Earning an income through creating online community

Date: Thu Nov 08 2007
If you're going to operate a community web site, it carries some costs. These include hosting fees, software purchase (maybe), any advertising you do, and your time to maintain the web site. To have some kind of surety the website will continue, it is best that you find a way to earn an income through the community web site.

This is the same equation discussed on the rest of this web site. One thing that's different is a community web site requires constant tending, because you are the host/hostess of a sort of party happening on your website. It's best for the host/hostess to stay visible throughout the party, and likewise it's best for the community leaders to stay visible and active in the community website they operate.

The methods to earn an income through the community website are very similar to the methods discussed elsewhere through this site:

  • Advertising
  • Affiliate sales

Additionally it is common to charge a membership fee, or to take donations.

Basically, a community web site carries along with it a semi-captive audience. That audience will have some loyalty and stickiness, returning to your site so long as they enjoy what they find there. Hence, if you do a good job nurturing the community, you will have a constant stream of returning visitors. Visitors you can tap in many ways for income.

There is a fine line to walk in deriving income from your community. First you must remember that you do not own the community, because the community is made from the connections between the people. Instead what you own is the meeting room, and like tavern owners throughout the ages you're earning your income through making the meeting place a safe and comfortable place to rest and chat with others.

You choose what you do with the meeting room, website that is. The community members then choose whether they will continue visiting your website. Making the wrong choice could set off a wildfire of protest, leading to the community members walking out the door.

You do not own the community.

Speaking for myself I would be turned off by the community leaders constantly shoving products in my face. But, placed in context, and done in a way that's compatible with the topic and focus of the community, it is not only acceptible but appreciated to have products available.

In other words, Google's Adsense is highly compatible with community web sites. Google does a very good job of automatically targeting advertising to the actual website content. This makes it just as useful as placing Adsense on other forms of websites.

Another good choice is that Amazon.COM (and a few other affiliates) offer auto-created blocks of products based on keywords. The product list change on each page view, keeping that content fresher, and providing a service in helping your visitors find related products.