How To Power Your WordPress Site With A Social Paywall

Yesterday, I looked at implementing a paywall on a WordPress site.

If you are just starting out or are using your WordPress site for reach then a monetary paywall will provide little benefit. A social paywall, though, might be just what you need.

In this article, I’ll look at how to implement a paywall where the currency is not cash, but Likes, Shares, Tweets and PlusOnes.

Social paywalls are a low-cost method for site owners to realise value from their content
Social paywalls are a low-cost method for site owners to realise value from their content

Featured Plugin - WordPress Ecommerce Shopping Cart Plugin

Out of all the WordPress ecommerce plugins available, MarketPress has got to be the winner - easy to configure, powerful functionality, multiple gateways and more. A simply brilliant plugin!
Find out more

Implementing a social paywall is actually very similar to implementing a regular paywall. And just like a regular paywall, you need to think about the model you want to use and how receptive your audience will be to it.

You might argue that the cost in a social paywall is significantly less but you need to remember that not everyone will have a social media account or perhaps will be willing to “spend”. The same rules for your content apply: it must be compelling, unique and of value to the reader.

Warning! Premium Plugins Only Ahead!

Many of you will have noticed in yesterday’s paywall article that none of the reviewed solutions were free. In the context of an e-commerce scenario, I don’t see this as a problem. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect to pay for a plugin or service that will be used to generate revenue.

A social paywall generates value but obviously the realisation of any financial return is not immediate. So, when I started researching this article, I tested a number of free plugins. Unfortunately, not one was good enough to make the cut. I always leave debug messages on when I test and I was frequently met with notices about the use of deprecated functions (some as far back as WordPress 2.0), missing indexes and references to buttons on the editor page that no longer exist.

Now, I don’t want to get into a free versus premium debate. I’m certainly not knocking these plugins nor the developers who freely give a great deal of time and effort. But the bottom line is that the premium plugins I’m going to review cost a mere $19 and $21 respectively, so even if the free plugins have only minor issues, it doesn’t seem worth the risk when professionally developed and supported premium plugins are available for such small cost.

Featured Plugin - WordPress Membership Site Plugin

If you're thinking about starting a paid, or just private, membership site then this is truly the plugin you've been looking for. Easy to use, massively configurable and ready to go out of the box!
Find out more

Pay With A Like by WPMU DEV

Cost: $19 (unlimited sites)

Pay with a Like is a solid, functional if visually unspectacular, social paywall plugin
Pay with a Like is a solid, functional if visually unspectacular plugin

Pay with a Like is structurally very similar to the Pay Per View plugin that we looked at yesterday. It allows global setting of the paywall and how excerpts are displayed which can be overridden on a post-by-post basis.

The paywall can be configured to provide buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ and whether a social share is required for every piece of content or just once per visit. Authorized users can be allowed to view any content without needing to social share (the role can be selected) which could work well in encouraging visitors to become subscribers.

The paywall can be switched off globally and applied only to specific content within the post, such as a downloadable file, video or audio. This is as straight-forward as enabling the paywall for the post, selecting the selection tool method, highlighting the content in the WYSIWYG editor and then using the custom toolbar icon to wrap the content in a shortcode.

Pay with a Like comes with very basic statistics, a running total of the various shares plus the top two most shared posts.

Pay with a Like is a solid plugin that would allow a site owner to quickly and easily set up a social paywall and works equally well for a global paywall or for individual content items.

Learn more about the Pay with a Like plugin.

Featured Plugin - WordPress Facebook Plugin

Would you like to add Facebook comments, registration, 'Like' buttons and autoposting to your WP site? Well, The Ultimate Facebook plugin has got that all covered!
Find out more

Social Locker by OnePress (via CodeCanyon)

Cost: $21 (single site)

Screen grab of the "locker"
A better-looking social paywall with impressive statistical reporting

Social Locker by OnePress takes a different approach to Pay with a Like with its concept of the locker and allows for greater customisation and for multiple paywalls.

Multiple lockers can be created and each is highly configurable, from the text that appears to the visitor, the look and feel of the locker on the front-end and which buttons are presented. Social Locker provides no less than seven buttons, adding a Facebook Share, Twitter Follow and Google+ Share to the standard Like, Tweet, Share and +1 buttons.

Lockers can also have a timer interval which behaves like a YouTube advert allowing the visitor to simply wait a set time before the locker will disappear and the content is revealed. As with Pay with a Like, a Locker can be hidden for members.

A Locker is applied to content via the insertion of shortcodes. There is no option to allow access to all content after one share but a Locker is not repeated, so if the Locker appears on another post with the same URL (that is the URL is not blank and therefore using the current URL) it will be displayed.

Social Locker comes with impressive looking Google Analytic-style stats.

Find out more about Social Locker on the Code Canyon site.

Featured Plugin - WordPress Appointments Plugin

Take, set and manage appointments and client bookings without having to leave WordPress. Appointments+ makes it easy.
Find out more

Which To Use?

Either of these two plugins can provide a social paywall with the minimal of fuss. If you are interested in detailed statistics and want to be able to customise the look of the paywall then Social Locker is probably your best bet.

Alternatively, if you want to be able to implement the paywall globally and want to easily implement the one share per visit then Pay with a Like would be a better fit.

If you are looking at a solution for multiple sites then you might also want to keep in mind the differences in the licences.

Social paywalls are a low cost entry into the world of paywalls for both site owners and their audience and are a relatively straight-forward method to realise value from content.

If you are looking to extend your reach and build an audience then they are a method that is well worth considering especially if you are producing free whitepapers and ebooks.

Have you implemented a social paywall? If so, how and what plugins did you use?

Photo credit: Kismihok

Comments (5)

  1. I’m very curious to see if others will comment… I’ve been leery about implementing something like this – I’m afraid my readers will balk at having to share something they haven’t seen yet (i usually would put it around a video)… so I’m hoping some others will chime in to give their results.

    • That is an excellent point.

      Perhaps, then, this approach to a social paywall is misguided and that a better approach might be the “leaky” model, where readers have access to a certain number of posts for “free” but need to share at least one to access all posts.

      That would allow the share to be after reading which does sound fairer.

      That’s worthy of further investigation, thank you!

      • Yep, completely changed my viewpoint on social paywalls.

        I think the leaky social paywall is the answer. Let users like something they’ve already read to access other content – that seems much more of a win-win.

        • Well, I’m still trying to experiment… I have some pages where I show a video and then share the “behind the scenes” – I’m going to try locking the BTS and see if people will share to see that.

Participate