December 18, 2011
Navigating the Tricky Terrain of Affiliate Marketing in Social Media
Affiliate marketing may be a simple concept, but like anything that's worth doing, there are subtle complexities behind its successful execution. The explosion in growth of social media has made affiliate marketing easier than ever, technically speaking. You now have a broad diversity of platforms that you can utilize to achieve your aims--but this is all the more reason to tread carefully. Remember, the operative word in social media is "social." And if there's one great truth about affiliate marketing, it's that the instant your motives are recognized as purely financial, all bets are off. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the tricky terrain of affiliate marketing in social media. Stick with what you know. One of the most effective inroads to successful affiliate marketing is by working with companies that offer services or sell products that you actually know something about, and can discuss with authority. In other words, if you have a music blog or a website dedicated to the discussion of contemporary music, it makes a lot more sense to become an affiliate for Amazon.com than, say, an online merchant that specializes in wholesale medical supplies. This underlines the importance of staying relevant when picking your affiliate partners. Stand behind your partners. This doesn't mean that you have to take a blanket approach to the support of your affiliate partners. And it certainly doesn't mean that you have to start using the products and services of the companies you're engaged in a partnership with. But it does mean that you should do your homework. Never enter into a business relationship with any person or company that you're not completely confident in, and that you wouldn't want your brand associated with. Doing otherwise could come back to bite you. Be up front. The last thing any of your Twitter followers or Facebook friends want to find out is that you've been hawking other people's wares in exchange for a commission, and not because you were making an honest recommendation out of the kindness of your heart. If they do, they're likely to un-friend you fast. This kind of reaction by your online followers might seem petty--but in the world of social media, pettiness has a tendency to rear its ugly head from time to time. Be aware of these dynamics. More importantly, be sensitive to them by disclosing your affiliations clearly. Don't let your affiliate marketing goals take over. There's a delicate balance that has to be achieved in order to really make affiliate marketing work for you. The reason that it works so well for some people is because they have the ability (whether instinctive, taught, or picked up along the way) to pull it off without turning their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed into the equivalent of a commercial feed. In order to accomplish that, you've got to keep a good amount of humanity and personality in your social marketing profiles. If all you ever do is fire off links to irrelevant services and products, your audience will tune out.