More often than not, we’re bombarded with unhelpful, annoying ads. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Sometimes ads are so on-point -- targeted directly at you -- that they’re actually helpful. They’ve finally hit their target audience, which makes everyone happy -- advertisers make money because they sold you a product, and you’ve solved a problem by making a purchase.
What if you could bring these types of helpful, meaningful advertisements to your community -- and make money for your organization? Communities offer the perfect ecosystem for creating those on-point, targeted ads. It’s already a go-to resource for many members to interact about a specific industry, product or service. Plus, there’s an assumed trust when it comes to the community -- members trust your organization, and assume you wouldn’t sell ads for scammy products or services (which means you should work hard to keep that trust). So why not provide ads to fit that niche?
Here are three reasons you should consider integrating helpful, meaningful ads into your community:
When done correctly, simple banner ads can be very lucrative, since they’re targeted to such a niche group -- your community members. A community’s audience is very specific, you can see what their pain points and needs are from their discussions and you have their full attention when they’re logged in. It’s the perfect recipe for effective banner ads.
The International Franchise Association (IFA) is a great example of a community that fully understands the power of advertising -- even with simple, strategically placed banner ads, they created a strong revenue generator, more than paying for the platform itself. In 2015, the IFA generated over $100,000 in community ad revenue, with 8,000 visits per month to their site.
IFA achieved such a large revenue stream by placing ads in many creative spaces -- in the daily digest emails, discussion messages, the tops and sides of the page and in blog posts.The ads do so well not just because of their volume, but because they’re targeted to a specific, captive audience. The ads are effective because companies sell the products, services and events most helpful and applicable to your niche community. Your members aren’t used to seeing ads so specifically targeted to them.
Don’t assume you need to place ads absolutely everywhere to make money or justify the endeavor. Start out small, see what placements work best and go from there.
Tip: Analyze your community’s traffic patterns, by page and time of year, to determine especially desirable ad placements and timing. Do you have a huge event coming up, and a check-in page that’s about to be bombarded with views? That’s a great place to rotate out expensive ads, since almost every member will visit that page before, during and after the event. Look for similar sweet spots to galvanize your strategies.
As good as banner ads are, there are many other creative ways to generate advertising revenue with your community. These options are easy to pull off on your end, and important to consider if you’re serious about selling ads in your community -- especially since ad blockers are gaining in popularity. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you have or how great the ad is -- if members use ad blockers, they won’t see it. But don’t worry -- there are still powerful ways to advertise, and ad blockers won’t be the wiser.
One way to do so is to create sponsored content your members will love and find valuable. Tap into your affiliates’ and partners’ thought leadership and create ad packages for them to buy -- they have information your members want to hear, and will see the value of going the inbound route, rather than traditional advertising route.
When an affiliate or partner buys an advertising package, you can give them various options: sponsor blog posts, feature logos in calendar events, host webinars and list in a buyer’s guide. Inbound marketing is especially powerful because it provides real, helpful advice for your members. Plus this added bonus: affiliates and partners will pay you money to create valuable content in your community.
Tip: Create a private, members-only community for members to discuss products and services they’re interested in buying amongst themselves. In that private community, they’ll know it’s safe from advertisements -- they can have real, honest discussions with each other about potential purchases without getting false or leading information from salespeople. Create a separate group that affiliates and partners have access to -- make sure this part is very clear. That way, members can interact with your affiliates and partners, and build relationships. If a member wants to hear bids or gather RFPs, they can post in the affiliates community and affiliates or partners can respond. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Let’s say you don’t want to put ads all over your community -- there are valid reasons to keep them out, or maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to kick off and maintain a successful, robust ad program at the moment. No matter what, you still have spaces for potential ads -- should you just leave them blank? No.
Rather than viewing banner ad spots as tools for external organizations, products or services, use those spots to promote your organization and community events. Sure, you won’t earn revenue from selling those spaces to a partner, but you will increase event registrations if you make the event more visible through ads. Each time you have a webinar, meetup or conference, pick a few strategic banner ad spots.
Tip: Selling ads or promoting in-house items aren’t mutually exclusive. Take a hybrid approach -- allow outsiders to advertise within your community, but also save a few spots to promote your products or services.
Communities are inherently useful outlets to grow and increase revenue streams. Your audience is specific and self selecting, and members talk about what is and is not helpful within their community. Although it doesn’t need to be the focus of community, in many ways advertising can help bridge the divide between partners, affiliates and your members -- who are consumers.