So the question lingers, is it possible to monetize with Google+ communities? The answer is yes, and from Google’s stand point, it appears the search giant plans to stand on the sidelines and let Community owners do as they wish with respect to this idea. Some of the possible ways that Communities could become profitable could be with the use of subscription based enrollment, advertising contracts, or through driving traffic to external websites and resources. Here we’re going to take a closer look at a few of these possibilities to gain a better understanding of what we can plan to expect from the implementation of these practices.
Subscription Based Enrollment in G+ Communities:
The word lately is that some Communities that require subscription based enrollment have begun popping up on G+. At first, this may sound like a great way to monetize from Google’s ever growing social presence, but this idea is fraught with problems. For starters, there’s already tons of free resources on the internet encompassing any subject you can possibly think of, including Communities on Google+. Charging people for membership to a community is akin to charging people for web design tutorials, which obviously doesn’t work. The internet these days is awash with websites claiming to offer “top tier” web design and IT training for a fee, despite the fact that there are millions of free resources readily available on the web that can easily provide just as good of a learning experience for no cost at all. In some cases the free resources may even prove to be better than the paid ones, although there are probably a few instances where it might still work.
One instance in which a paid subscription community might work is if the community at hand offers some type of professional assistance, such as technical support for individuals or various organizations who could benefit from its use. The ability to get live help with problems surrounding internet based technologies such as web design, programming, or graphic design, would likely be profitable, and communities that can provide this technical knowledge live through Google+ would most likely be able to recruit and retain members easily. However, anyone who attempts to monetize in this fashion would clearly need to be extremely knowledgeable about the service they plan on supporting, otherwise they will find themselves quickly doomed for failure. The more technical the service, and the more knowledgeable the support team, the more likely it would be to succeed. Either way it goes this would likely be the most difficult way to monetize from Communities.
Advertising Contracts with Google+ Communities:
This could be a great option to monetize on Google+ Communities. For one, anyone who’s spent time on Google+ already knows that most moderators frown upon advertisements, and in many cases they just get deleted and the members who posted them get banned! I don’t typically allow them on my Communities either since they don’t tend to add any real value to the user experience. But once money is thrown into the mix it’s likely those thoughts could change.
It’s likely that some communities would consider allowing for a limited amount of advertisements in their streams if it meant a decent pay check at the end of the month. How much revenue a community could earn from advertising contracts would most likely depend on a number of factors such as, the subject the community covers, how many active members are in the community, how well a community’s subject is geared towards a particular product or brand, and how much Community owners would plan to charge for advertising fees, just to name a few.
Another option would be to implement Adsense in Google Plus Communities, although Google has kept mostly quiet on answering this question in the past, only stating it may be possible in the future. After all, communities tend to have a lot of empty space on both the left and right sides of the page, in which ads could be implemented in a non-invasive manner since those ads wouldn't appear in the community's home stream.
Driving Traffic to External Websites and Resources:
It’s not only possible to monetize from Communities by driving traffic to external resources on the web, I am doing this now! We recently started a new Gaming Community “Gamers Bay”, along with a dedicated page for our members. The community and page both have posts to flash games located on this website, in which I monetize through advertising. The Community is only days old at the time of this writing, but I have been testing the process of implementing links within the Community to various games that are available at our main games page for Pctechauthority. So far the results are astounding. People love the games, as well as much of the other content we have been publishing to the community.
Relevance and Engagement Matters:
One thing to keep in mind before jumping the gun and creating tons of links to external content, and throwing Ads up all over your communities is that we also need to consider how these practices will affect the overall user experience of our members. For one, relevance matters! Are the advertisements or external resources you are pointing too relevant to the communities theme? If not, then you are likely to piss off your members, and destroy the experience for everyone. Do your community members like the external resources you are pointing too? In my case the community and page members do like the games we post, they add real value to the communities theme, and it would be typical to expect flash games within a gaming related community, so the results are a big plus since the external content is relevant to the community’s overall idea.
When it comes to building a quality Community experience, it’s obvious that there must be serious work involved on the part of community moderators, this includes keeping engaged with the community’s discussions, and being actively involved in providing useful content for your members, as well as keeping the community clean of spam and disrespectful users. Simply throwing up Ads and posting external links to a community with a poor user experience is likely to fail.
Building up Communities and Selling Them:
This isn’t such a bad idea either. A community with hundreds of thousands of active members that is well managed is likely to have some form of monetary value to someone. Many organizations would be likely to purchase a large Community if they thought it could help to drive the presence of their brand, product, or service. In this case it’s possible that a single Community on Google+ could sell for a hefty price! With some communities now reaching in the million+ members mark, the prospect of selling these social properties to larger organizations who can make use of them is a lot more likely. Here's another article that talks more about the buying and selling of social properties: Google+ and The Birth of The Social Media Broker!
Advantages and Disadvantages:
One thing to consider with the intent of implementing advertising into communities, is the fact that Google, so far, has provided no way for moderators to create static placements for Ads. This means that all advertising would have to be placed directly into the community’s stream or about sections. As it stands, there is plenty of open space on both the right and left sides of community pages that could easily house advertisements, but with no way to define the placement of Ads, this idea remains outside of community owners and moderators control.
Another thing to consider is that moderators also have no access to an email list of their potential members. If moderators did have access to an email list, it would be a lot easier to keep engagement among their members, since newsletters could be sent out on a regular basis.
Google+ communities also have their drawbacks and advantages as compared to a standard forum on the internet. For one, Google+ communities are much easier to implement than a standard forum since there is no software to install or manage, it’s simple to remove problem users, and Google does has some decent spam filtering capabilities already in place for you. On the other hand, G+ communities also have their drawbacks as well. Unlike a standard forum, moderators don’t have the ability to dictate the placement, and or layout of content on the page. With standard forum software content can be easily placed on the page, giving you the ability to place advertisements in their appropriate places, making effective use of space as a result. It’s likely that some of these constraints with G+ communities will be overcome in the future as Google continues to add additional functionalities to its G+ platform.
Of all the possibilities for monetizing that we’ve covered, it’s likely that driving traffic to external resources, as well as paid advertising contracts would be the easiest to implement, and the most likely to turn a profit. As far as paid subscriptions go, well, you better know what the heck you are doing, and you better have something really good to offer, otherwise forget it! As for selling communities? This could definitely be possible, and it wouldn't be surprising to see this happen on a wider scale in the future.