How to Monetize Your Online Community: 7 Strategies
The rise of digital adoption in 2020 has been impossible to ignore. Millions of people have turned towards technology to meet their learning needs as well as tackle the challenges of social isolation.
This has fuelled the rise of online communities and more and more brands are now looking to build an online community for their business.
Find the right tribe for your business, and you’ll earn more profits, sales opportunities, and competitive advantage. Plus, the more you engage your community, the more likely they’re to stick with your brand and even come back for more.
The question for most companies, however, is how can they monetize their online community successfully. The following 7 strategies will set you on the right track.
Create a membership site
This is one of the best ways to monetize an online community. Membership sites allow you to leverage the interest your people already have in your content.
You can start by creating free content for your website that captures audience attention and gets them hooked. Once you see demand for your content growing, you add a paywall into the mix. This means that people will need to sign up for paid memberships to access certain pieces of exclusive content.
You can easily add payment options for subscriptions to your site through Tribe and Zapier, giving your fans the chance to pay through Stripe or PayPal.
The key is finding the right value to offer to your paid subscribers and one of the best ways to determine your content strategy is by surveying your community members.
For instance, the Harley Owners Group offers members not just “Insider” content, but also archive access, roadside assistance, and a “touring handbook”.
Options for your members may include:
- Access to bonus information or content
- Premium eBooks, webinars, and videos
- Discounted event and course prices
- Profile customization options
- Extensive archive access
Sell an online course
Running an online course is another great way to monetize your community. The online e-learning market was estimated to be worth around $101 billion in 2019. In 2026, it is projected to reach $167 billion.
Courses allow you to curate valuable knowledge into a useful tool for your audience. If your customers already love the tips and tricks that you share in your community, they’ll appreciate the chance to learn more.
The key to success with online courses is picking the right idea. Start by looking at your website analytics and finding out which topics your customers visit most often.
You can also think about the kind of issues that people in your industry face and examine what your competitors are doing to help customers just like yours.
The more you know about your audience, the better.
Remember, when creating an online course, it’s important to go beyond high-level overviews of topics. Get deep into a specific issue or concern that your customer has and deliver the value they can’t get anywhere else.
Extra resources like videos, quizzes, and tools that your audience can use to increase their understanding can be very helpful.
Start a coaching program
Similar to online courses, coaching programs are an excellent way to monetize your expertise. Self-development is a trending concept in the digital world, and your community is sure to have skills they’d like to improve with your help.
If you have expertise in a certain area, you can offer coaching without even having to create a product upfront. Like consulting, coaching means that you listen to the unique needs of your customer and offer advice specific to them.
You can start with one-on-one interactions where people pay for a snippet of your time to help them with a specific problem.
If you find a lot of your followers have similar problems, you may decide to begin a group coaching format instead, where people can sign up for larger webinar-style classes. Group coaching is a great way to generate more income at once, and you can even offer one-on-one sessions at the same time.
Promote products as an affiliate
Affiliate marketing stands out as one of the simplest strategies for monetizing your online presence. About 81% of brands use affiliate marketing to drive more sales to their store, which makes it easy to find a company you can work with.
The key to making your fortune here is choosing the products that appeal most to your community. Search for items that you know your followers will be interested in.
Basically, you should stick to products that are relevant to your niche and target audience as this will help you appear more authentic compared to other advertisers online.
The great thing about affiliate marketing is that you can advertise several products at once. Plus, you can add affiliate marketing as an extra avenue of profit to any other strategies you’re using to monetize your online audience. Affiliate marketing works brilliantly alongside content marketing, online courses, and more.
Native advertising is another excellent solution for generating revenue from a community. These days, companies of all sizes want to strengthen their connection with their audience by advertising on various platforms.
If you already have a strong following for your website or magazine, then you can appeal to a lot of brands in search of promotional reach.
There are various ways to advertise on your website and create cash as a result. For instance, you can have the companies that want to work with you pay for you to place a banner ad inside your community.
This is the most popular advertising option and Tribe allows you to easily display a banner at the top of your community’s home page feed.
Another option could be to have sponsored content added to your site. For instance, if you run a community that’s all about SEO, and a marketing agency wants to advertise on it, they could write a blog post for your community with the top tips on what to look for in an SEO agency.
This sponsored post would link back to the other company’s website, and make the brand look good to your customers.
Sell branded merchandise
If you gain a significant following online, then there’s a chance that your community will begin to feel an emotional connection with you. This could mean that they’re keen to show their support of your brand by purchasing products with your logo or colors on them.
If you’ve ever proudly worn a customized t-shirt with the name of a podcast company you love on it, you’ll know how valuable branded merchandise can be.
Thanks to print-on-demand tools, you can allow your customers to choose from a range of different branded products, from mugs and hoodies to pieces of home artwork.
Branded merchandise is excellent for making your followers feel like a more dedicated part of the community.
For instance, the CouchSurfing store allows customers to show their appreciation of the brand through t-shirts, journals, and more. The products they sell are all relevant to the company’s focus on travel too, such as hoodies, and stickers that you can place on your car.
Ask for donations
Finally, if you don’t want to sell to your community, and you can’t think of any branded products or specific items that you’d like to advertise, consider donations.
Unlike other monetization options which require a like-for-like exchange of value, donations are all about helping a company to grow. If you stand for values that you believe that your customers appreciate, then they may be willing to donate to help your business grow.
To receive donations, you need to have a deep emotional connection with your audience that generates some intangible value.
For instance, you might be able to get donations if you convince your audience that your content can help them to improve the amount they sell on their own websites.
You could also convince people to donate to your cause so that you can continue creating the videos that they find entertaining.
It’s extremely easy to implement donation opportunities into your community, as all you need to do is create a donation form using a form builder.
To make donations more likely, remember to thank your audience for what they give you. A bonus sticker on their member profile that shows they’ve donated could be a great way to show your appreciation.
Start monetizing your community
People will always be the most valuable asset a business can have. The more loyal followers you gather for your organization or brand, the more you can leverage their dedication and passion for your company.
Once you have a thriving community, there are dozens of great ways to monetize it, whether you choose to sell courses and coaching, or you prefer to brand products and sell them online.
The key to your success will be thinking about how you can successfully generate profit from your followers, without damaging the relationship you’ve built. Basically, you need to balance your brand reputation with your need to make an income.