This is a guest post by longtime SocialEngine user, Paul Rothbein. Paul provides service consulting for social network creators, and helps his clients market and monetize their communities, including fundraising through services like Kickstarter. He has even traveled to Asia recently to provide marketing support for YouNet, a third-party development team for SocialEngine. Continue reading to learn about Paul’s tips for reaching your audience, monetizing your community, going viral, and maximizing your SocialEngine experience.
We all know SocialEngine websites reach a niche audience. However, many niches are more saturated and competitive than one might think. Some popular concepts include social networks for Expats and Immigrants, religious faiths, and music enthusiasts. Fortunately, there are ways to work around the competition while serving the same audience. The key is to narrow down to a more specific niche audience.
Who To Reach Out To
Most social network publishers create social networks for subjects they are passionate about: expats own and operate communities for expats, music fans for music communities, etc. Many SE powered websites connect strangers with similar interests and needs as opposed to reconnecting with old friends (example: Facebook). When I was in Vietnam for a month I felt a need to connect with other expats since I did not know anyone in the country, so I was willing to pay to join Internations.org, but I would have preferred a social network specifically for expats in Vietnam. That clearly would have appealed more to my needs.
A client of mine is a former transfer student at UCLA. He felt there was a lack of online resources for transfer students. As a result, he created his own social network for transfer students, CollegeShuffle. He took a great approach by starting out small; he targeted college transfer students in schools in Southern California as opposed to college students across the country which would demand more work. He also improved his website’s SEO and increased membership by connecting directly with University faculty. Establishing relationships with NGO’s, associations, etc. related to your target market is a great approach to take.
Monetizing Your Social Network
SocialEngine powered websites can earn money through advertising, memberships, and transaction fees (example: e-
commerce platforms, memberships). Almost every social network wants to make money. There are things to be careful of - if your social network earns revenue from advertising, make sure you are careful with PPC advertising. Advertising that depends on lots of traffic usually generates less than $1 per member. Paying $3 per click on Facebook ads seems sure to be a money loser. However, if you target the right person that one click can lead to 1000 new members.
You might ask, how is this possible? Targeting Facebook users that are writers, and part of a Facebook group for New York Times employees might give you access to important influencers. These influencers can help by writing about your website in the newspaper. This of course can help your website get its foot on the
ground in terms of publicity. I have an SE client with a website catering to Hispanics across the world. His website was featured on a Spanish television talk show and now has over 10,000 members. Mass publicity accompanied by an ad portal creates a lot of potential for your website to profit.
This is not to say that PPC advertising is only valuable when trying to reach the press. If you have an ad portal made by SocialEngineAddOns and charge $50 per month, then targeting advertisers might be feasible. A $4 Google adwords click might pay off. You can earn a lot of money if that person clicks on an affiliate link for Expedia (created by Viglink). It is possible for that link to generate $500 in commission for you. You might wonder though, how do you get noticed through organic, non-paid means?
Wikipedia is a non-profit and does not have staff or a budget for SEO support. How does Wikipedia appear so frequently on Google? The answer is simple. Wikipedia’s volunteers produce quality content. How does Facebook get recognition so easily without a large advertising budget? Facebook members are voluntarily advertising the website. Can you remember a time when you saw a TV commercial telling people to visit the advertiser’s Facebook fan page? Almost every website you go on displays the Facebook logo, and most people inform their friends to connect with them via Facebook. So, how can you get others to promote you?
One time I created a contest for my own social network, Myriud (in redevelopment stage). I came up with a prize of $300, incorporated a powerful keyword (women modeling in swimsuits), and put that keyword in the url of the page. I made sure the contest was based on votes. I simply contacted people I knew that had a lot of friends on Facebook, and recommended these individuals to post on their profile, on their blog, etc. to have people vote for them to win the $300 prize. The person who won the contest followed my advice. This increased my website’s membership by over 1000. If you google “women modeling in swimsuits” you will see my website, Myriud.com, appear as number 1 on the search results.
SocialEngine – More Than Just for Social Networks
SocialEngine is not just a platform for building niche oriented social networks just like WordPress is no longer a platform used strictly for blogs. There are smartphone location based social networks made possible by Hire-Experts / SocialEngineAddOns plugins, group buying websites with the support of Modules2buy, e-learning websites, Pinterest style websites made possible by iPragmatech, and contest focused websites that can be created through the help of
Most social networks are operated by individuals, not companies. It’s important to make sure that you don’t give yourself more to bite than you can chew. Even some of the most successful SE websites are operated by single individuals. The largest free dating website, PlentyofFish, only 3 years ago had one person at the company. Now, the website only has 8 per 30,000,000 active members. The key to the website’s success is keeping things simple with the resources they have available.
- Paul Rothbein