Building and growing an online community is hard work. You have to invest in content creation, marketing, and community management so people will actually engage with what you’re doing. Not only does it take up several hours of your day, it can also eat up your resources.
For anyone who’s put in that work into their community, knowing how to translate the value of your efforts can be difficult — but it doesn’t need to stay that way. If you’re putting your time and energy into creating an online network of people, its important to figure out how those connections are going to translate into dollars in order for them to remain sustainable over the long haul.
The tricky part with monetizing a community is that there are so many different ways to go about it. The secret is to avoid the obvious routes and focus on adding value to your members and the community.
Many people have found success in a paid membership model. Websites like Patreon and OnlyFans have shown us how we can monetize a community by exclusivizing a part (but not the entirety) of our service.
The idea is to first start off by offering free content. This captures your audience’s attention and gets them hooked into the community. Once you’ve caught their interest, you can start paywalling exclusive content, which means restricting access to specific spaces. If members want to gain access to that, they can sign up for a paid monthly or annual membership.
Of course, in order to execute this successfully, you need to be able to provide your members something compelling and unique for them to sign up and keep coming back month after month. Offer content that they won’t find anywhere else, and make sure they don’t feel like they’re paying for the same thing over and over again.
Some options you can consider are:
If you’re not comfortable with paywalling content and want your community to be open for all, you can also explore offering member subscriptions. This is another type of paid membership where you provide subscribed members special perks and incentives instead of exclusive content.
In Beam.gg communities, we do this by offering subscribed users unique profile upgrades that let them stand out and express themselves more creatively in the community.
Benefits of subscribing on Beam.gg Communities
Having a dedicated trading space may work great for certain types of online communities. This will stretch to pretty much any type of transactional community, which primarily facilitates buying and selling of digital and material goods.
In this dedicated space, community members will be able to buy and sell products and services, as well as deliver information related to those affairs. As the community owner, you can claim a small fee for every transaction.
Taking the leap into e-commerce may seem difficult to set up at first, but you will reap the benefits in time and generate a higher number of users and visitors with this strategy. Of course, having the right platform to support this feature in your community is the first and most important step.
Events are the perfect way to create new revenue streams for your business while simultaneously building up and strengthening connections with the people in your community. You can organize intimate gatherings that bring people together to interact around certain topics. Once your smaller events take off, you can consider upgrading to something larger over time, like a paid webinar or a conference.
Naturally, organizing community events will require more time and effort, but it also offers you more opportunities to earn money. Apart from charging entrance fees, you can also make money from selling sponsorships, ad space, event merchandise, and offering a more premium VIP experience.
Before even starting to think about monetizing your online community, make sure you have the right audience for it. You have to have enough loyal fans who are willing to support your community and your monetization initiatives. Even if you have 10k anonymous visitors, that will not translate into revenue.
When people join a free community, their intent is to build relationships and have meaningful conversations — they are not in a “shopping mindset”. This means you have to be careful when you start selling things on your website or pushing products really hard. If they start to feel like the community went from being all about authentic connections to suddenly being all about money, you could lose what made your community valuable in the first place.
Whatever monetization strategy you choose, make sure it’s a natural fit for the community you’ve built. Again, the secret is to avoid polluting people’s experience with sales pitches, and focus on adding value to your members and the community.