, one member can buy a painting of another member by paying them via the community platform.

  • Unlocking meta Value - Collectibles, merchandise, etc: If the consuming members have signaled a deeper connection with a UoV, they would also be willing to pay for meta value connected with the original UoV. Ex - In the youtube example above, the creator can monetize by selling t-shirts that are associated with the popular video.

  • Connections: As discussed in part 2 of this blog series, members build connections by engaging with each other over something they love. As these connections appeal to members’ emotions and instill a sense of belonging, they are of immense value and can be an avenue for monetization. Some models that can be explored are:

    • Supporting/Donating/Tipping: Members can pay directly to a specific producing member who produces UoV that is most relevant to them. As different members feel a different level of connection to the producing member, their tip amount would vary.

    • Subscription to a member: Instead of tipping a random amount, members can subscribe to a producing member for exclusive UoV produced by them.

    • Gifting: Very similar to tipping, however in this model, any member can give a paid gift to any other member as a token of appreciation. Ex - Reddit gold gifting.


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