THE BLOG

How to Generate Revenue Through Social Media Marketing

03/22/2013 10:17 am ET | Updated May 22, 2013

Social media, is it a business model? No. It is a marketing tactic.

Is there a way to monetize social media?

Yes, if your business plan outlines exactly how you will generate revenue from specific social media-related activities and you implement these revenue generating activities on a consistent basis, you may be able to monetize your social media operations.

Many business owners are confused about the idea of monetization when it comes to social media. So let's take a look at where this befuddlement is coming from and break it down...

How many people on Twitter have you seen with the words "social media expert" or "social media marketer"... or, my favorite, "certified social media expert" in their bio? While this may seem like an impressive title to hold, the real question is... are these people making money doing this and how are they experts in something that is in a state of perpetual evolution?

Tip #1: Be specific about what you do. Claiming to be an expert in social media is like claiming to be an expert in life. If you are a marketing consultant that helps businesses to develop a long-lasting relationship with their audience through social media, that is something that will set you apart from the rest of the social media "gurus" out there. Have a tagline or an elevator pitch in your bio across all platforms that let's your target audience know what kind of work you do and how it will make their life better.

Social media is a form of marketing. It is a great way to strike up conversations with people who share common interests and get some exposure for or from brands while being an effective way to build a global reputation.

No longer do small businesses and brands have to rely on shaking hands at trade shows and conferences if they want to build relationships with buyers and consumers (although this is still a tried and true way to make connections). Now, they can engage with buyers, consumers, distributors, journalists and even Oprah right on social media.

Tip #2: If you want to make money through your social media efforts, you have to make it clear how people can benefit if they pay you for your products or services.

If you are hanging up a shingle that labels you as a social media expert, how are you generating revenue? Are you selling programs that teach business owners how to use social media using a system that will get desired results because it did the same for you? Are you consulting businesses on how to reach their target demographic using a proven system? Are you implementing strategies and performing social media marketing operations for companies? Are you facilitating connections between brands and consumers or big brands and small businesses? Are you designing software for businesses that lets them manage and track their social media engagement? What exactly is your social media revenue model? Without one, there is no way to make money through social media.

Simply sending out tweets or Facebook updates and gathering followers, likes and RTs isn't enough to pay the bills or to get savvy business owners to hire you even if you have hundreds of thousands of followers. If you want to turn a profit, you must have a plan for making sales while building relationships with decision makers who will hire you.

If you are offering a service that provides social media marketing for businesses, how do you plan to measure and track your results? Is there a cost associated with this? How does that affect your bottom line? Your plan will outline all of your expenses, goals and projections.

Tip #3: If you want to be successful at social media marketing, be professional and respectful online and off. Look for ways to be better than the competition not by having a title that says so, but by being it. Stay current on social media marketing news, trends and events and share this information with your clients so that they know, like and trust you and your work. Go above and beyond the scope of work and see how fast word travels on social media about how awesome you are.

As with any type of business, if you want to make money, you must have a plan that you put into action. It doesn't have to be a 50-page document, but it does have to outline in detail: who you are, what you have to offer, how you plan to get the word out about your offerings, how much your offerings will cost, how many sales you need to make to hit your target, who will be on your team and how you plan to grow. This plan will be useful for your team, potential investors or if you ever want to sell your company.

Remember, social media marketing is a tactic, not a business model. If you want to make money, you have to have something to offer.