Populations, Engagement and Monetization

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I’ve seen a bunch of articles and tweets recently talking about “the direction” of social in 2011. One of the key themes has been that there will/should be a greater focus on engagement as opposed to sheer number of fans or followers in the social space.

As I see it, this has been the point all along. Having large numbers of fans/followers is quite meaningless unless they are engaged with what your team is doing. I’ve often said that I’d rather have 1000 fans that were really plugged into what I was doing, than 10,000 fans who paid little or no attention. Having said that, when looking to integrate corporate sponsorship activations, you need to demonstrate some worthwhile populations as well. It’s a balance that needs to be achieved. Engagement and populations are both important in combination.

Beyond the obvious benefits of fan loyalty, and the fact that the social space provides an opportunity for fans to interact with each other as well as the brand, there is a  key reason why engagement matters from a monetization perspective:

Engaged Fans Will Participate

When holding a contest or promotion, you want your fans to really grab on to your idea – especially if these promotions are sponsored activations. Beyond the opportunity to simply win something, ongoing engagement with fans simply helps to foster their participation and buy in when you ask them to.

Engagement is about the day-to-day interaction with fans. This is why you benefit from dedicated resources working in this space – commenting on photos that are uploaded, answering questions, thanking fans… that stuff matters and helps build/strengthen relationships. This needs to happen on a continual basis.

Selling in the social space can be tricky – you can easily pollute your Facebook Wall or Twitter stream with too much sponsored content. Fans will be more accepting of this content if the engagement levels are high and the “what’s in it for me?” factor is clear.

Too often, teams simply throw up content that is readily available elsewhere, like the team website. Social is all about engagement and fan content – so use the social space for what it does best. That takes time and resources, but the cost/time justification can be offset by appropriate monetization strategies.

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What Exactly Do I Mean by “Monetization”?

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It’s a buzz word, unfortunately.

What do I mean, when I say social media monetization? I mean that I will help you organize, categorize and build dollar elements/inventory out of your social media spaces.

One might consider a comparison to be with banner ads and websites. But we don’t call banner ads “website monetization”, they are simply just banner ads and are an accepted piece of corporate sales inventory. Web sites have been monetized for a while now so we don’t think about this anymore.

Part of the difference is that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are free for teams (and anyone for that matter) to use. In social media, we have a free medium that attracts tens of thousands of daily visitors – doesn’t monetiztion make sense? Of course it does! As brands/sponsors large and small are incorporating social marketing strategies, innovative teams are wise to take note and proceed carefully. Benchmarks and expectations are being set, social populations continue to grow and new media are constantly emerging as well as new features and functionality.

So that’s what monetization means to me and my clients. How you begin to price these structures out is another story.

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