Traditionally, media companies monetize social via referral traffic back to their website(s). That fits well with the various ways media companies monetize web traffic (most notably advertising, subscriptions, events, and merchandising), but is subject to volatility as the social platforms change their algorithms and themselves see traffic increases and declines.
Referral traffic from social networks will continue to be a very significant source of traffic for publishers and deserves continued attention. Given the limited range of control publishers yield to influence that traffic, however, referral traffic should not be the only metric of success. Instead, you should focus on new revenue generation opportunities and the many different ways you can monetize your historical and ongoing relationships with your audience and with brands.
Forward-thinking media companies are finding ways to monetize their content directly within social feeds. Here are three ways for publishers to monetize social audiences:
1. Monetization of Referral Traffic
This is the traditional tool with which media companies gained revenue from their social efforts. Publishers post their stories organically, and when users click through to their sites to read their stories, they serve ads. This is a tried and true method, but the revenue only kicks in for the ~1-5% that click on the story (i.e., for the 95-99% not clicking on the story, no money is made).
While this has been a great way for publishers to get a mass quantity of referral traffic for a long time, times have changed. Due to Facebook’s recent algorithm updates, organic reach for publishers has been cut by a significant 20%. Publishers are now looking to different methods to tackle two goals at once: increase revenue and build a quality audience.
2. Native Advertising (Branded Content)
This type of advertising is created when brands request custom content from publishers that is posted on social, usually via a paid campaign, to increase distribution. Typically, a publisher can charge by the impression or video view in the feed, giving them a chance at more views than click-throughs. Additionally, using social networks’ paid capabilities allows publishers to reach larger and more targeted audiences on advertisers’ behalf. But native content necessitates creating new content to make new money. The level of effort is high, and many publishers have to build out whole teams to account for the workload. Most native executions depend on significant paid distribution to achieve the advertiser’s objectives.
3. Sponsored Editorials*
The top 10% of posts generate 71% of overall reach. As seen below, these high-flying posts can be made available for advertiser sponsorship in real-time. Publishers can charge a premium for these sponsorships as these posts are the best of the best and, as with Native Advertising, they charge by impression or view in the newsfeed. Similarly, they can reach more significant and more targeted audiences than with organic. The advertisers can then take advantage of being able to sponsor the top-performing 10-15% of a publisher’s posts.
*SocialFlow’s sponsored editorial program is called AttentionStream. Below is an example of an AttentionStream sponsored post.
Below is a table that breaks down the differences between Native Advertising (Branded Content) and Sponsored Editorials (AttentionStream) to better understand which option is right for you and your brand.