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Making sense of Social Media

Challenges; Making Money online in Pakistan

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Blast from the past: Summery of issues discussed on one of the Monetize Social Media Space workshops during Network!: Pakistan’s First International Social Media Summit. They are still the same if not worst. 

Social space has combined some major human activities - communicating, sharing, social networking and ecommerce. Use of newly found social media space where as anyone can shoot out, is a creative activity and fun. Most online users enjoy their online presence. That is why people blog tweet or network in the first place. Along the way, a time comes when online users start thinking to monetize their social space. And then everything starts changing.

For this discussion, social media space means blogging. What are the challenges in monetizing social spaces in our local context? I asked this question to friends and friends of my friends online. First, I posted the question on facebook and also tweeted and then emailed the question to bloggers soliciting their comments on the subject. I have also been scouting Pakistan blogosphere in an effort to find out answers to this question.

There are three main problems: First and foremost challenge is the lack of local advertisers. Local businesses have yet not realized the strength of powerful presence online. They don’t know about the influence of those Internet postings and how easily they can reach their customers direct. Result is dearth of local advertisements and sponsorships. Situation in other parts of the world is much different. As per consumer survey carried out online in USA, “83% of consumers say that product reviews influence their online purchasing decisions, 70% of online shoppers actively seek out product reviews before they buy, more than half of US online shoppers surveyed, read user reviews as part of their product research and nearly 9 of 10 US online buyers read reviews at least “some of the time” before making a purchase. There is no reason Pakistani businesses should not get their own products and service reviews (and advertised) online. 

Bloggers can’t keep blaming lack of online culture. The responsibility to educate advertisers and marketers in Pakistan rests with local bloggers. We have to let them know what we can do for them and how.

One single thing that can attract local population to your blogs is quality local content. That is what may attract the attention of advertisers and marketers. Though users’ base in Pakistan has grown exponentially but there has always been dearth of local content in all formats and mediums. Who is better than the army of local bloggers to add information on what is really happening in Pakistan and how they feel about it. That will not only bring about the real image of the country but also will attract advertisers and sponsored.

And then there is lack of will to monetize social media space. I found that most bloggers think monetization probably will corrupt their work. They think commercial ads on blogs or selling twitter background for money will take out the magic from what they do for joy. May be Google Ads are OK for some but reaching out and getting sponsorships are displaying local ads and promotional writing is out for them. I think it makes sense.

I say those who are having powerful presence online should be able to strike balance between what they do for joy and getting compensation from some of that. I bet if they choose wisely, they can figure out how to use their social space for both.

On the other hand, some social media users are obsessed with the idea of making money form monetizing their social space. Blogging is part of media study courses in a university where I work and I happen to take some of blogging class there. Second most frequently asked question there is how to make money. BTW, first question still is what is a blog? Perhaps one of the saddest examples that comes to mind is of a journalist friend who had been running a really interesting and reasonably successful blog (I wouldn’t call him an A-lister but he had a small loyal following) who got bitten by the ‘money from blogging’ bug so badly that it ended up killing his blog. He deleted a lot of his archives (the ones that he thought had no income earning potential) and slapped so many ads onto his blog that it was hard to find any content. He started writing on topics that he thought were ‘earners’. In doing so he lost the vast majority of his readership and ended up with a pretty poor blog. Greed took over.

In Pakistan, one of the major problems in monetizing social space is non availability of PayPal. Payments by most online advertising programs and affiliates are made through PayPal - widely used online money transfer service. This alone puts Pakistan bloggers at a great disadvantage because without PayPal account they cannot join most of the programs.

Many bloggers who are into monetizing are using different tricks. And I know some who are using PayPal accounts of other people who are living in countries where PayPal is available. By doing this you can’t have the joy of counting pennies but it works. Efforts are in hand for making PayPal available in Pakistan. But so far the reply I get is that we are working to open up in Pakistan. May be recommendations at a forum like this can make a case and we come at power with bloggers from other countries. This alone will bring so many bloggers in lop I am sure you will see more money growing on blogs.

Let me end this with a world of caution; earning through blogging does require persistent postings of quality contents and blog promotion. It is long haul and bloggers need to work very hard to be able to earn a handsome amount from blogs. Best is to keep blogging for joy and monetize blogs on the side; keeping money making expectations realistic. It is a long and slow process. Only "17 percent of most popular bloggers in NYC earn more than thousand dollars a month. That leaves a whooping 83 percent earning less," revealed a NYC Blogger Summit Survey earlier this year. But again these figures are relative.

With this, I hand it over to you to please tell us about what are your experiences and how you are monetizing social space or whey not.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, July 30, 2021,


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