It’s About Intent: Affiliate Links in Twitter

Humans have a way of always experimenting with new systems to see how they can be monetized or streamlined –it’s a natural part of the web.

A few months ago, I experimented with Magpie Twitter ads as an analyst, and quickly found the community revolted against it.

Another revolt could be at hand as I’ve recently learned that some Twitter users are putting in affiliate links in their Tweets (some are not disclosed), thereby recommending products (like to Amazon) resulting in them generating a cut of revenue if the product is purchased. I know if someone buys a Kindle based on your affiliate link, that person can generate $35, not bad for a simple link.

Of course, it comes down to intent, which ultimately drives trust, and may result in followers clicking, ignoring, unfollowing someone they feel taken advantage of. Perhaps in the worst case, followers could report a twitter user using affiliate links as spam.

How to make it work
Affiliate links aren’t anything new, we’ve seen them on blog siderolls for years, so it comes down to a few requirements if people are going to make them work:

  • 1) Make sure it lines up editorially with your personal brand, promoting a product that people don’t associate you with will raise eyebrows.
  • 2) Disclose it’s an affiliate link, perhaps with a hashtag #affilliatelink.
  • 3) Be sincere about your recommendation. If you truly love that product you’re promoting, perhaps write a review on a blog first, explaining why.
  • 4) Be fully transparent before people follow you: Create a link from your Twitter profile page that is up front about how you use Twitter, and explain your intentions when it comes to product recommendations and affiliate links.
  • 5) Updated: If you’re linking from your Twitter account to an affiliate, you can disclose on that destination page, Shawn Collins, an affiliate marketer puts disclosure on his blog posts.

Hope these guidelines are helpful, we know for certain that affiliate links are common across the web, it’ll be interesting to see how people monetize Twitter, just as they did with blogs.

Updated: Patricio of eConslutancy agrees, and adds some more examles and recomenndations (added Tues, May 12)

I enjoy Lisa’s counter, who suggest that trust with her readers matters most, and disclosure isn’t needed, however Copyblogger in 2006 suggests (and many other bloggers question) that this could be against the law. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m going to err on the side of conservatism –and that disclosure is a best, and safe practice.