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Making Money from Social Media

13 Jul 2011

How can media companies actually make money from social media as an integrated platform in their stable? Some examples of how media companies are using social media to bring in digital revenue are described.


Social games like FarmVille have blown up, and media companies are taking note. Publishers are finding ways to gamify their content and even use games as a supplementary revenue stream. Esquire recently came out with a paid puzzle app for the iPad, representing how traditional publishers are eyeing games.

Selling games (or content/levels within games) like Esquire is the most obvious way publishers can profit from social gaming. Other options include selling advertising or sponsorships, as PopSugar does with its Retail Therapy game.

The growing appetite for social games and the increasing sophistication of games will continue to make games an attractive potential revenue source for media companies.


Social commerce, particularly digital coupons, continues to attract publishers as a new source of revenue. Some media sites are teaming up with companies like Groupon, while other publishers have opted to start their own deals services (e.g.

Media companies can also use social commerce to help sell products. Publishers like F+W have found ways to leverage the social graph in e-commerce initiatives.

Recently we've seen social commerce make an entrance into the B2B space with companies such as the deal service Bizy and the social recommendation directory BestVendor. As sales get more and more social, publishers of all types will continue to find ways to leverage social commerce into their business.


Social media is driving new advertising formats and opportunities. There are a number of ways publishers can sell advertising using social, whether it's by selling their own social real estate or making display advertising inventory more social.

For instance, more publishers are using rich ad units to pull in an advertiser's social stream. Last year tech publisher IDG unveiled the Nanosite Ad Unit, which can house content including social media. Vibrant Media, which offers contextual advertising products, recently released the Social Bar, a toolbar that can highlight a brand's social media assets targeted to the content on the page. Here's an example:

Publishers also can advertise via their own social stream, selling sponsored tweets or Facebook posts, for example. The Austin-American Statesman experimented with this model, offering two sponsored tweets per day for $300, Mashable reported last year. Twitter is experimenting with more advertising initiatives, which could potentially offer new revenue opportunities for publishers.

Advertising will only get more social, especially as ad technology continues to expand to help publishers target ads to the user and social media metrics improve. And as publishers increase their social reach, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds will become more valuable ad real estate.

Custom publishing

Some publishers have worked with advertisers on custom social media projects. Hearst, for example, is partnering with Buddy Media to build "sapplets," or branded social media applications to provide to advertisers for custom content and sponsorships.

Advertisers also commission media companies to their agency to help build their social strategy. In the simplest form, this could involve a content project. For example, Paste's publisher told me last year that the site created a music list for an advertiser's Facebook page - one of the ways the publisher tries to bring in revenue through its active communities on Facebook and Twitter.

B2B publishers have been particularly well-positioned to offer social media management in their menu of marketing services. Clients are willing to pay just to have a publisher, who understands social media, run their Facebook page.

As brands move more toward being content providers and the demand for custom services increases, expect to see more demand for help with social media.

Many publishers are trying more than one of the above tactics to make social a part of their revenue stream. Sometimes the same social content can be monetized in many different ways. For example, the liveblogging platform ScribbleLive is promoting four different ways news organisations can make money from liveblogging.

Source: eMedia Vitals

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