3 Ways a Small Business can Make Money on Social Media


For the majority of the last decade, social media was viewed by businesses as a frivolity; something they would dabble in to appease their devoted customer base.  However, with Social Media becoming ubiquitous in our lives through cell phones, tablets, and desktops, companies are beginning to realize that there are effective ways of monetizing their social media presence.

The caveat to making money on social media is that businesses can face a backlash from their followers if they abuse their social followings with too much monetization or they are solely interested in monetizing.

Thus, a balance has to be struck.  Businesses must still engage with their customers and give them value for following them.  And when they do attempt to monetize, they should do it in a tactful way, as to not alienate their followers.

1. Hidden Specials

A great tactic that can be used to monetize a social media following is the hidden special or promotions.  A hidden special is one that is wrapped into an otherwise normal and engaging post.  For instance, a company could post a caption competition on their Facebook page.  They could ask for their followers to come up with the funniest caption to a photo of a cat.  Then, the winners would be rewarded with a 30% off coupon.

These competitions are similar to my children’s’ soccer league, everyone wins and everyone gets a trophy.  Regardless of whether the caption is considered the funniest or not, the business could send a private message to all participants containing a 30% off coupon.

2. Focus Grouping

Another indirect way a small business can monetize a social media following is through focus grouping their followers.  Often times, small business owners create specials or sales based on their gut feelings or seasonal trends.  But, wouldn’t it be great if they knew exactly what their customers wanted to purchase, and then place those items on sale.

By simply creating a poll and asking their followers which products they wished were on sale, a small business owner would take the guess work out of sales and optimize their promotions.  Also, as a bonus, once those items are on sale, the business owner could private message the poll participants to let them know that their desired products are now on sale, creating instant sales.

3. Social Only Specials

The easiest way to gain followers and make a small business’ current followers feel valued is to offer social only specials.  These are specials that require a code or coupon in order to be claimed.  That code or coupon is delivered via social media to the company’s loyal followers.

By advertising these social only specials on the website and in the store, a small business will grow their social media followers, and give them a feeling of exclusivity.  Pretty soon, the customers will begin talking to their friends about the exclusive deals and the social media following will grow through a grass roots campaign.

There are literally hundreds of other ways a small business can tactfully monetize their social media followings.  Let us know some of your own methods in the comments below.

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  1. Solid suggestions, and tactics I’ve used on behalf of my clients. Slight sticking point in #1 though – “the business could send a private message to all participants containing a 30% off coupon.” Since DMs to individuals aren’t possible unless the person has messaged the Page first, how do you make that work? DMs from Page admins? Something tells me this isn’t something Scott has executed personally…

  2. Lauren,

    We have run these types of sales before and had no problem receiving direct messages as our contact information is always contained in our Facebook, Twitter, Google+and LinkedIn pages.

  3. Receiving – exactly. Sending, as was proposed here, is another matter…

  4. Lauren,

    Great point. I left out one step. We utilize products like GroSocial that allow us to have “email gates” to our competitions. Therefore, the participants share their email addresses. I said private message, but I should have said email. The method is still the same, however going through all the steps of setting up GroSocial would have made this a very long post. However, you’ve given me a great idea for our next post. Thanks!

  5. One of the great things about social media is that it offer you the possibility to ask your customers direct questions. And it’s easier this way, fun and engaging. You don’t just the information but you also get their trust if they see that their input mattered to you in some way.