CLARIFICATION: This article is simply an observation of the social media webscape in general. It is not intended as a criticism towards the members of ActiveRain in any way, shape, form, suggestion, undertone, or otherwise assumed/implied.
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With the advent of Web 2.0, there's been a virtual proliferation of interactive social media websites offering all kinds of really cool features and tools, all for FREE!
At a time when cost containment has quite literally become a way of life and a necessary survival tactic for today's Real Estate Professional, FREE is greatly appreciated! Especially for those of us who are constantly challenged with just covering our basic monthly expenses.
Unfortunately, in this rapidly spawning multiplicity of platforms chalk full of FREE stuff, the results have bred a rather 'spoiled' attitude from among those of us who have benefited greatly from their use. And the minute any hint of monetization rears its ugly head, the masses cry 'Foul!' and start jumping ship, heading off to the next recently-launched latest and greatest Internet FREE fest!
Okay, so maybe users don't necessarily jump ship immediately, but there certainly is a considerable amount of whining and resistance to the possibility of 'charging' a fee for something, even if that 'something' is simply an upgrade or improved version of what historically has been offered for FREE. And it doesn't really matter what the actual upgrade amount is, or whether the added benefits are justified. Anything more than FREE is just too much!
Granted, our community here at ActiveRain is somewhat unique. While I would consider this to be a social network, its application and impact extends well beyond a mere social environment. If offers significant features/benefits that serve to improve or enhance our businesses as well.
Here are some of the common methods currently being implemented for creating self-sustaining revenue on social networks:
1. Advertisement Support: Sell advertising space on the network. This is by far the most common, unfortunately ads on most social networks don't have the best track record of click-thru rate.
2. Subscription Fee: Require a monthly subscription fee of ALL members. This has been effective for dating sites, but that's about it.
3. Data Mining: Selling off membership data to 3rd party groups. Definitely my least favorite of the bunch, and really not an option unless you tell your members up front what your plans are.
4. Site Sponsorship: Developing partnerships with key companies to sponsor various network events or sponsor sections of the network.
5. Affiliate Marketing: A cooperative venture where a social network sells/promotes another company's products/services on their network, and splits the profits with that company.
My point in all this is not to voice criticism, per se, towards those who tend to complain about monetization or charging fees for certain features. We've all been spoiled to some degree by the rampant availability of FREE stuff. Neither am I condemning those companies who have contributed in unleashing the 'spoiled' monster.
Users/members of social networks need to be reminded that the company behind each social media site is a business, and as such, needs to create and maintain a self-sustaining profit to remain solvent/operational. Otherwise, all those really cool tools and features that you've been enjoying won't be FREE anymore. They'll be GONE!
Social media companies, on the other hand, need to create viable revenue streams that offer reasonable ROI on member investment, and justifies the fees being charged.
If social networks are to successfully survive and grow in today's challenging economy, there needs to be a better recognition/understanding of the truly cooperative/collaborative relationship that is exists between the network management and its vested members.
The first tenet of the ActiveRain Weltanschauung is this:
"We understand that the value of the ActiveRain community rests entirely with its members."