Wow! OPMs, affiliate mgrs, affiliates, what do you think about this? tcrn.ch/Md6zW1
— Priest Willis (@priestwillis) July 10, 2012
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:
- Do/should you accept such services/platforms as affiliates?
- If you do, how do you then control how exactly your brand will be “marketed”?
- Is if-you-tweet-junk-then-people-will-unfollow-you a good enough of a filtering/policing mechanism for affiliate managers to rely on?
- 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.