You’ve got a great blog. You’re leveraging social media to promote awareness and drive traffic to your blog, and you’re monetizing your blog through one of many channels available to you. Brilliant.
Now, I have a question for you. How are you using your social media channels to complement your blogging income? Are you doing it at all?
If you’re not, don’t worry. Monetizing social media is difficult, and there’s very little advice around for how to do so.
On your blog you have complete control over what the user sees – the content, where they see it, and how it’s all presented. You can sell advertising space, earn from AdSense, sell eBooks and promote affiliate programs – whatever works best for you.
Unfortunately on social networks you’re limited with the type of the content you can post and your content is promoted differently based on its type. Thankfully, the time & place that it’s read is more in your control.
However there are enormous rewards to be reaped if your social channels are used correctly. We’ve all seen photos go viral on Facebook and get hundreds of thousands of likes – but what if that post was earning you money?
Grab a slice of that pie with my 4 easy steps to monetizing your social media:
1. Identify what your audience likes
This is the single most important step when monetizing your social media. Luckily, you already have an understanding of what your audience likes and doesn’t like, so this will be easy. You see it every day with your popular blog posts and viral social shares. Often your audience will be just like you, so simply ask yourself the question “Would I buy this?” If you answer yes, you’re probably onto a winner.
Once you’ve established this, it’s time to move onto step two:
2. Identify all relevant affiliate programs
As I mentioned earlier, most of your monetization options are severely limited when it comes to social media. Direct selling, AdSense and advertising space sales are all out. It’s in this situation that affiliate links become exceptionally powerful. You can post an affiliate link on any social network, and wherever it travels you’ll be credited. Time to get a list of options together.
Join the big affiliate networks – Affiliate Window & Commission Junction, search Google & Twitter for affiliate programs and ask your fellow bloggers for recommendations. Compile a list of all the programs that you think your audience will respond well to, and sign up to them all.
Now is a good point to set up a spreadsheet to track the details for each program – we’ll use it in the next couple of steps to optimize your efforts.
It’s important to remember at this stage is that commission rates mean nothing. It’s very easy to look at one program and think that their 90% will earn you more than someone else’s 5%, but if your audience doesn’t like it, then 90% of nothing isn’t very much at all.
3. Test your selected programs
Now is the time to find out how much each of these programs might potentially earn you. Write posts with your affiliate links in, and include each of them in your social publishing schedule, always remembering step #1. Don’t just plug the product or service on offer; explain why your audience will find it useful.
Your primary concern should always be about how your post will benefit your audience, not how it will benefit you, especially when using social media. If you manage this, this revenue will follow.
Make sure you’re not overloading your feeds with affiliate links, keep the tone honest and after a few weeks of posting you’ll be able to make some informed decisions about which programs you might continue with. We’ll cover this in the next step, Analysis & Optimization.
4. Analysis & Optimization
Finally, it’s time to analyze & optimize your campaigns. You need to do this from two different angles – quantitative (the things you can measure) and qualitative (the things you can’t).
This is where the spreadsheet comes back in. Starting simply, just use a line for each program, with a column for the name, number of posts and revenue earned. You can then calculate the average revenue per post for each program. This will give you a good starting point:
The more data the more dimensions you can add to this analysis, the more effective you’ll be able to make your campaigns. Use some of these as your starting point:
- Social network used
- Time of day posted
- Content type – link, photo, video etc.
- Ratio of affiliate posts to regular posts
You’ll realize that attributing commission directly to a specific link is difficult to do, so to gain the insights that will help you best optimize your campaign, you need to be clever. One way is to test a single variation per week – for example only post photos to Facebook at 3pm, then measure the commission earned that for week. The following week do the same, but post at 3pm on Twitter. You could also use bit.ly links to track the click-throughs on social networks that otherwise don’t provide you with these insights (I’m looking at you, Twitter). In this way, you’ll slowly build a picture of which programs are profitable, and which are a waste of time.
Qualitative analysis is less easy to explain. An easy way to explain it would be to answer a question of “how much do you like this program?” – this can make a big difference. For example, program A might make twice as much per post as program B, but it also takes 5 times as long to create the content – which would you choose?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to further understand this; some of them will be more or less important to you:
- Am I paid my commission promptly?
- How easy is it for me to post content for the programme?
- Am I provided with information and content by the merchant to assist me in my efforts?
- Does my unique link display well on social networks? Does it render images correctly and not look spammy?
- Do I feel like the merchant running the programme values me?
As the manager of Repixl’s affiliate program, it’s these qualitative benefits that we feel are the most important factor, and the ones that we pay most attention to in the service that we offer.
The only way we can make a difference in your quantitative analysis is by changing the commission we offer, but we find we can really go the extra mile elsewhere. We’ve spent lots of time making sure that the unique affiliate dashboards are as full of (regularly updated) content to help you in your efforts as much as possible, and I’m always personally available on the other end of an email if there are any problems. After all, the more success you have, the more we have – so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen!
So to sum up, here are the four key steps in monetizing your social media presence:
- Identify your audience’s likes and dislikes.
- Collate a list of affiliate programs that cater for these likes. Sign up to them.
- Trial all of these identified programs over a period of 2-4 weeks.
- Analyze and optimize your affiliate campaigns.
Follow these steps and you’ll have created yourself a spreadsheet unique to your social media following, and explains exactly how to use affiliate marketing to best benefit them and you. You’ll know what programs to post on which networks, at what times, how often and plenty more. You’ll also know that these programs are easy to use and don’t cause you any trouble.
About the Author: James Bradley is the Co-Founder & Managing Director of Repixl which brings professional photo editing to everyone. Whether you need a portrait retouched, a damaged photo restored or the background cut out of an eBay image, Repixl lets you send it to a professional for editing, quickly and affordably.
They also have an affiliate program, which James manages, the details of which are available on their website.