Web2.0: Affiliate Marketing Land of Confusion

no_peddlers.JPGWayne Porter is probably my best friend and most trusted colleague in the industry.

That’s why I took him to task after Monday’s Web2.0 Panel Session at Affiliate Summit West. We should have had the cameras rolling to record the 15 minute or so exchange after the conclusion of the panel, because some real insights into the role of web2.0 were made… more insights than came from the actual panel session, I would argue.

Affiliate marketing needs clarity and concise points about web2.0 in order to get more affiliates thinking about these platforms. The panel discussion provided more cryptic questions and scratched heads than reasons to even think about using these exciting emerging social mediums.

I have an incredible amount of passion for this area, and I was let down and even confused by some of the assertions that Wayne and panelist member Andrew Weinreich, founder and CEO of MeetMoi (a mobile dating company using SMS a la Dodgeball) were making. I even sent Wayne a txt message during the panel yelling at him for using Google as his example of “a profitable web2.0 company” when asked for an example of a company that has used these tactics and have actually turned a profit.

As another example, “Monkey Phone Calls” are not web2.0, Wayne. They are not even web1.0. They are silly attention getters that you knows I think do nothing but alienate the person you are calling. The idea of paying a guy $10 to call someone else and scream baboon sounds through a telephone has nothing to do with practical application strategies of web2.0. Including that in a panel discussion as a way for affiliates to use web2.0 seem ridiculous to me. As funny or cute as you might think they are, they have no place in a time limited discussion of how affiliates can actively think about and perhaps implement web2.0 strategies.

Wayne gives a recap of his state of mind and the context surrounding the panel discussion on his ReveNews blog including a leaked watter bottle, a missing panel member and a sleepless night. All were valid excuses, but I still think the panel missed the opportunity to do some ground breaking inspiration for the affiliate familiar with the “web2.0” hype but not familiar with how widgets or MySQL injections work.

Wayne goes on to write that:

I wanted to take a moment, now I am rested, to clarify some of the observations, feedback (good and bad), about the panel. Which I heard en passant delivered some real revelations for some, but for others failed to deliver on “actionable items” and “how-to’s”. Not to mention not taking into account this might have been a more advanced track panel and a huge topic to cover in one hour. Perhaps at the next summit there can be smaller breakouts for advanced topics.

For example, I went in with the assumption that most knew what a widget was…not so! The feedback given to me was the panel was everything from great to confusing. That’s ok- let’s explore…we can only learn by having a conversation and that is one the key elements of the “Web 2.0” movement.

When you are particularly passionate and enthusiastic about evangelizing a certain approach to a group of non-initiated, it is particularly frustrating to see key points missed or mangled. Even worse… as a college professor, I am constantly looking for people to present information in a clearn, concise and well informed matter that provides a platform for educated discussion rather than shots from the hip (which seemed to be behind most of the questions to the panel including the Beth Kirsch question about traffic Wayne alludes to in his post).

I made copious notes during the presentation, but in fairness to Wayne, I’ll respond to the points he makes in his ReveNews post as he does call me out by name to respond and so that we don’t devolve into a “he said he said” back-and-forth.

What is a widget? It appears some did not know, which is surprising since Widgets have been around pre 2000, however they have lacked adopton en masse. Widgets are a portable piece of code that can be implemented and executed within any web page by an end user and does not need any more compiling. Normally widgets come in Flash or Javascript flavors. It is pretty easy to think of how widgets could be used in marketing, from surveys, to product showcases, to interactive pieces, up to transactions inside a widget itself! Sam Harrelson talks quite about it quite a bit about it at CostPerNews.com.

Good… much better than the panel presentation because you point out what widgets are and what they can do rather than jumping straight to the security issues involved (such as your beloved MySQL injections). More examples of successful implementation of widgets at Linda’s blog here. Widgets allow for the user to be reached on their own terms, and turns over the power of browsing back to the original user. If you’re making all of your money on AdSense or contextual ads, this probably is not the route for you. However, if you are running CPA sales or rev-share from products, this is an interesting way for you to reach an even wider audience. I’ve put all of my thoughts on widgets and affiliate marketing here.

Some reasons to embrace the Web 2.x movement as a merchant or an affiliate…

Even better. Nice handling of a complicated topic. Speed to market, scalability, use of user content and building of community are all important aspects of web2.0 adoption for affiliates and merchants. However, those things can be accomplished without web2.0. How does web2.0 make achieving the lofty goal of “community interaction” any easier?

I’d argue it would be through providing individuals and customers with the space to interact with a brand and form their own emotional experiences rather than relying on being told what to think about a certain product or brand. That kind of a community is incredibly powerful and valuable as it provides instant feedback and metric data without the need for a focus group or pricey marketing consultant. Even for smaller affiliates, this can be achieved.

I do want to argue with you over two things you’ve included in this section of your recap… the “viral” nature of widgets and API’s or web services.

“Viral marketing” is a stupid concet that doesn’t work. Rushkoff’s book was a major step forward in understanding marketing psychology and phenomenonlogy, but the resulting “viral” marketers miss the entire point of the book. Beavis and Butthead?? Way to use a pre-WWW example to make a point about web2.0!

Tara Hunt says:

“From my perspective, marketing isn’t about creating ‘buzz’ or ‘viral messages’ – it’s about building great stuff with the intent you are going to fill a need for people, then celebrating each and every person who comes along and connects with your vision.”

Amen, Tara… couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s not about semantics. It’s about approach… and that’s very important.

Your other point in this section which I disagree with is this:

APIs allow people to fuse data together from disparate sources to create new and innovative things! In turn this fusion can throw off meta data- which gives us better insight into what is going on and perhaps more tone and texture to the data.

That’s great, wonderful and true. But API’s and web services are not “web2.0,” and like Monkey Phone Calls, don’t belong in this conversation. Carsten Cumbrowki makes the most eloquent statement of API’s late arrival to affiliate marketing here. These technologies are great, and will transform the marketing/advertising paradigm online because of background technologies and ease of use, but they are nothing new. No one who is in the web2.0 world or knows the web2.0 world would claim that a company using API’s and web services is necessarily web2.0 because of that.

Some caveats to think about before you do jump in.

Excellent. This is what your entire presentation should have been about… your passion for protecting affiliates, merchants and customers in their online experience is evident and your knowledge in this area is uncomparable.

Your closing section on traffic and addressing the question of traffic quality which Beth posed during the presentation is right on target and clearly lays out your point of view. I couldn’t agree more with your assertion about the long term value of customers.

Lastly respected colleague Sam Harrelson totally disagreed on my assertion that Google was a “Web 2.X” company. I partly agree in retrospect. In reality Google exhibits many traits that could garner this classification, but they really do not give user’s governing control and power over their own data! So while user’s contribute to applications, they don’t have total control. Fair enough Sam? They do provide APIs, platforms, and other tools that are, depending on your take, Web 2.0.

I don’t know of anyone who claims that Google is a web2.0 company. The fact that you responded with “well, Google makes money” when asked for an example of a company using web2.0 that makes money struck me as totally odd. Do they have Google Calendar, Google Docs, Picasa, Dodgeball, Blogger, YouTube, etc? Yes. However, they did not purchase (or in the rare case build) those properties to promote web2.0 type interactions with a community base of valued customers.

They purchased/built those companies to provide a sure footing as search continues to slip away from the way that people are ingesting and processing data and bits. Google is an advertising company, and a very good one. They are not, and would never claim to be a web2.0 company or a company that uses web2.0 tactics for web2.0 reasons.

As to your statement that Google “exhibits many traits” that could classify it as web2.0… you and I share over 90% of our DNA with oak trees. That does not make us oak trees.

Then again I think Web 2.0 is a misnomer at best.

I disagree. Community responses (and panel presentations) of web2.0 may vary, but web2.0 can be clearly described within a set of marketing objectives, approaches and platform uses. Web2.0 is not a misnomer, even if what we call or consider web2.0 do miss the mark. Web2.0 is not a marketing style, but a life style, which forces someone to know their audience, whether they are attempting to sell a product on the web or an idea on a panel discussion.
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11 thoughts on “Web2.0: Affiliate Marketing Land of Confusion

  1. So the web 2.0 panelists couldn’t even agree on what is web 2.0 marketing? 🙂

    I was reading:
    http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

    “that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.”

    So wouldn’t forums fall into that, which have been around for years. How about chat rooms? I think it’s one of those topics where there’s going to be continuing disagreement and confusion on.

    How would you define web2.0?

  2. I think he’s looking for a more concise definition, something that he can point to and say “that’s what web 2.0 is.” I think that’s hard to do because so many people have adopted it inappropriately, so maybe this is a good place to do it. In a nutshell I’d say it’s about users controlling (and creating) the content and the experience of a site.

  3. “Web2.0 is not a marketing style, but a life style, which forces someone to know their audience, whether they are attempting to sell a product on the web or an idea on a panel discussion.”

    It’s a lifestyle? I don’t know, it’s just too Terrence Malick for me. The panel discussion I just quoted, are you talking about the panel discussion you were just at during the Summit? So Web2.0 doesn’t even have to be on the web? Online collaboration, sharing among users = forums, communities etc. That on steroids or with widgets, Web2.0?

    “Affiliate marketing needs clarity and concise points about web2.0 in order to get more affiliates thinking about these platforms.”

    I think anything out there that affiliates think will help in their business they’re going to take a look at. I don’t think it’s really an issue or necessity that it ever gets a concise definition. There is one camp on the issue who think it’s nothing but a meaningless marketing buzzword.

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