Monday, 25 April 2011

How to Monetize Social Media

Companies are not only getting the word out about their brands using social media such as Facebook and Twitter but are also making money.

Many business executives have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace, and Linkedin useful in making money. Building genuine online relationships that are also good for the bottom line is not so easy. There is a lot of trial and error. But while monetizing social media is difficult it is not impossible. There are companies that are getting the word out about their brands using social media and are turning a profit.

Take The New York Jets. The NFL team launched their Ultimate Fan social game in September 2010, which was the first revenue generating Facebook app to be backed by a pro sports team. The application lets football fans do online what they would normally do at home and in stadiums—root for their favorite teams and players, predict game scores, and hold a virtual tailgate party with other fans from across the globe. Ultimate Fan has since lured four major sponsors integrating their brands: MetLife, Motorola, SNY and This year, 10 percent of Jets sponsorships include a social media component; the team is planning to bump it up to 50 percent by next year, according to a spokesperson.

The Jets also communicate regularly on Twitter. They even advertised a Twitter-based contest to win tickets to their 2011 AFC playoff championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets are able to engage with their fans and make them feel like they are part of the team. They are leveraging social medial to capitalize on their fans' passion for the team and their willingness to share that fervor.

Like many companies, your social media efforts have started small and grew organically. To capitalize on those efforts to generate sales and revenues you need to have a team of people dedicated to your social media presence. You also will need a deep understanding of your audience, a creative vision, and a way to measure results in order to execute a successful strategy, says industry experts.

Here are some ways your social media can be monetized.

How to Monetize Social Media: Build Brand Awareness

The first step is to use traditional media or word-of-mouth advertising to drive awareness and traffic to your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin or Myspace pages, says Jamie Turner, author of How to Make Money with Social Media. Unless you already have a recognizable brand like Nike or Apple, your brand needs to develop social media magnetism before you can look to make any money. You also need to create circular momentum across many platforms when designing your social media campaign, says Turner. By providing multiple channels for users to talk with you, you let customers choose the channel that they are most comfortable with, he adds; and by doing that you increase the likelihood that they'll connect with your brand in any number of ways.

How to Monetize Social Media: Engage Your Audience

Social media is about having a dialogue. When you have a dialogue with a customer or prospect, the communication is much more fulfilling and much more profitable, says Turner. The PETCO brand has developed a strong presence in social media. The pet store chain has a YouTube channel, its Facebook page generates a lot of discussions among pet owners, and there's lots of activity on its PETCO Scoop blog, which has received hundreds of 'likes' and comments. PETCO's customers are true pet lovers and treat their pets as part of the family. The company tries to keep conversation going by aiming Facebook and Twitter posts so that there's an explicit question to answer, or at least a specific piece of information to which people can react. Industry experts stress that you have to know your community and know how to take part within that community and through that create great content or conversation that will raise awareness and increase sales.

How to Monetize Social Media: Offer Special Promotions

Dell Computers exemplifies a company that is selling products using social media. Its Twitter page, @DellOutlet, offers discounts exclusively to followers. Dell might tweet 15 percent off any Dell Outlet laptop or desktop with a special coupon code entered at checkout so they'll know which tweet you are seeing. @DellOutlet also points you to a specific web page. There is some interaction in terms of chats with tweeters. @DellOutlet has garnered more than 1.6 million followers and generated more than $2 million in incremental revenues for Dell. Traditionally, Dell would have spent a lot of money running print ads. Today, they can write a 140-character promotion to reach customers.

PETCO is yet another example. The company provided a promo code to their customers for $40 in free shipping. The person who shared their code with the most people won a $500 PETCO gift card. About 40 percent of the sales that resulted from this promotional push came from new consumers. The desire to save a few bucks drove loyal PETCO customers to connect with the larger pet owner community and spread the word about the store via social media.


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