Can you make money with social media?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could upload a picture of a cat with a propeller hat on a skateboard and make $ from it?
Well, some companies are…indirectly.
Think about it, if a news company like Mashable makes money off web quotas (pageviews/unique visits/etc.) and a cat picture on Facebook sends 50,000 people to their site, that cat picture is profitable!
Now, let’s take a small business like Any Size Basket (they make baskets). If they were to post that same cat picture on Facebook, all it might do is get a handful of shares, “likes”, maybe even a few new followers. If they’re lucky, maybe some visits to their site. Is this profitable, even indirectly? Nope.
But if that cat was gliding down a mountain in a custom-made ski-basket, then yes, at least indirectly, this picture could fuel some conversions (and more social traction).
What about selling sponsored social media? Did you know cost per tweet prices are public information?
How much would you pay for a sponsored tweet from The Next Web? Their Alexa traffic rank is 1,058 in the U.S. so I guess that’s pretty good…but I’d pay five bucks. Why? Because on average, their tweet gets 150-250 re-tweets by random people.
You know where I can get hundreds of irrelevant retweets for five bucks? Fiverr. I honestly don’t see the difference. With a follower count at about one million there’s too much noise and no way of guaranteeing the ability to reach a target audience.
So how much does The Next Web charge per tweet?
Yep, that’s right, $3,500 for most likely irrelevant exposure and a minuscule traffic spike. Can someone justify this to me?
Okay I’m done ranting, if people are actually buying this then kudos to The Next Web. That’s an insane profit per tweet.
Hustling tweets and pushing social shares isn’t really the job of a social media marketer; although it can seem like it at times.
What is a social media marketer?
According to popular definition, social media marketers basically have one broad goal: to increase traffic and/or exposure. But that goal is evolving. For the past three years we’ve seen a marketing outcry to get a dollar sign in there.
Personally, I think the goal should just be fluid, like public relations.
You can use social media marketing to fulfill a business goal (make money), gain exposure, or even change a disposition. Maybe your brand got a lot of bad press – social media marketers can help change that.
The existence of a “social media marketer” as a real job was initially laughable. It challenged all pre-conceived ideas of what social media was about. In a way, those who were laughing simply didn’t understand how a business could be “cool”.
Those same people expected social networks to fail after a few years of hype (which is true in some cases) because they couldn’t be visualized as profitable.
But here we are, it’s almost 2014 and companies of all sizes have employees with titles like “Executive Blogger”; “Growth Hacker”; “Social Media Rockstar” – you get the idea.
How do social networks make money?
Here’s a quick question: how much time do you spend on average driving your car per day? What about on social networks?
For many people, these numbers are close and when people invest this much time in something, it’s generally profitable.
But we have to pay for cars – social networks are free.
The social network standards for making money are:
- raising venture capital/financing rounds
- outside investments and donations
- paid advertising
- get bought out by a larger company
- membership/subscription fees and premium business accounts
- miscellaneous fees (i.e. Facebook’s developer application fee)
These are all the popular dollar streams flowing through social networks and keeping them afloat. Without them, social networks would inevitably fade into the dark abyss of the web.
Fortunately, many manage to stay afloat, allowing businesses to take advantage of their platform and reach potential customers.
Successful companies using social media
Sitting at over 41 million likes, the Red Bull Facebook page has straight rocked social media.
One of the biggest reasons for their success is the initial brand messaging goal they set in place when they kicked off their social media campaign.
When we hear Nike we think just do it.
We we hear Red Bull we think gives you wings.
Both companies demonstrate the values and what it means to have wings. The media they post is focused on a lifestyle – not a brand.
Red Bull has many “extensions” of its main Brand Page. For example, the Red Bull Flugtag community page which is entirely dedicated to their awesome Flugtag event.
And here’s the full list of their extensions, which includes all of their media assets. Essentially, they are making money from a huge investment in social media by reinforcing brand qualities, increasing awareness, and really owning the social landscape for their brand.
If we’re being honest marketers, we can mostly agree Skittles tweets > our tweets.
They just want to have fun!
And that goal seems to be the trend a lot of companies don’t understand. It’s the million dollar question:
How are going to make money from ‘having fun’? Do you really think smiles and sunshine and rainbows will increase revenue? WHAT’S THE ROI OF A RAINBOW?!?!
We need to break away from that mindset – not completely, but just for social media. People are spending their OWN time on social networks for their OWN goals. Marketers and advertisers can’t expect to profit from users with traditional practices, such as billboard manifestations as valueless sidebar ads.
Social media marketing is really evolving into a form of befriending people to market to them…hmm, maybe I should coin that term…befriend marketing…
List of social networks you should be considering for niche targeting
LinkedIn groups – There are over 1.5 million LinkedIn groups but the trick is to find the gems; the rare groups that have active members and proper management. How do you find these gems? Basically, search for groups that meet your niche keywords, such as (mobile advertising and New York) and comb through discussions until you notice the same members commenting/contributing on a regular basis. Check out the Group Stats to make sure the group is aged a bit (not some recent marketing ploy). Finally, jump in. See my description about subreddits below for ways to actually make money from being social.
Facebook Groups – There’s something about joining a “private group” that gives it an appeal unlike anything public. Maybe it’s the mystique of exclusivity but private Facebook Groups are excellent and creative ways to make money from social media. A friend of mine was invited to join a private Facebook group hosted by a market research group. They invited a select demographic (male, 21-26) and performed a type of virtual focus group for a set block of time. Later, my friend was raving about a new soda flavor that might come out. Indirectly, that brand is making money by building up anticipation and curiosity – the product didn’t even exist.
Google+ Communities – These are more media-based then social-based (like LinkedIn). Again, just search for relevant niche topics, join active communities, and contribute with value-added media and articles. The stuff you post can be straight from your site – as long as it’s adding real insight. Obviously you can’t just plug a product, but an in-depth case study about how a business profited from this product would be interesting to check out right?
A Few Niche and Useful Social Networks
Ravelry – [from this site] a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user- driven; we as a community make the site what it is. Ravelry is a great place for you to keep notes about your projects, see what other people are making, find the perfect pattern and connect with people who love to play with yarn from all over the world in our forums.
Classmates – [from the site] an online home for your high school class. With the largest directory of high schools and class lists available anywhere, covering 57 million people and including maiden names, Classmates makes finding, reconnecting and staying up with your high school class fun and easy. Classmates also has over 200,000 digitized high school yearbooks available for you to view and share photos.
Subreddits – this is the most overlooked place to make money from being social. Forget the media part. Join a community that fits or relates to your business niche and contribute to discussions. Demonstrate expertise and help people asking questions. Ask questions of your own. After awhile you’ll notice opportunities to name-drop your product; such as setting up an exclusive discount for the subreddit or holding a contest. Some members will even direct/private message you asking for additional advice, which is a great time to subtly recommend/mention your business.
Ways to make money with money on social media
Facebook’s advertising platform and algorithm cater ads to be more helpful than irrelevant. It’s a great way for new local businesses to gain exposure or for existing ones to get the word out about a new development.
One of the leading Facebook marketers, Brian Carter, lists 5 acquisition steps to make money from Facebook:
1) Someone clicks on your FB Ad, directs to a sales/landing page, they make a purchase/sign up.
2) Someone clicks on your FB Ad, directs to become a fan of your Page, they see an interesting post, they click-through to your website and make a purchase.
3) Someone clicks on your FB Ad, directs to a Squeeze Page, they sign up for email, they open a future email pitch, they click-through to your website and make a purchase.
4) Someone clicks on your FB Ad, directs to become a fan of your Page, they see an interesting post, they opt-in to receive texts/SMS discounts, they make a purchase with discounts.
5) Someone clicks on your FB Ad, directs to become a fan of your Page, they see an interesting post, they click-through to your website and click one of your onsite Ads.
These are simply the models; the main idea is that Facebook ads are like a fishing net. You can cast it to catch the attention of people who *most likely* might be interested in your business/service.
Even though Facebook Ads have a lesser value than call-to-actions on your site, they are still versatile and attractive because they’re reaching *possibly relevant* people in a different environment.
One of the biggest cons with advertising on a social network is that no matter how *good* your Ad is and no matter how *relevant* it is, people just don’t care. This is and always will be the hot button issue with social networks. The only reason we use them is for the core values and functionalities that existed when they first released – we never cared (or asked) for Ads. But if you’ve been paying attention to social media marketing these past few years, you’ll notice the difference between a *good* Facebook Ad and a *poor* one is:
- A good Facebook Ad seems like something your friend might say
- A poor Facebook Ad looks like an Ad
This is a rather *unethical* way to make money with social media (hence no links) – so we’ll just give you an overview. PTP or Paid-to-Post programs is literally micro-working for scrap change. You get paid to *do* social media. You get paid to:
- like things, comment on things, sharing things, and post things on Facebook
- tweet things, retweet things, favorite things, and post things on Twitter
- blog things, reblog things, comment on things on sites
- vote things up (or down)
Basically, you just get paid to click stuff. Sounds good right? Sure…if you’re okay with making pennies per click. Give it a month and the Carpal Tunnel surgery will do you over.
I’m not suggesting PTP Programs are the least bit viable; but they exist as a way to make money with social media. It’s the *founders* of PTP programs that are making money by offering things like “50 Guaranteed 100% All-Natural Organic Facebook Comments”
Digital media agencies have been capitalizing on the potential of social media by forming relationships with brands and their clients, who are often celebrities.
As I previously mentioned, simply paying for a celebrity or high profile twitter account thousands of dollars for one sponsored tweet is futile and just plain dumb.
Instead, agencies are catching on with best practices and even paving their own path.
Example: The famous actress Felicity Huffman has her own website blog thing; “WhatTheFlicka”. She scored some bucks doing a write-up for Mattel and more importantly, Mattel received a celebrity endorsement. I mean the post received close to non-existent social traction; but now Mattel has a write-up about their summer program – it’s better than a tweet if you ask me.
Here’s where all the social media money mines are located.
- Creating a YouTube account and channel is free.
- Gaining an honest subscriber count is hard
- Creating *awesome* content is harder
- Consistently creating awesome content is the hardest
I recently read a comment from a YouTuber who makes a living off his videos. He has two revenue streams:
- Sponsored/Paid product reviews
His comment described how after creating 100 high quality videos (about video games and PC gaming) over the course of one year his subscriber count was at a whopping 97. He was making scrap change off Ads at this point and doing free product reviews…
His advice? Don’t give up.
Soon after, his videos finally caught the attention of larger game review sites and fellow YouTubers in his niche with larger followings. Two years later (today), his subscriber count is over 6,500. His videos net 10,000+ views and he gets paid to do reviews now.
That’s just one success story as a result of tenacity and diligence.
Social Media Nuggets
We often forget what social media really entails.
A website is a media form. A site like the 1st example is social in nature.
What does it mean to be social in nature?
Exactly what you’re thinking; people will naturally talk about and share it.
We often overlook the simplest things that can be redesigned as potentially viral social media:
- an about me page
- a newsletter
- a squeeze page
Some of the most successful examples are sole page sites that are created to be social in nature, with subtle references to an ulterior goal.
In fact, there are tons of people rocking it on social media.
What are your favorite examples of people doing social media right?