For some reason, no one in Social Media is really allowed to make any money. It's verboten. It's against the community spirit. It's the wrong thing to do.
That's just, plain stupid. Yes, the new digital channels are primed for those who are looking to connect, communicate and engage in conversations, but if there is no benefit in the end, then all is lost. For some, that end benefit will be dollars in the bank, for others it will be social capital (check out Tara Hunt's amazing book, The Whuffie Factor, for more on that), for some it will be the growth of their personal brand (which in turn will help them create ventures in other channels for monetary gain), and others do it simply as a way to stay connected and learn from more people.
It takes all kinds.
One ring does not rule them all in this instance. So, before we go pointing fingers at those who are developing and nurturing their own communities for their own financial gain (and charging access to them), always remember that the most amazing thing about these platforms is that it's not like mass media that is being shoved down all of our collective throats. It's not a stack of flyers that someone is dumping in your mailbox every other day that you can't ignore. The true magic of these channels and platforms is the choice. Personally, I live in a "no spam" world within my online communities because I simply unsubscribe, unfollow and unfriend those who are using the channels in ways in which I am not interested in.
Be honoured to be able to pay for the good stuff.
Sure, there is tons of brilliant and free content online. From following certain individuals on Facebook and Twitter to specific Blogs and Podcasts that no one should be without, but along with that, there is tremendous value in paying for access to certain online communities, buying reports, paying for e-books and online courses, etc... It's not only a great way for the content producer to make a living, it's great (and usually cheap-ish) way for the audience to get a boost of information and knowledge. The amazing thing about all of this is that it's pretty simple and easy (just do a quick search engine reference check) to know who the snake oil salespeople are from the legit businesspeople (if you're still not sure, just look to see what their refund policy is and how quickly they are to respond to any questions you may have about the product or service prior to purchase). Sure, there are many scumbags online (just like in real life), but with a little due diligence, it's fairly obvious where the gold lies.
It's a transition we all knew was coming.
Free is great, but at a certain point that well runs dry (for more on that, read Chris Anderson's book, Free). People are willing to pay for things like access, unique content, premiums, artefacts, etc... Creating platforms that add value to a community is worthwhile (and worth the cost). No one ever said that everything in Social Media has to be free... and even free has a cost associated to it.
What do you think? Is it wrong to use Social Media to make money?