local media insider

Eight money making strategies that use Facebook

Growing your fan-base? Here's how to monetize it

Alisa Cromer

Most local media companies have some kind of Facebook presence, but are leaving money on the table.  Here are eight revenue streams supported by Facebook, starting with the highest revenue producers. 

1. Sell Facebook Contests

Contests are a smart marketing strategy for local merchants to accumulate fans, emails  and/or simply leads and customers.  A contest is super simple to execute; we recommend using  SecondStreetMedia's contest platform (about 15 minutes to create and one click to post to Facebook), so the real work is in the strategy.

The reason contests are also top revenue producers is that they appeal to major accounts and require  additional advertising - whether digital or traditional. The advertiser is happy because they  acquire both leads and also fans for cheap future marketing, a higher percieved value than, say, clicks to a web site(see also our blog, "When the deer all have guns...or just want to shoot them").  In fact we are seeing buys in the range of $2000 to $10,000 per month, from campaigns that drive contests.  

Dual fan-gating - in which participants are required to like more than one company - means that both your media and the client can capture fans and emails. 

2.Beef up traditional onine and media buys 

Besides contests,  you can deploy any kind of offer, such as as a discount,  free service check-up or set-up an appointment on the advertisers Facebook page, in effect, using the an advertisers Facebook page as the  landing page for ad campaigns.

Director of Digital Products at Scripps, Brian Page, says he recommends to merchants to use Facebook as a landing page because it kills two birds with one stone, both capturing a lead and capturing a fan, to create a built in customer relationship program. For small media companies without the skills to deploy landing pages with email capture, learning Facebook tools is a simple proposition that supplies sophisticated marketing options.  

3. Sell sponsorships to niche Facebook pages

For niche sites, such as mom’s or high school sports, can have their own Facebook page and  fan base, adding a Facebook sponsorship to the package can double revenues from sponships sales. Create a fixed position by uploading the ad into the logo spot, creating a right hand tower.  Package with advertising, such as  a set number of events, partner posts and eBlasts for a full multi-media campaign. See our case study on PittsburghMom.com as an example of what's possible; this site  increased its sponsorship price from $2200 to $5000 a month after building up its Facebook fans. 

4. Facebook as a service

Many local media and marketers are selling Facebook marketing as a service either in bundles or on an hourly basis as an agency.

For high end accounts, the agency sale typically involves working with a major client to come up with a "big idea" - like  contests - that include a customized Facebook page and calendar of posts, priced on an hourly basis and included in an overall plan. Unlike graphic art, Facebook creation is not considered value-added, even if the client is also making a major media buy.  

Facebook management is a common request for small agencies; one  told us they hire three high school interns just to execute their calendars of posts for clients.   Some  local media are bundling Facebook management in the $100 to $200 a week range, for local merchants who lack marketing resources.

 The Arkansas Times, a weekly, reports acquired 17 to 21 external accounts in this price range, handled by their inhouse social marketing director. This  labor intensive  small market strategy has the benefit of forming very close relationships with merchants - which can also be a  downside. The hardest part for companies who post for clients is "getting them on the phone" or the "hand-off from the rep" to the posting entity. On the other hand, Knoxvillenews.com, a pioneer at selling Facebook services, claimed that merchants bought additional traditional advertising in every case. 

5. Building deal revenue

Most companies  think of Facebook as incidental to their deal strategy. However, Facebook contests that acquire deal opt-ins are a powerful tool in growing the email list (see  "Six contests ideas to triple Facebook fans").   We recommend including an opt-in to receive deals or promotions be included in all fan-building promotions for this reason. Plus, don't forget to post daily deals to Facebook where they can be shared. Top contests for acquiring lists include sweepstakes (a $4000 giveaway in one market has acquired 76,000 fans and emails),  sports contests and giveaways if your media has a relationship with a top local team. 

6. A la carte partnership posts

If you are already selling spots in a promotional email, this should be an easy upsell.  For a post in a newsletter that reaches 25,000 names, $350 to $550 is a commandable price for  most local media sites. The same applies to a partnership post on Facebook, with the exception that Facebook posts need to be more engaging and conversational - typically asking a question is the best way to get engagment - and are higher value.

Partner posts are more conversational than eblasts.  Instead of  "Click here to enter to win a Fiat," for example, ABC15.com posted a question, "Where's the first place you'de go in your brand new car" which generated 40 to 50 posts.

Why not include some promotional posts inside the news fan page, as some broadcat sites already are doing? As Laurel Lane of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (which does not yet have promotional posts embedded in its news fan page) puts it, "We run ads next to editorial in the newspaper all the time." 

7. Driving remnant CPM  sales to the core site 

If your site is small this may not seem like a whole lot of money. However,  Facebook alone drives  13% o 36% of traffic to local news sites - which in turn powers all of their promotions from deals to banner ad sales.  If your site is monetizing traffic directly via ad networks, such as ValueClick, Centro or revenue share partners such as Cinesport, Outbrain and Taboolah, the extra traffic means extra, trackable dollars. It's not sexy, not a lot of money, but it all adds up. 

Best practices for building traffic include:

a. Asking a question instead of posting a story. Responses go to the top of the wall

b. Looking at the TAT scores to watch visitor engagement with content

c. Using Vitrue.com or another provider to give reporters access to realtime analytics for their Facebook posts. Reporters are as competitive as anyonelse and some organizations have found that "going to the top" is a strong motivator for posting their stories. 

8. Social media workshops

A number of companies have been able to cash in by holding seminars and workshops for merchants to educate them about social media. Most use these workshops for customer acquisition, see workshops held at Morris Communicationsand E.W. Scripps Company.  1100 Broadway charges for its workshops and claims pulling in over $120,000 from Thrive seminars in 2011 (here is their slide deck for the seminar). Workshops have tremendous added value besides customer acquisition and revenues;  they position local media as expert and educators in new technology and  develop internal training resources. 


If you are getting the idea that these revenue streams are inter-related, you are right on target (see "When the deer all have guns...and want to buy ammunition" for a discussion of how selling audiences is shifting towards providing expertise for campaigns... that require audiences). Building audiences creates competencies and vice versa. The key take away here is that the social marketing position in your company is now revenue-generating, not merely brand-extension. 

Many thanks to Brain Page, Director of Digital Products, television division, E.W. Scripps Company; Matt Coen and July Foley from SecondStreetMedia; Chris Ferhmann, manager, digital division, Nashville Tennessean; Laurel Lane, VP of Digital Revenues at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Jodi Bell, VP of Advertising, Morris Communications; whose combined expertise contributed to this report. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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