How to Monetize Social Networking Sites

Last updated: February 27, 2024 | by Aleesha Jacob

This post was most recently updated on February 27th, 2024

Monetizing social networks involves a mix of direct and indirect strategies tailored to the platform’s unique audience and features.

User growth and engagement are very important when starting a social networking site and are the initial goals before creating revenue streams.  Solid content is the key to your growth.

Decide on the type of social networking site you’d like to invest in — dating, forums, blogs, etc. Just a tip, forums are generally low CTR performers. The bottom line is, choose the one with good earning potential and of course, something you are passionate about.

Let’s dive into the monetization strategies for social networking sites, highlighting key methods and how they can be effectively implemented.

Challenges with “Social Media” as a Niche

  • Monetization Varies Hugely: Direct brand sponsorships on a large Instagram account vs. display ads on a small community forum generate vastly different revenue.
  • Audience is Everything: A social media site with highly engaged users in a spendy niche (luxury fashion) would beat a generic one with higher traffic.

15 Best Social Media Monetization Strategies

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1. Proprietary Advertising

Proprietary advertising platforms, like Facebook Ads, leverage the vast amount of user profile data to offer highly targeted advertising options. Advertisers can pinpoint their audience based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and more, making ads more relevant and increasing the likelihood of conversion. This approach not only enhances user experience by showing ads that are more likely to be of interest but also drives higher ROI for advertisers.

2. Display Advertising

Integrating with third-party ad networks to show display ads is a straightforward way to monetize. These ads can appear in various formats across the social networking site, including banner ads, interstitials, and video ads. The key to success here is balancing ad visibility with user experience, ensuring that ads are noticeable without being intrusive or detracting from the core social interactions.

Native advertising can be a good monetization strategy as well. The fact that it’s organically integrated with the content makes it fairly easy to implement and manage. Having native ads typically delivered within the content stream dovetails particularly well with the mobile platform.

3. Charge for Premium Services

Offering premium services, such as LinkedIn’s Premium accounts, provides users with additional functionality, like the ability to message users outside their network. This model capitalizes on the platform’s utility for professional networking and job searching, creating a value proposition that encourages users to pay for enhanced features.

4. White-label Social Network Solutions

Creating white-label solutions, like Ning, allows businesses to launch their own branded social networks. This subscription-based model appeals to organizations looking to build communities around their brands or interests without developing a platform from scratch. It’s a B2B approach that leverages the social networking framework for tailored community building.

5. Sell Virtual Goods

Selling virtual goods, such as profile enhancements, badges, or gifts, offers a microtransaction-based revenue stream. These items, while digital, carry social prestige or personalization value, making them desirable for users looking to stand out or express themselves uniquely within the network.

6. Social Gaming & Virtual Goods

Focusing on social gaming within the platform can open up additional revenue streams through the sale of virtual goods related to the games. Games like those once popular on hi5 can encourage users to purchase items that enhance their gaming experience or competitiveness. This approach combines entertainment with monetization, keeping users engaged and willing to spend.

7. Sell Credits

Selling credits that users can spend on various services or features within the social network, similar to the Facebook Credits system, introduces a virtual currency. This can simplify transactions across the platform, from accessing premium content to buying virtual goods, and encourages a microtransaction ecosystem.

8. Contextual Ads

Finally, contextual ads offer a less intrusive form of advertising by aligning ad content with the context of the user’s activity or the content they’re viewing. This relevance increases the likelihood of engagement, making it a win-win for both advertisers and users. The key here is sophisticated algorithms that can accurately match ads to content, enhancing the overall user experience.

Monetizing a social networking site requires a multi-faceted approach that balances revenue generation with a positive user experience. By implementing a mix of these strategies, social networks can create sustainable business models that support their growth and evolution.

9. Subscription Models

Some social networks opt for a subscription model, charging users a monthly or yearly fee for access to premium features or an ad-free experience. This strategy is effective for platforms that offer unique value that users are willing to pay for directly. Example: Reddit offers a premium subscription called Reddit Premium, which provides an ad-free experience, access to a private subreddit, and other benefits.

10. Affiliate Marketing

By participating in affiliate marketing, social networks can earn commissions by promoting third-party products or services to their user base. When users purchase through affiliate links, the platform earns a percentage of the sale. Example: Pinterest allows users to pin affiliate links to products, enabling influencers and content creators to earn money from purchases made through their pins.

          Related Read: Top 5 Ad Networks for the Social Entertainment Vertical

11. Data Monetization

While this approach is sensitive and requires careful navigation of privacy laws and ethical considerations, social networking sites can monetize the vast amount of data they collect by providing market insights, trends, and analytics services to businesses and advertisers. Example: Twitter offers data licensing, allowing businesses to access and analyze tweet data for market research, sentiment analysis, and more.

12. Sponsored Content and Influencer Partnerships

This strategy involves collaborating with brands and influencers to create sponsored content that is shared with the social network’s audience. This content is designed to be engaging and relevant to the user base while subtly promoting a product or service. Example: Instagram is renowned for its influencer partnerships, with brands paying popular Instagrammers to feature their products in posts and stories.

Every sponsored post must be clearly stated and an exceptionally significant investment in building your audience is required. Advertisers would only be interested in hundreds of thousands of page views. You can generate a lot of money through sponsored posts but be mindful of the downside (i.e. an exit from your page; or a distraction to users if not formatted distinctly).

         Related Read: Adsense Tips: How to Make your Site more User-Friendly

13. Live Streaming and Super Chats

Platforms that support live streaming can monetize this feature by allowing viewers to purchase super chats or virtual gifts that highlight their messages or show support for the streamer. This creates a new revenue stream for both the platform and the content creators. Example: YouTube’s Super Chat feature enables viewers to pay for their messages to be highlighted during live streams, benefiting both creators and YouTube itself.

14. E-commerce Integration

Integrating e-commerce capabilities directly into the social networking platform allows users to make purchases without leaving the site or app. This can be particularly effective for platforms with a strong focus on lifestyle, fashion, and beauty content. Example: Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping allow users and businesses to sell and buy products directly within the platform.

15. Event Ticketing and Registrations

For platforms that host or promote events, offering ticketing and registration services can be a lucrative revenue stream. This can include virtual events, webinars, or in-person events. Example: LinkedIn has leveraged its professional network to promote and facilitate registrations for professional development courses and seminars.

These additional monetization strategies show the diverse ways social networking sites can generate revenue beyond traditional advertising. By leveraging the unique aspects of their platform and audience, social networks can explore a variety of revenue models to support their growth and sustainability.

Social Media RPMs and CPMs typically look like:

Country RPM (USD) CPM (USD)
Canada $5 – $30 $1 – $4
United States $6 – $40 $1 – $4.5
Germany $4 – $25 $0.8 -$4
United Kingdom $5 – $30 $0.8 – $4
Australia $4 – $20 $0.7 – $3.5

Chart Notes (Based on MonetizeMore Insider data):  

  • Wide RPM Range: Reflects the disparity between low-effort monetization and optimized strategies.
  • CPM Stays Conservative: Social often uses display ads. Even the high-end won’t match luxury niches.

Here’s a breakdown of how to raise RPMs for social media sites.

We’ll focus on strategies publishers can directly control, not fluctuating ad market factors.

1. Niche Down and Define Your Value

  • Broad = Bad: “General interest” social sites are a dime a dozen. What makes yours unique? The more targeted the audience, the better.
  • Value Proposition: Can you answer: “Why would a BRAND want to reach my audience?” (Demographics, specific interests, purchasing power)

2. Engagement is King

  • Algorithms Matter: Most social platforms reward accounts with high shares, comments, etc., with greater organic reach. This indirectly boosts ad revenue too.
  • Foster Community: Don’t just post, be conversational. This builds loyalty, which advertisers love.
  • Quality over Quantity: Better to have a smaller, active following than a large, passive one.

3. Monetization Mix

  • Don’t Rely on Display Ads: These usually have the lowest CPMs. Think about:
    • Brand Partnerships: Do you have the reach/influence? This is where the real money is for many.
    • Affiliate Marketing: Curate products/services relevant to your niche.
    • Exclusive Content: Can you offer members-only perks for a subscription fee?
  • Match Method to Platform: Sponsored posts work well on Instagram, less so on text-heavy forums.

4. Optimize the Ad Experience

  • Placement is Key: Ads should integrate seamlessly, not disrupt the user flow. Experiment to find what works best on YOUR site.
  • Don’t Overcrowd: Too many ads, especially intrusive ones, hurt engagement long-term (and thus your RPM)
  • Data Tracking: Use analytics to see which types of ads perform best with your audience, then prioritize those.

Some ad networks worth signing up with for social sites

Regular ad units may also be used in monetizing a social networking site. Some ad networks are picky and won’t work with publishers with high-quality content.

Google Ad Exchange/ AdSense

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The advertising giant has access to the largest advertisers and offers a wide range of ad sizes a publisher can choose from. CPM performance is superb.

Keep in mind Google’s strict guidelines when it comes to user-generated content. To keep your account in good standing, always keep an eye on pages where your ad code appears. We highly recommend that you set up moderation for every post. Read more:

Related Read: Google Content Policy Violations and How Your Website Can Avoid Them


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Sharethrough offers exciting new revenue opportunities with native, in-feed advertising on a platform that works on multiple levels:  direct sell native placements on the other sites on Sharethrough’s network or you can monetize your sites (& app) with premium brand content using the Sharethrough Exchange.

Rate: $3 CPM (US, UK, AUS, CA)


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Taboola is renowned for its content discovery platform, which recommends editorial and sponsored content across a network of top-tier publisher sites, enhancing user engagement. It leverages machine learning algorithms to match users with content they are most likely to be interested in, based on their browsing history and preferences.

Taboola’s platform serves over a trillion content recommendations to hundreds of millions of visitors each month, making it a powerhouse in driving traffic and revenue. They offer extensive customization options for both publishers and advertisers, ensuring that recommended content is both relevant and aligned with the site’s aesthetic, which can significantly increase click-through rates.


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AdBlade is a content-style ad platform that offers unique formats such as “NewsBullets®,” designed to deliver higher engagement by blending seamlessly with a website’s content. It prioritizes user experience and ad quality, focusing on reputable advertisers and premium publishers, which enhances trust and performance.

AdBlade’s targeting capabilities are advanced, allowing advertisers to reach specific audiences based on demographics, interests, and online behavior. They boast a network reaching over 300 million unique users monthly, providing significant exposure for advertisers while offering publishers competitive monetization options.

Related Read: Engage and Monetize: How to Win Readers’ Attention while Earning from Ads

Ad Sizes, Placement, and Targeting

We recommend ad sizes that blend seamlessly with your site’s design. Very important is to avoid designs that could potentially be flagged for encouraging clicks. Always revisit the ad networks’ guidelines for implementation.

Choose placements that allow visibility. Ads tend to perform poorly when not visible to users, which is usually the case for ‘below the fold’ placements or the absolute bottom ad units.

Most ad networks would recommend implementing the code directly on the site’s source code, thus targeting all users. When allowed to run via an AdServer, you may choose to target audience relevant to you, the geographical locations recommended by the ad network, plus the platform/device — we recommend optimizing the site for both desktop and mobile. Users carry their devices with them 24/7 so mobile is a good way to go.

Related Read: Best Ad Optimization Strategies for Tablet Device

MonetizeMore is in the business of helping sites from different verticals earn more from their ad inventory. If you are a social networking site and you want to boost your revenue, contact us and we’re happy to help you!

Social networking sites can be a goldmine for your ads if you have the right strategy in place. Let our ad ops experts help you get the most from social networking sites by helping you join the best ad networks, set up header bidding, and optimize your ads. Sign up for a Starter account at MonetizeMore today!

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