There are many opportunities for networking tools to be put to good use for social causes. These networks have become powerful in helping to raise money and awareness about social issues around the world. Zynga, one of the leading MMORPG developers has several social games on Facebook with a huge number of players. Their top games are Mafia Wars, Farmville, FishVille, CafeWorld and Zynga Poker. When the Haiti earthquake struck, Zynga responded very quickly to the need for international aid. It offered ‘limited edition social goods‘ including ‘non withering white corn within Farmville‘. Farmville has over 75 million online users who can use real money to purchase Farmville vouchers and exchange them for high value items. Zynga also offered a ‘Haitian drum on Mafia Wars‘ to its 23 million users and ‘a special chip package‘ in Zynga Poker. They announced that they would donate 100% of the proceeds to support emergency aid in Haiti through its relief fund.53 Previous efforts from Zynga in selling seeds for Haiti had earned over $1 million and the opportunity to buy virtual pets in YoVille raised $90,000 for the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Other initiatives allowed players to purchase virtual goods to aid the World Food Program.

Social media has benefited good causes many times. In addition to the great work done by Zynga, other social media channels have been used. Twit Cause asks for causes to be nominated and companies offer donations to the cause for each tweet recorded. Häagen-Dazs donated $1 for any tweet which referenced the hashtag #HelpHoneyBees. Other initiatives have included offering $24,000 for cancer research and donating money to keep teenagers off the streets.

There are opportunities here to monetise your social media efforts in the third sector (Charities and not for profit organisations) and generate significant revenue if you can take advantage of network effects.

Facebook, MySpace and Bebo make money through targeted advertising on their home pages. Twitter, on the other hand, currently loses money as it doesn’t yet have a strategy to earn revenue through click-through Twitter messages. However, several of Twitter’s third party applications, analytics and sentiment trackers do have paid-for sustainable subscription models. Twitter itself has recently announced a revenue model for sponsored accounts and links which will advertise services and goods.

In order to create a popular site that will draw your users in for the first time and keep them coming back you need to be creative. Think about how you can turn your site into a business which keeps on generating revenue and increasing its online activities in the long term. This can be achieved through advertisements, membership fees, subscriptions or eBook downloads. The Times newspaper in the UK has now changed to a subscription model for its web content, which is now hidden behind a pay wall. This move is being closely monitored by other online newspapers to gauge its success and to determine whether other news sites will follow this model. Will every item of news ultimately be situated behind a pay wall? Where will this news be collected from? Will any of the news then get disseminated through social channels? It’s difficult to predict at the moment. Wikipedia is determined to provide content for free for its readers. The site’s founder, Jimmy Wales, asks for donations for the upkeep of the site through its Wikimedia Foundation and so far has managed to achieve his goals without resorting to paid for advertising.

Monetisation and passive income generation need to be part of your strategy to make your sites financially sustainable in the long run.

It seems like licensing deals may be an answer to sites that need to think about continued revenue. Microsoft adopted the policy of licensing its software right from the start of its business, and this policy has continued to give it ongoing revenue year on year as new products are released. Perhaps your business also lends itself well to licensing of your content. There could then be opportunities to offer licensed access to the Twitter stream, your Twitter results will appear on search engine lists and you then have a viable option that will provide ongoing revenue for Twitter itself.