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5 ways to monetize your community

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.

Advertisements
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
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.

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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.

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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?


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I sell ads to vendors and have a custom solution for displaying them.

I also use Google ads.  We could really use some help there from IPS in that we are not supposed to display ads on certain pages, i.e. registration and others.  IPS builds in the option to display Google Ads, but does not prevent those from displaying where they should not.

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Charging for additional access is a pre-facebook approach, except in very specific content, it is very difficult to develop that kind of business model. I'm open to any suggestions helping me in that point. 

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I prefer communities without (external) advertisement. 

The only real interesting part for me are the IPS subscription services which are highly customizable.

My monetization strategy is

  • virtual currencies / points systems that integrate perfectly into commerce/downloads. It's a natural incident, that most customers never use/spend all their deposited credits, so the community wins all forgotten or expired credits. 
  • better handling for transactions for digital products for european union customers/members, so we won't get in conflict with laws and tax regulation. Please help us expand in the EU and reach out for more paying customers.
  • something like an IPS native "automation rules" / trigger systems, if event x happens then do y (f.e. send pms, emails, react, superlike...) the more you can target and engage your members (and add your own ads in there) the more will be sold. With such a trigger system, make it happen to generate personal vouchers and limited time offers
  • enhance email marketing campaigns, introduce options for bulk email subscribers filtering, so we can entice more members to subscribe into bulk emails, award subscribers (with community benefits), disclose the opt-outs. As soon as you have a bunch of willing subscribers and good, valid emails, you have a very high chance to power up your conversion value.

If you don't like (external) advertisements in your own community, but you already are a commercial actor, then monetization requires a different strategy. 

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28 minutes ago, Lauren3 said:

Charging for additional access is a pre-facebook approach, except in very specific content, it is very difficult to develop that kind of business model. I'm open to any suggestions helping me in that point. 

I respectfully disagree. A very common marketing modal is to open up a free Facebook group, then plug your premium service delivered into a closed Facebook group via a PayPal link.

Invision Community can do this with better integration and more granular permissions.

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I just removed Viglink.  I had 30 cents of activity from it in the last 12 months.  I don't know if there are other ways to impliment it, but it clearly wasn't doing anything for me as is.  I don't expect it to beat AdSense, but at least I get a large adsense payment every month, meaning more than the $100 minimum.

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37 minutes ago, Matt said:

I respectfully disagree. A very common marketing modal is to open up a free Facebook group, then plug your premium service delivered into a closed Facebook group via a PayPal link.

Invision Community can do this with better integration and more granular permissions.

I'd like to be able to do that, do you have some live examples?

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I make a lot more money from Viglink than I do from Adsense. But I have a motorcycle forum and members post links to motorcycle parts that happen to be affiliated with viglink retailers. 

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18 hours ago, Lauren3 said:

I'd like to be able to do that, do you have some live examples?

My wife had in the past subscribed to this example of such a site: http://courtneyfosterdonahue.com/

She has a free Facebook group, and then a paid Facebook group where you get one on one time with the teacher basically.

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For me the number one reason for members to subscribe is that they get access to discount codes for one of the largest outdoorshops in my country. I have had a discountcodes since 2013 that give them 20% discount on everything in that large shop.

And then I have an agreement with the outdoorshop that I get a percentage from what all the members are buying via tracking codes.

In that way I win in both ends. Members need to see that they gain something to pay.

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6 hours ago, Beatrina said:

I would like to have a ref list implented in your software instead of using viglink.

So, if someone puts a link into a post eg. amazon or another shop ... your ref id should be added automaticly to the url.

 

 

 

That would be a fantastic 3rd party add-on 

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On 4/20/2018 at 5:42 AM, Beatrina said:

I would like to have a ref list implented in your software instead of using viglink.

So, if someone puts a link into a post eg. amazon or another shop ... your ref id should be added automaticly to the url.

Amazon affiliate would be perfect for this.

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On 4/18/2018 at 7:37 PM, Matt said:

I respectfully disagree. A very common marketing modal is to open up a free Facebook group, then plug your premium service delivered into a closed Facebook group via a PayPal link.

Invision Community can do this with better integration and more granular permissions.

But why would anyone want to pay is the point.  It has to be something very unique these days to get a subscription charge.  I am in the process of developing such a feature on my site that is not available anywhere else but I am still not sure if I could get away without charging for it.  Probably around 200 hours has gone into this project all in all and I can see myself ending up giving it away for free.

I used to do very well out of viglink, even hit $1000 a month several times.  That has pretty much dwindled down to nothing now, partly due to facebook eating away at traffic, but also I think they changed their payouts significantly as well.

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59 minutes ago, Steve Bullman said:

But why would anyone want to pay is the point.  It has to be something very unique these days to get a subscription charge.  I am in the process of developing such a feature on my site that is not available anywhere else but I am still not sure if I could get away without charging for it.  Probably around 200 hours has gone into this project all in all and I can see myself ending up giving it away for free.

I used to do very well out of viglink, even hit $1000 a month several times.  That has pretty much dwindled down to nothing now, partly due to facebook eating away at traffic, but also I think they changed their payouts significantly as well.

It depends on what you are selling, and how you sell it.

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I wish Patreon was integrate to Invision but I don't think Patreon has an API for their services. 

Instead if you don't have a business but still want tipped for your work, than that would be extremely handy to have.     

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6 hours ago, bfarber said:

They do seem to have some integration capabilities: https://www.patreon.com/developers

How would you use it exactly? What would you want to integrate?

After looking at it, it would be cool to have it as a way of making an alternate subscription plan on your site. As far as I know there are certain levels of patron's that can benefit from it. 

For example: on a forum a user wants to upgrade, they simply become a patron from their user account and reap all the benefits set by the admin. He/she be able to access areas now granted, and all the awards by the Patreon has to offer. Maybe like discounts to the store, more user privileges.

Basally just a new way of  being a Premium member on ones board.

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6 hours ago, bfarber said:

They do seem to have some integration capabilities: https://www.patreon.com/developers

How would you use it exactly? What would you want to integrate?

I would use it to offer small extra perks for recurring subscriptions.  The 4 Patreons who I follow do giveaways based on subscription level where say 5 patreons chosen randomly at the $5 level get picked to get a prize.  One of the artists I follow gave away a really nice basket of chocolates to one of the members at the $10 level.  He promoted the giveaway for about a month before and I'm sure he got some people to upgrade from a lower level.  One of my favorite Patreon artists, McMansion Hell, has 2100+ subscribers with a minimum monthly contribution of $1.  I'd certainly like an extra $2k a month.  

The logistics the the giveaways would be something for site owners to manage, but the interface that might move people around to different groups depending on subscription level would be what I would expect Invision to do. Killer addition to the app - using Patreon as an oAuth log-in for IPS but I don't know if that is possible. Some sort of random member selector generator would be a fantastic add-on for one of the modders to do. 

I wouldn't use it for my site, but I could also see club membership access or blog access determined by patreon subscription level. 

The biggest thing I like about patreon is the low barrier of entry.  People who already have a patreon account don't need to do much extra to subscribe - Click Patreon link, pick a pledge level, boom you're in. Where as if they have to subscribe via stripe, they have to get out a credit card, type the numbers in... by the time they do that, they've changed their mind.  Even Paypal has too many steps. 

Adding on - if I were able to use Patreon, I'd probably drop Stripe subscriptions entirely and go to an all Patreon model. 

Edited by CheersnGears

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On 4/19/2018 at 4:47 AM, CheersnGears said:

I just removed Viglink.  I had 30 cents of activity from it in the last 12 months.  I don't know if there are other ways to impliment it, but it clearly wasn't doing anything for me as is.  I don't expect it to beat AdSense, but at least I get a large adsense payment every month, meaning more than the $100 minimum.

Once upon a time, we use to earn $700 USD a month with Viglink, but as our community numbers and engagement has increased dramatically over the years, it's dwindled to less than $100 a month. We've just deactivated Viglink - not worth it any more. Are you reading, Viglink?

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6 hours ago, Emediate said:

Once upon a time, we use to earn $700 USD a month with Viglink, but as our community numbers and engagement has increased dramatically over the years, it's dwindled to less than $100 a month. We've just deactivated Viglink - not worth it any more. Are you reading, Viglink?

Thats not viglinks fault!!

I had similar figures to you.  It was a nice stream of income, but that was back in the glory days when people actually stuck around and read a few different pages.

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On 9/1/2018 at 8:49 PM, Steve Bullman said:

Thats not viglinks fault!!

I had similar figures to you.  It was a nice stream of income, but that was back in the glory days when people actually stuck around and read a few different pages.

How is it not Viglink's fault?

Our engagement and traffic has increased dramatically, their payment has decreased dramatically.

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