To monetize, or not to monetize, that is the question that preoccopies our administrators!
Ok, I'm no Shakespeare, but a vital question community owners are faced with at some point is: can we and should we make some money from our community?
Let's first look at the "should we?"
Absolutely! You don't need to frustrate your users or risk goodwill by starting monetization. Running a community comes with tangible costs in terms of paying for the monthly cloud plans or license and hosting costs.
Not to mention your own time which must be factored into this decision. If the community sustained all or part of your income, could you commit more time to help it grow?
Now lets look at the "can we?"
Absolutely! You made a great choice by building your platform with Invision Community. We have built in monetization tools that allow you to collect micro-payments from third party systems; and we have tools for selling products and services.
An obvious choice, many sites will turn to advertisements through Google Adsense or a similar service to generate income from their community. Whether this approach will work for your community or not is dependent upon many factors.
Do you generate enough traffic that you will actually earn an income from advertisements?
Do enough of your audience browse your site without tools such as Adblock installed?
Is your site compatible with any of the many advertisement services out there? This is worth checking to make sure.
Advertisement services are a relatively easy solution for generating micro-payments. It's unlikely you'll be able to retire any time soon on advertising payments alone though.
An alternative approach to using advertisements is to sell advertisement space on your own site through Commerce.
This can be an especially attractive option if your site holds a captive audience in a specific niche, as advertisers will be certain their ads are targetting the niche they are aiming to target effectively.
Viglink is a service that looks for commercial product references in user-generated content, and links to those products using referral links that can generate revenue. Generally speaking, there is no real harm in using such a service as the functionality is transparent for most users.
Invision Community features integration with Viglink out of the box. You simply need to enter certain account information into the AdminCPand the software will handle the rest.
Charging for products
If you sell digital or physical products, you can leverage Invision Community to help facilitate the sale of such products through your community site.
If you are an expert or leader in your field, then why not write a short e-book on your subject and put it up for sale? Low cost e-books under $10 tend to sell really well and it's a great way to generate some passive trickle income.
Sale, renewals, invoicing, shipping, customer support and more are all possible through our Commerce product with powerful features that allow you to easily sell products locally and around the world.
Charging for additional access
The simplest way to monetize your community is to charge for VIP access.
This may be for elevated permissions, such as being able to upload larger files, post more content per day and access specific features like user signatures, special badges and so on.
You can also set up VIP forums that regular members do not have access to.
In fact, Invision Community can be tailored towards being an e-learning platform simply by setting up a subscription in Commerce and creating a private forum only the VIP group can access.
Simply post a new topic with each learning module. Topics can contain embeds from YouTube and Vimeo if you prefer to deliver training over video.
Be sure to give previews of such areas if you do sell access to additional areas of the community.
For example, you can allow all users to "see" that a forum exists, but show an error message to regular members who attempt to read topics in the forum, while allowing subscribers full access to those topics. This helps naturally entice users into subscribing to gain additional access by allowing them to see what they will gain access to.
Charging a fee for facilitation
Another possible avenue to monetize your community is by charging a fee for facilitating file sharing between your members. The Downloads application allows users to upload and even sell their files to other users on the community, while also allowing the administrator of the community to retain a percentage of all sales.
If your community serves a niche that may see online sales of files in a marketplace-type setting, you can earn some money by administering such a marketplace.
As you can see, there are several opportunities available with Invision Community to monetize your community.
Do you use any other methods of monetizing your community?