You’ve seen the ads. You’ve watched the vids telling you how to make 6 figures a month with your social media following.
And if you’ve tried it, you’ve realized that 1. Everyone is doing the same stuff, and 2. The people making the most money seem to be the ones telling people how to make money. In our research, we’ve realized that a lot of creators are STRUGGLING with traditional monetization methods.
But, monetizing a social media following is still possible. And you don’t have to be a Kardashian to do it.
The good news is that there are increasingly more ways to turn your following into a new revenue stream. And there are more and more SAAS platforms out there to help you do it.
Whether you’re Tweeting to thousands, TikTok-ing to millions, or you’ve got 40 people in a Facebook group, let’s talk about how to monetize your social media followers.
All it takes is for you to be willing to think a bit more creatively and embrace a few new trends that are emerging right now. Here are 15 realistic options for social media monetization. And, just so we’re clear, these are roughly organized from the best options to the worst options – meaning the ones that will pay you most to the ones that pay the least.
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In this article...
15 options for social media monetization
1. Online Community
Okay, we may be a little ahem biased here, but online communities are a dang great way to monetize your social media followers.
And since we ARE a community platform, let’s look at the objective evidence for why communities are a great way to monetize.
A paid community monetizes work you’re already doing (creating content), gives people something it’s in their nature to want (human connection and belonging), and turns it into the ultimate business model (recurring revenue).
You don’t have to be Warren Freaking Buffet to realize that this is an equation that makes sense. We can turn it into a simple mathematical formula:
The content creation you’re already doing + The connection humans crave + The ultimate business model = $$ cha-ching $$
So instead of grinding away on someone else’s platform, feeding their algorithm, and lining their pockets with your content creation – you basically bring your energy and flair to creating your own social network of sorts.
A lot of communities work on a monthly membership charge, but there are a bunch of different ways to monetize them, including selling courses, charging for sub-groups, or upselling into a service like coaching.
You’ll have to find what works for you.
How to monetize with community
You’ll need a great community platform – and no, a Facebook group doesn’t cut it. A REAL community platform lets you charge for memberships (or other things like courses), and gives you the power to create amazing experiences.
This is why, with Mighty Networks, we give creators a beautiful platform to build on that includes elegant discussion boards, user profiles, group messaging, integrated live events, live streaming, polls and questions, native analytics, and more… All available on a beautiful Mighty Networks app.
You can even opt for Mighty Pro, which lets you build totally branded apps to fit your style. It’s the route Adriene Mishler took to build a custom community for her 10+ million YouTube subscribers to her channel - Yoga with Adriene.
2. Selling services
If community gives you recurring revenue and paid membership at scale, social media monetization through selling services lets you create high-ticket products for a few people.
This can be a GREAT way to monetize your social media following.
Forget trying to build an income from all of your followers, and forget selling other people’s products and earning a few bucks a sale. You can use your own following to sell services. This lets you charge a premium for your work. It also helps you stand out from your competitors, and you get the fun of both building a following and also earning a great living.
We should probably point out something obvious here. Just because you sell services doesn’t mean you can’t also mix this with other things on this list.
For example, a career coach might sell a mixture of coaching, pre-made courses, and membership in a community. There are coaches making $500k a year using exactly this model.
Here are some examples of services that can be monetized from a social media following and sold to individuals:
- Digital Marketing Strategy
- Facebook Ad Creation
- Content Writing
- Search Engine Optimization Consulting
- Graphic Design
- Web Design
- App Development
- Financial Advising
The sky is the limit here. If you have a service-based business and you build a following around it, you can use that following to earn a great living.
How to monetize with services
You’ll need a way to get your offerings out to your existing audience, as well as a point of sale. This might mean using something like Stripe mixed with Calendly to create a sales process for – say – a coaching product. Or, you might be chasing bigger fish, working as a consultant and invoicing your business clients for thousands at a time.
This is the roadmap to building a real business around your social media following, and it works!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you know that one of the ways to monetize your social media followers is with courses. And it’s true!
Building an online course is an awesome way to get paid to share your knowledge with the world. And, just in case you’re worried that there’s no room for you… never fear. E-learning is estimated to keep growing and hit $1 trillion in value by 2030.
One thing has changed about online courses though: delivery options. Ten years ago, people were adding an asynchronous course to a WordPress website – throwing it up and forgetting it, hoping to “earn money sleeping.”
While there’s NOTHING wrong with passive income, the world of online courses is changing. We’re seeing more and more cohort and live courses, as well as courses built in vibrant communities that give course members a big bear-hug of support for their journey.
As we said above, courses go great with some of the other options on this list (especially community) to round out your business model.
How to monetize with courses
Choose an awesome course platform (like Mighty Networks) that gives you courses and community together – trust us, there’s a powerful business here. Decide on your Ideal Member and your Big Purpose, identify the transformation you want to take students through, and start selling and building!
4. Mastermind Groups
Mastermind groups are a fantastic way to monetize your social media following. Unlike traditional coaching, mastermind groups are a meeting of equal-ish minds to support each other, learn, and get accountability.
Top mastermind groups charge a lot for a cultivated group of like-minded people, and business owners swear by them.
How to monetize with a mastermind group
While you should read our guide to starting a mastermind group for more details, you basically need a group of Ideal Members, maybe a platform to bring them together on and charge membership fees, and you’re ready to rock!
5. Get a job
Here’s a piece of unconventional advice. You can use your social media following to get a job. If you’re known as an expert in something and have a following, it’s possible that building your brand has made you more attractive to a future employer. Why not leverage that into a paycheck!
The same is true if building a following is something you can do for other people. You could consider getting paid to create content and put your social media chops to work. We hire people to do just this! (Check here for a list of our open positions.)
6. Physical products
Depending on what you do and what your following is about, you might have a market for physical products. Let’s imagine you’re a painter or photographer who has a following on Instagram. It stands to reason that you could create products from your work and sell it!
Heck, people are probably already asking you, “Where can I get a print?”
While there’s some overhead to get a physical product business off the ground – say getting prints made and buying shipping material, there’s no reason the cost has to be prohibitive. Since you don’t need to pay for a storefront, any income you make after manufacturing and shipping will probably be profit. And if you have a following already, you can probably charge a premium for your work!
How to monetize with physical products
You might opt to build your own Shopify store or build a website with an e-store plugin built on. Or, you might use a pre-existing product marketplace like Etsy. Figure out how to collect from them, and then start selling!
7. Group coaching
We touched on coaching above, but another model that works great for social media monetization is group coaching. UNLIKE a mastermind group, group coaching brings people together to learn from… YOU. And if you have a decent-sized social media following that wants to learn from you, group coaching can work really well to monetize.
You get the benefit of working with multiple members at once – that gives you scale. And your coaching clients get the benefit of working directly with you – often at a lower cost than 1:1.
Group coaching is also just a lot of fun, and unlocks the benefits of community we talked about above.
How to monetize with group coaching
Mighty Networks gives you all you need for a group coaching biz. It lets you bring a community together and charge for it or for subgroups – that’s your group coaching fee. Once you’ve got your group set up, you can create events (coaching sessions), live stream, and keep the conversation going with forum discussions and direct messaging.
8. Sell merch
Merch is technically a type of physical product, but it deserves a mention here. That’s because merch is not so much about building a special product, and more about monetizing your brand.
So whether it’s a cute pair of novelty slippers with your logo on them or a coffee mug or t-shirt, finding and selling merch that fits your brand can be a great way to monetize.
How to monetize with merch
There are a couple of platforms that have merch capability built-in, which is cool. The first is Patreon. Although it has some limitations for monetizing your audience–not least the cut they take– its merch function is pretty cool! YouTube also deserves a mention here, since they’ve created the capability to add merch to your channel.
9. Build software
Building software isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is something that some social media personalities do. If you have a huge following and are known for expertise in a certain area, you might be a good person to build a software company around your following.
Need more inspiration? Look at Neil Patel, who turned his SEO expertise and following into investing and partnering in companies like Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg.
It’s not easy, but building software can be a lucrative way to monetize your social media following.
As we get to the bottom of this list, we’re hitting things that are well known – but potentially not as lucrative. This is the case with the patronage model, best known through a little site called Patreon.
Basically, Patreon gives people who believe in you the chance to support you, although it’s evolved its model to also include “perks” that you can offer to your audience… (When you’re selling perks and merch, Patreon looks a bit more like a traditional service or product business. But we digress.)
The top Patreon earners make bank. For example, the podcast True Crime Express notoriously makes around $240k monthly. But the bottom earners make pennies, or nothing, every month from their efforts. There are a lot of starving artists who joined Patreon, and are still starving.
This means that your odds of replacing your income with a Patreon account aren’t huge, and that pushes it down this list a bit.
How to monetize with patronage
We’ve got a guide for How to Be Successful on Patreon, which you can read. There are also other Patreon alternatives with similar goals. But to get started, you basically choose your platform, get your account up and running, set your support levels, and tell all your followers about it! You’re off to the races.
11. Sponsored posts
Sponsored posts are one of those ways to monetize your social media followers that probably needs a large following – although even micro-influencers can earn some pocket money and free samples off of them.
Like it sounds, a sponsored post is when someone pays you to post. This might feel pretty dang good if you’ve worked hard to build a following and you’ve got a product you love and want to recommend. On the flipside, if you’re trying to push a product you don’t know or like to your audience in a desperate bid to make a few bucks, it will feel pretty gross.
Sponsored posts can net you anywhere from a few dollars to $1 million – if you have a Kardashian-level following.
How to get started with sponsored posts
There are a few different ways to approach sponsored posts. You can reach out directly to marketing departments at companies you like, some even have staff dedicated to influencer marketing.
The bigger your following gets, the higher chance these types of people will start to hit you up offering sponsored posts (but be careful, there are a lot of scammers and spammers that will reach out when you have a big following too).
There are more and more platforms popping up that help influencers and companies connect, and G2 has a list of these influencer marketing platforms.
12. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another way of monetizing content, but unlike sponsored posts you’re not paid for posting – you get paid when someone buys a product. Usually, affiliate agreements will set an amount that you make per sale.
You’ll share a tracking link that tells the company who referred the sale, and you get paid!
There are a couple of downsides to monetizing with affiliate marketing.
- You need a niche that makes sense. Sharing links to “low-interest credit cards” to your audience who follows you for pet care advice is a surefire way to lose followers.
- The payout usually tracks with the value of the product. There’s a huge difference between someone buying a book with a 10% payout and someone buying a high-ticket, $3,500 course with a 10% payout. You need to figure out which products are worth your time.
But if you have an audience that fits the product and you have products that pay well and that you believe in promoting, why not!?
How to get started with affiliate marketing
Pick any brand you love and google “THAT BRAND affiliate program.” You’ll see if they have one.
You usually need to sign up for an affiliate program and get approved, probably adding some personal and tax info for the payouts.
In the past, a lot of affiliate programs were run directly by brands, but more and more are being run by centralized platforms like impact.io. This means you can sign up for multiple affiliate programs in one place, and they handle the payouts too.
*By the way, if you love Mighty Networks and want to share it, we have an affiliate program too! You can find it here. *
13. Premium content subscriptions
One of the ways to monetize your social media followers with content is through the use of premium or gated content. In the past, a lot of bloggers would create “members only” areas that gave people access to premium blogs.
This is sort of the same concept that’s now been adopted by some top social media platforms. Basically, you create content that is for members only or people paying a subscription. The great news is that this is potentially recurring revenue if you can make it work for you.
How to get started with content subscriptions
You’ve got two options. First, if you’re on a platform that has subscriptions built in, you can turn it on and go. For example, Twitter recently launched its “Super Follow” button which lets creators with more than 10,000 subscribers sell premium subscriptions.
The other way to do it, especially if you’re on a platform that doesn’t have it built in, is to choose a software solution for your premium content subscription. Something like Substack does this for newsletters, giving you the tools you need to build a newsletter business.
And of course, Mighty Networks also gives you a model to monetize your best content to paying members while mixing in the other methods we talked about above!
Way down here at the bottom is the social media monetization method that most people thought would be at the top: ads.
Monetizing with advertising is hit and miss, although it’s the thing most YouTube creators dream of. In reality, there are strict rules about who can monetize and you need enormous watch time to make any real money off of YouTube ads.
The same thing would be true of display ads if you were directing your followers to a website that you owned. The low premium on ad time makes it unlikely to pay your bills anytime soon. But if you qualify for ads already, say on YouTube, and you’re using the monetization methods we’ve talked about above, it sure as heck doesn’t hurt to turn on the ads!
15. Mix and Match
We’ve been touching on this all the way through, but let’s be straight. You can mix and match lots of these options to create a viable business from your following!
For example, mixing courses and community are a really great way to benefit from both strategies!
This combination creates a framework that allows your members to build relationships with each other and help each other stay true to the new habits they’re developing. These connections they make around the topics that are most important to them are what gives them the incentive to come back, and renew their subscription year after year.
Direct Monetization vs. Third-Party
The final question in all this is whether to monetize directly on a social media channel or to take your audience somewhere else. If you look at successful creators, you’ll see that they’re often doing a mix of both.
It comes down to this: if you can offer your most engaged and motivated followers the opportunity to master a topic together and to achieve results around that topic together, you can monetize your social media.
What does mastering a topic together look like? Here’s an example:
Imagine your Instagram account follows your adventures in homesteading, or living off the land growing your own food, raising your own livestock, and making your own clothes (remember, we said “imagine” here!).
You could monetize your Pinterest followers by creating a paid annual membership site where community members join and learn about sustainable living through collaborating both with you and with each other.
Or you could opt to monetize your Instagram followers by offering an exclusive online course, focusing on the best ways to grow a flourishing edible garden.
Or follow Kathleen Drennan’s example. Kathleen, a florist with her own shop in remote Australia, monetizes her Instagram followers with #ForFlorists, an online business school for florists. Here she hosts both a membership community with a monthly subscription, and a paid online business course for aspiring professional florists, where members can master the business of floral design, together.
In the end, it’s not so much about the methods – it’s about what’s going to get your followers the transformation they want and need.
2 questions every creator needs to ask
If you’re trying to decide whether you too can monetize your social media following, ask yourself these two simple questions.
#1. Who are my most passionate followers?
Monetizing your social media followers isn’t about all of your social media followers. It’s about identifying and connecting the ones that are the most motivated today to go deeper with you and your niche.
Who are your followers who would want a deeper program you create beyond what you offer in social media for free? Furthermore, who are your followers who are most likely to want to meet each other?
Start by looking to monetize these social media followers first. They will be the easiest to reach initially and benefit the most from a paid membership or online course.
#2. What kind of results and transformation could I offer my most passionate followers with a program, online course, or annual membership?
What do your most passionate followers want to create in their own lives and how could you help them get there faster with better structure and a supportive community? For example, could you help your followers grow in their career? Get an inside track on the best beauty practices? Train for a 5K run?
Once you’ve sorted out what your most passionate followers have in common, and what kind of results they are the most motivated to get today, you can take the next step toward social media monetization.
Ready to start earning?
Here’s the thing about monetizing your social media: people will pay a premium price for results and transformation. And when you’re ready to monetize your social media followers, a Mighty Network will help you get there.
With a Mighty Network, you’ll be able to offer all of these pieces together under your own brand, instantly available on web, iOS and Android. Plus, it’s easy to charge for different membership tiers, access to exclusive online courses, or both.
Within your own Mighty Network, you can charge for access to your overall community; make access to your Mighty Network free and charge only for an online course or group within your Mighty Network; create bundles of online courses or groups that you can sell annually, monthly or with a one-time payment; and more.
It’s a powerful model that makes it easy for you to manage (especially if you are running your first membership site or online course) and for your members to master your topic in one place.