Affiliate Links on Social Media Platforms: My Opinion on Subject

A few hours ago Priest Willis who manages affiliate program (yes, a direct competitor of our client, but he does deserve the mention for spotting it) tweeted:


He has linked to Josh Constine‘s new TechCrunch article with a provocative title Ecommerce Sites Pay You To Peddle Their Affilliate Spam, But This Pin Is Not For Sale. In it he talks about “the new line of ecommerce discovery referral programs” which  are “bringing affiliate marketing to the mainstream” — “just share away and discount credits pile up in your account” (somewhat reminiscent of group buying, isn’t it?)

I’m not gonna get into the whether-it’s-spam-or-not discussion here. I’m sure there will be plenty of comments under that post with opinions on this.

There are two other facets of the “problem” that I’d like to discuss in my today’s post:

1. Not all social media users are the same

It would be just to point out that different social media users want/expect different things from their social media usage. For example, it is obvious that the 70,000+ people that follow @FatWalletDeals on Twitter expect very different type of content than the 70,000 Twitter followers of David Meerman Scott. Both groups are quite focused. Both Twitter users have built up tremendous social capital. Yet, for one it would be appropriate to actively “share” deals, discounts and affiliate links (in fact, it would be expected by their followers), while for another the situation is very different.

2. Affiliate managers do have a challenge to deal with

Circling back to Priest’s tweet that we’ve started with, there is a challenge that affiliate program managers have to deal with here. There are at least 4 questions every affiliate manager should answer:

  1. Do/should you accept such services/platforms as affiliates?
  2. If you do, how do you then control how exactly your brand will be “marketed”?
  3. Is if-you-tweet-junk-then-people-will-unfollow-you a good enough of a filtering/policing mechanism for affiliate managers to rely on?
  4. What about disclosures? FTC is clear that “if a significant number of” your readers/followers don’t know you’re “being paid to endorse” a product/service a disclosure is needed; and #PaidAd hashtag would be appropriate [more here]

While one may, certainly, discuss the “burning” all of your “social capital” it took “a lifetime to build up” [as the opening lines of the above-referenced article say], we shouldn’t lose sight of how much there is at stake for the merchant/advertiser here (e.g.: risks of brand damage, deceptive advertising investigations, etc). Both advertisers themselves, and the managers at the helm of their affiliate programs, must carefully choose their marketing partners here.

13 thoughts on “Affiliate Links on Social Media Platforms: My Opinion on Subject”

  1. Interesting article Geno. As I run an offline business locally here where I do a lot of social marketing I have to say from that stand point that I don’t like direct selling through the social sites I use nor would I want my marketing partners doing the same either. Social is for engagement and discussion, to bring like minded customers together to talk and debate. Not to ram a product down their throat.

      1. Hey Geno yes been busy with lots of offline stuff so been a little less active online, better for my eyes and fingers too 🙂

        Certainly social can help sell, I 100% agree with that and with out social group I will high light new products every now and again but generally I am watching for customers to start discussions on new products that I can join in.

        Our FB group is pretty small but because we’re about the engagement and discussion and not pointless brand pumping we get a heck of a lot more discussion than FB groups a lot larger than ours, quality over quantity any day of the week.

        So when are you heading down our way Geno, don’t you owe me lunch 😀

        1. Good points (especially about focusing on engagement, discussion and support with FB groups), Chris.

          As for “heading down” your way: the closest I was to Thailand was Beijing last November (which was still pretty far). You’ll be the first to know when I know it. 😉

  2. Good write up – I’ve been barraged with approaches from a lot of these “ecommerce discovery” affiliate networks and sub-networks and have decided to pass. I see this whole arena as really dangerous as it pertains to FTC disclosure and brand protection. It’s bad enough policing affiliates as is, let alone once you start letting anyone with a Twitter or FB account in through their relationship with one of these providers without the ability to review them or have much visibility/transparency into their activities.

    1. Exactly the worry of the savvier affiliate managers, and rightly so! After all, the control (over your own affiliate marketing “channels”) can be lost too quickly here.

      Thank you for chiming in, Wade.

  3. Hi Geno,

    Thanks for the post ‘shout-out’ and response. I agree with Wade, this leaves the water extremely murky. Love seeing the responses and hearing the input from others.

    1. Priest, thank you for bringing it up on Twitter earlier than my Google Alerts alerted me (maybe it’s time for me to switch my affiliate marketing-related alerts from “once a day” to “as-it-happens”).

      Yes the water does become “extremely murky” unless we, as affiliate managers, are simultaneously equipped with the tools/opportunities to effectively police these things. And, as far as I’m aware, we are still lacking good tools to police affiliate website’s compliance with FTC’s rules regarding endorsements and testimonials (wouldn’t it be great if affiliate networks provided such tools? AvantLink? ShareASale? the first network that starts equipping advertisers with a tool like this is going to have a tremendous competitive advantage in affiliate managers’ eyes!), not to mention what’s going on social media.

  4. Posting anonymously because networks have too much power over my income and tend to favor with merchants when issues are brought up

    The US affiliate industry hasn’t done anything in at least 4 years, aside from PPCall – and even then it hasn’t been the affiliate networks, but Ring Revenue directly. From 2005 – 2008, advances by networks were encouraging, although not exciting. Since then, just pitiful.

    To wait for a network to be proactive on FTC regulations is a waste of time. The only hope to see this will be a third party figuring out a way to make a buck off of it.

    I imagine the next affiliate network enhancement we’ll see will be related to “Do Not Track” browser settings, when the network sees a hit to their bottom line from untracked transactions.

    Until then, we’ll wait for datafeeds to finally be figured out.

    1. Interesting thoughts (and I certainly appreciate the necessity for saying “anonymous” here). Now, as an affiliate, what in your mind are the top 3 things (you’ve mentioned the do-not-track issue; but what would be the other 2) that you’d like to see affiliate networks to implement (look into) a.s.a.p.?

  5. Pingback: Marketing Day: July 10, 2012

  6. Wade is spot on with his reply. Social media has made it far to easy to cross over the line of mass marketing and privacy. Integrity demands transparency and respect.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *