Wondering how to monetize digital content and why you need to?
First, let's just agree that you need to, even if you aren't sure how yet. Your knowledge, talent, and social communities have value.
As digital publishing – as in consistent posting to social media and website blogs – becomes more and more crucial to small business success, the need to monetize that digital content increases as well. This need to push out more content and specifically more monetized content has led us into a sort of content marketing arms race.
The key that separates this content marketing arms race, though, isn't that there's a race to getting the most content out the fastest – it's about getting the most valuable content out the most consistently. And instead of “racing” against competitors, you're racing against all other content creators. That means all other bloggers, digital marketers, and social and direct sellers who are creating original content that drives engagement online.
As we speak, your ideal clients are manipulating their algorithms – engaging with content from various businesses, friends, family, media, and even celebrity gossip – curating the information they want to consume in the future and training social media platforms, email platforms, search engines, and even their smartphones to show them more of that content in the future.
It's not enough to be someone's “go-to makeup friend” – you have to put together a content strategy that keeps you top of mind because otherwise how often is someone thinking about going to their go-to makeup friend?
The competition to win your friends' and family's attention has never been more fierce. It's not enough to tell your friend that you now sell the products you sell and then expect them to remember to come buy from you the next time they need something. Attentions spans don't work that way anymore.
But, “content marketing” the way a lot of people do content marketing ends up looking a lot like, well, how we imagine marketing looks like – one ad after another after another after another. And if there's one thing you've learned by now, it's this: no one likes advertising. People have learned to tune ads, sales, deals, and specials out. Which means, of course, that if you want to get into their feeds, you can't be posting ads and specials all the time.
The problem is that the other things don't always make any money, right? It costs you just as much in time, effort, and resources to post something that will make no money as it does to post something that will make some money.
And we can argue that the nonpromotional posts are necessary in order for the promotional posts to work their magic – of course. But that still means going through time and resources to post something in the hopes of a larger return later.
The answer, then, is to learn how to monetize digital content so you can make more money inbetween the sales.
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How to Monetize Digital Content
The first step to monetizing your digital content is to review your content and try to determine what the best way of monetizing it will be. Once you've figured that out, you can start to build your plan to monetize that content either directly or indirectly.
Step One: Have Amazing Content
It probably goes without saying, but if you want to monetize your digital content, you have to start by producing amazing content that people want to consume. I've been talking about this forevaa, right? 3P's content! Personality, Purposeful, Promotional content mix that creates your optimal engagement strategy.
- Original. While there are going to be times when you share a quote or some other information that you didn't write yourself, you should strive to add your own perspective or thoughts as often as possible. People are inundated with posts and information – the more you look like someone else, the more you'll just blend into the background and be ignored.
- Unique. Even if you're sharing content from other sources from time to time, your overall feed – as a whole – should give off a unique vibe for your followers. They shouldn't visit your page only to see “just another consultant” – they should see you.
- Quality. If you want your monetization strategy to succeed, then the content you post needs to be high quality. That means your images should be clear and easy to see, your writing should be error-free, and your videos should be clear and easy to watch. There's a difference between being brave enough to be imperfect and just being sloppy – make sure you're the first but not the latter.
Step Two: Align your Content Mission with your Business Mission
This one might seem a little obvious, but why are you in business? I don't mean what your goals are or even what your why is, but why does your business exist? Who are you trying to serve and how are you trying to serve them?
This is an important business decision anyway, and you should always have this answer top-of-mind, but it becomes even more important when you're trying to develop a content marketing plan that you can monetize. Your content plan needs to align with your overall mission statement so it attracts the right people to you: the right products and services to affiliate for, the right brands for sponsorships, the right audience for future growth – everyone.
If you manage to monetize your content but do so in a way that isn't directly aligned with your business mission, then you could accidentally end up with two distinct audiences, and trying to balance out the content at that point is infinitely harder.
Step Three: Choose a Monetization Strategy – Direct or Indirect
Direct monetization of content refers to when someone is paying you directly for the content itself:
- Restricted access that requires payment before reading or viewing the content.
- Subscription access that requires recurring payment before reading or viewing the content.
- Fremium access that requires payment before reading the entire piece.
- Sponsored posts in which a brand or company has paid you to write and publish the content.
- Accepting (but not requiring) donations for for the continuation of content creation.
Indirect monetization of content refers to when a 3rd party is paying you for the referral or access to your audience through a sale later on.
- Affiliate sales through either tutorials or reviews in which the content itself holds independent value.
- Ads that are placed on your site that receive views or clicks while someone is reading your free content.
- Ads to your other services or products that attract attention while someone is reading your free content.
In direct sales, indirect monetization also comes in the form of your team bonus: the company is paying you for your team's performance.
There are a LOT of monetization strategies out there. This graph shows some options to get your creative juices flowing.
Step Four: Measure and Evaluate Regularly
People change, audiences change, needs change. Your ideal client has very different needs this year that they didn't necessarily have last year. And that's not just because a pandemic has come through, but because time isn't standing still – their kids are older, they're older, their housing situation has changed, they've outgrown some needs and taken on new ones.
This means that the content you put up last year may not necessarily continue to resonate. Which doesn't mean that it's useless, but does mean you may need to reevaluate it from time to time and make some decisions. Do you:
- Keep your content the same with the understanding that your clients will eventually outgrow you and be replaced with new clients coming up the pipeline, or
- Keep evolving your content and redefining your ideal client so your clients stay with you.
There is no wrong answer here. But if your content isn't resonating, then it will be almost impossible to monetize. So check and see what's working, what's not, and then tweak as needed depending on your growth strategy.
Beware of Vanity Metrics
Once you start diving into how to monetize digital content and the idea of sponsored posts and affiliate sales, it'll be easy to start obsessing over how many social media followers you have and start dwelling on how to grow those numbers.
Don't get sucked in to checking and growing your numbers every week. To do so will only add to your anxiety and cost you more time than you have.
It's far more important to worry about the value you're providing to the followers you have, how well you're engaging with them, and how deep that connection is than it is how many followers you have. And the truth is, brands don't really care how many followers you have or if you're a so-called “influencer” – if you entertain, inform, inspire, or educate your audience, then you have value for that brand.
And that is powerful.