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Live Blog from Dublin Web Summit: How to monetize social media

Next speaker of the day is Alicia Navarro, founder of Skimlinks.
The topic is Monetising Social Media.  People generally talk about how to use social media as a way to drive sales and loyalty but Alicia is talking about how to make money.
Social media can take many forms including blogs, social shopping sites, forums, Twitter, social networks like Facebook and Ning etc, Q&A sites which are really booming lately (squidoo etc).
Why is monetising your social media worthwhile?
Authenticity equals high conversion. 84% of respondents said they would trust user reviews over a review by a critic. Discussions and forums about products drive 5-10% conversion rates versus 2% with affiliate content.
It’s a really light touch way of generating revenue requiring few resources to be invested.
Social Media also has a really high SEO value which drives traffic.

What a the dangers of monetising social media?
Sensitivity. Your community has created this content, they are sensitive to the ownership of that content and can backlash strongly against what you do with their content.
You have little or no control over the content but their is a greater dealer of trust and authenticity when you give over this control to your community. Even negative reviews drive authenticity.
Context conflict: be conscious about automation as it can inadvertently create conflicts with the content that is there.
Monetization can cheapen the feel of your site.

At the end of the day though, we are all here to make money.
Methods to monetize:
1. in text advertising: tend not to be too popular. The players in this space are Vibrant Media, Kontera and InfoLinks. They may annoy you but they pay extremely well.  They have evolved a lot and users are fairly familiar with them. On the downside they are massively intrusive which impacts on your brand.
2. Sponsorship. Forming direct relationships with advertisers who are appropriate to your brand, developing tailored ads. You can use software such as iSocket which automates this. It is very lucrative and it is targeted but it will probably require you to have an inhouse sales team and you may need to do some editorial for your advertisers.
3. The newest is Data and Retargeting. This is contextual and behavioural advertising where banner ads rare shown only to people who display certain patterns etc. Players in this space include Criteo, BlueKai, AdRoll etc.
4. Alicia’s area is auto affilitizatiom and auto linking.  Users ad a link to the publisher but skimlinks track that and monetize it for you. They also do it with words. It is unobtrusive, requires little effort and has high conversion rates of 5-10%. if you’re going to do it right though, disclosure is key. Be honest and transparent with your community. If you are planning to implement any of these strategies, tell your customers in advance and see what they have to say.

Other ways to manage community reactions might be to only target certain community segments such as only people who come through you to search engines.
Also, you might consider offering an opt out or sharing the revenues with your community members who help create this content.

Great presentation from Alicia providing real food for thought about how to monetize your social media.  Not what I expected but I’m happier for that!

About the author:
Jonathan Campbell is a Director of Select People, a specialist headhunting firm and also the co-founder of social media consultancy Social BPO/ Social Talent, which grows and manages talent communities on social media sites for recruiters. Check out our Facebook Page: Facebook.com/socialbpo for more information.

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