Discovery

Affiliate Site Twitter Profile Pages

If you’re using Twitter in conjunction with your other social media marketing plans for your affiliate site, don’t forget the important aspect of the design of your Twitter Profile page.

TheNextWeb has a nice practical guide for points to consider when doing so (it’s aimed at brand marketing folks, but still applicable for performance marketers)…

Tips for Twitter Brand Pages: “The header image can be used to direct the user’s attention to a specific item on the page, as was the case in HP’s example, or it can be used to promote an engaging marketing plan, as Staples did, with a competition. Using the header image as nothing more than a banner advert, as both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola did, wound up getting the least attention from viewers.”

Word of caution here… unlike Facebook Fan Pages or even Google+ pages, Twitter Profile pages area mixed bag. Yes, they are somewhat customizable and the new embedded media feature helps the look/feel. However, up to 1/2 (depending on whose numbers you trust) of Twitter users access the service via mobile or apps. I’d venture to posit (strongly) that most “power” users that are desirable for many niches are these types of app users (I rarey go to the main Twitter page and most of my network is similar).

So, design and test but don’t fret if you don’t see the type of interaction you do with a Facebook Fan page etc. Twitter, unlike Facebook, has lots of meaning in the message.

What is the Job of Social Logins on Your Site?

I wish Craig would have included his sources for which research he cites here…

Should You Use Social Login’s?: “Wondering  which social logins are the most popular option among users? Well, according to research, 42 percent of social logins use Facebook while the remaining alternatives are fairly equally distributed among Yahoo, Paypal, Google and others. If you can only select one form of social login…make it Facebook.”

Regardless, if you’re going to use social plugins for commenting, subscriptions, engagement, sharing etc on your site, I would hesitate to decide on just one to elevate unless you do your own careful research and heuristics on your actual site(s).

For instance, I have sites that receive the majority of their “social” traffic from Facebook and I have sites that receive virtually all of their social traffic from sites like Reddit and Twitter.

All traffic is not good traffic. Having passive visitors from Facebook that have nothing to do with performance marketing is grand, but doesn’t do much for the bandwidth costs of this site. Similarly, passive Twitter or search traffic that arrives at one of my niche book sites doesn’t do much for me (beyond pageview ego petting) compared to the Facebook or Amazon search traffic that supports and livens those sites.

So, as always, remember that your site is doing a job for people. Figure out what that job is for people and offer them the service that you would want if you were hiring your site to do a job for your mother. Limit their choices, walk them through the process, do friendly follow up and make them want to refer you and come back (as Jangro reminds us, make them yours).

Check your stats and see where the bulk of that traffic might be coming from and why and then decide if you want to elevate a social login (which you definitely should) service on your site.

More on Like-Jacking and Quality Traffic

Last week I posted about the rise of “Like-Jacking” on Facebook and why digital literacy is so important. The WSJ covers the issue this morning as well…

Spam Finds a New Target – WSJ.com: “A common social-spam attack on Facebook, known as “like-jacking,” involves duping users into clicking on an image that looks as if a friend has clicked the “Like” button, recommending it.”

When I first got my start in the online marketing world, I worked at an email marketing firm that helped spark the “Free iPod” phenomenon in exchange for just an email address and zip code. It was amazingly profitable and I soon learned why. People want freebies.

However, the quality of traffic was terrible and the lists were sold and resold so many times that any value they might have had were soon distilled into the ether.

The same holds true for Facebook Likes and retweets today and the growing realization that all traffic is not good traffic (especially traffic derived from passive social traffic that is unqualified and not valuable).

Dash and Affiliate Pageviews?

Interesting concept for a company looking to posit itself in the already heated analytics space…

Parse.ly Will Launch Its Pageview-Generating Machine Called “Dash” This Month | TechCrunch: “Dash aims to help publishers increase pageviews by providing insight into what topics are trending and what topics they should write more about or less about, among other things. But most importantly, its predictive analysis engine is able to recommend what topics publishers should cover right now to be on top of future trends. Simply put, it’s a pageview-generating machine.”

Dash sounds like it might have the predictive chops to fill a gap between aggregate analytics programs and more real time programs by focusing on the predictive side of things.

The question will be whether it actually works for niche sites and not just mega Twitter-style trends.

If Dash does work well with niche traffic predictive analysis, it could be a very very useful tool for affiliates.

Keep an eye out.

RSS is Still Important for Marketers

I love my RSS feeds that I’ve been curating over the last six or so years. I still think that as a delivery medium RSS is part of the future of the web.

However, RSS has always taken a back seat to other ways of capturing and engaging visitors to other tactics such as email. As Scott Jangro wrote in a recent comment here:

All Traffic is Not Good Traffic | Discussion: “But can you do something to capture them as your own?  That should be the primary focus on that traffic. Give them something that will get them to give you their email address, or sign up and get involved in a website.  The latter is harder than the former.

So regardless of the traffic source, who are these users that are coming by, and what can you do to make them *yours*?”

There’s a mighty good reason that RSS takes a back seat to email or some other “capture” mechanism… RSS is insanely nerdy and grows more so every day/month/year. There was a great hope of people like me who saw RSS as a very viable platform that could transform the way the web delivers content and news to most individuals and we’d all be running around reading our feeds on browsers or our devices to our whims (instead of turning to mediated sources like cable news or heavens forbid network news).

That didn’t happen.

For sure, RSS is alive via platforms like the awesome Flipboard app, which is much more “user friendly” than NetNewsWire or Google Reader will ever be (though much less satisfying if you ask me).

RSS is still very much alive as a pure web medium as well. So why should marketers care about RSS subscriptions?

Because all traffic is not good traffic. The traffic you should be concerned about as a marketer is the highly qualified traffic that has the potential to not only convert into some action but become a part of the actual community that will grow and build a site over the long run (if you care about such things, which you should).

Yes, that can be accomplished via email newsletters and lists. However, email lists and RSS subscribers are almost apples and oranges in terms of comparison when considering how they interact with a site and what type of user community can be built with their help and engagement.

RSS subscribers are by nature a nerdy and dedicated bunch… don’t count them out in your efforts. Their numbers may be small (and growing smaller all the time in your Feedburner etc stats) but their power is mighty as I consistently encounter.

Why Freemiums Aren’t the Future Path

Interesting piece by Tac Anderson on the concept of Path as an Upstream Social Network (USN below) compared to traditional networks like Twitter and Facebook which he terms Downstream Social Networks (DSN below) and how USN’s could affect the engagement of marketers with lucrative data-rich networks:

What Path Teaches Us About The Future of Social Networks | @NewCommBiz: “Lets assume for a minute that as social networking evolves the social graph is filled with private USN and more open, commercial DSN. And what if most of those USN didn’t allow brands and advertising in? (Most of them will but humor me for a minute.) If marketeers and brands want to reach people inside their private USN, they need to be brought in by the members of those networks. Brands need to create experiences worth talking and sharing. A small example is when I shared my new Star Wars Moleskine I was going to be using on Path. You can see the reactions I got on Path as well as those I got on Instagram. Both of those went to Twitter and received their own reactions there.”

Basically, he ponders what if these Downstream Social Networks could thrive with a fermium model where brands and ads weren’t allowed to participate.

I’m not certain this will ever happen for a couple of reasons.

1) Social networks, unlike apps, don’t necessarily proliferate based on individual user experiences. Freemiums work on iPhone apps or even cloud based services that are more single user in nature. Social networks are, by their nature, commons that we don’t have complete control over and we’re more willing to make compromises on design, ads and privacy (hence Facebook).

2) The data-based nature of social networks is so lucrative that even new networks that are beautifully designed and based on the idea of limits (150 friends only, limited sharing etc) will certainly find more and better funding by relying on brands and marketers to subsidize the costs of running a network.

Path (and Facebook) can and should do all they can to encourage marketers to think above the “All Traffic is Good Traffic” blasting approach that many marketers use to get passive and relatively unqualified (and thereby low quality) traffic to their sites/offers/links and think towards better engagement based on some qualitative value in the exchange.

However, freemiums aren’t in our future for social networking.

This may all sound like it has more to do with brand advertisers than direct or affiliate marketers, but I’d argue affiliate marketing has the most to gain from the idea of interacting in these rich spaces of real human interactions and frictionless sharing.

Mobile, Social Media and Curation Marketing

Marshall Kirkpatrick has a nice retort to a thought piece published in the Washington Post today proclaiming social media’s growth over…

Dead? Social Media’s Explosive Growth is Only Beginning: “Social media in the age of instrumentation and connected devices may be more about aggregate social activity than about the long voice blogging and Tweeting.

The intersection of people, machines and passively monitored objects (the cheapest input of all!) all combine to form an entirely new world of opportunity.

That may be the biggest opportunity yet.”

There’s a fascinating conversation going on in the comments section of a post here yesterday about my idea that all traffic is not good traffic. Scott Jangro adequately summarizes the point that Marshall is making above about in-and-out traffic through various spaces in relation to online marketing. His comment could easily be unpacked into a book or treatise about marketing in 2012.

For our purposes here, if you take what Scott wrote and combine that with what he, Damien and the team are doing with Shareist or what affiliates are doing with Pinterest, it becomes very interesting to ponder the conjunction of mobile traffic with aggregation and curation services on the web and their impact on affiliate marketing.

At least I think so.

The idea that curation will become a hot talent in the coming years as frictionless sharing and more aggregate traffic becomes ubiquitous is nothing new, especially in the world of education (part of the “Essential Skills” for our Middle School is curation).

However, wrap curation and its rapidly apparent place in the affiliate marketing industry and a particularly interesting new niche becomes a very viable space for hyper-targeted affiliates to explore.

Why is Affiliate Marketing Doing Well?

Nice overall piece on the current market position of affiliate marketing in the overall scheme of things and how our industry is poised to continue its growth into 2012…

How 2012’s Rise Of The Affiliate Channel Will Impact The $300B E-Commerce Industry: “There are several factors driving the increased interest in performance marketing. The three biggest drivers are the rise in affiliate deal sites, advances in technology and the overall evolution of affiliate marketing. These influences are prompting strategic online retailers to increase their intellectual and financial investments in the affiliate channel.”

I’d add “mobile” as a driver in that list.

Affiliate marketing is particularly well suited to help merchants and media buyers grow as mobile continues to become a primary mover rather than a secondary channel. Couple that with lackluster returns from social media marketing (due more to poor execution based on 20th century broadcasting techniques rather than required 21st century narrowcasting strategies) and affiliate marketing is shaping up to be the hot sector for online marketing in the coming years.

Free Progress Bars

I’m in the middle of working on an app for a client and came across this post/repository of awesome progress bars that are lightweight and don’t use images…

Josh Sullivan: Css3 progress bars: “I made CSS3 progress bars for a display of data inside localized leaderboards for the new analytics platform at G5.

They are light-weight, requiring no javascript. They look great on iOS devices and they’re incredibly simple to use and customize. No images are used.”

Click over for the images. Impressive and helpful.

Not sure if many of you are doing app development (why aren’t you?) but this is pretty helpful if you want to get around the stock iOS progress bar look.

I love github.

Facebook Like-Jacking and Need for Digital Literacy

Interesting:

Criminals Used Affiliate Marketing Sites in Majority of Facebook Scams in 2011: The vast majority, or nearly 74 percent, of Facebook attacks in 2011 were designed to lead users to fraudulent marketing affiliate and survey sites, the report found.

Affiliate marketing was a “rich source” of income for scammers, according to Amir Lev, CTO of Commtouch.

First, it’s interesting to me that the writer focuses so much on how easy it is for scammers and “criminals” (a conviction is needed to be a criminal… just saying) to use the medium of what he broadly labels as affiliate marketing. The piece focuses more on survey type deals that were so popular with the “free iPod” craze of 2003-4 in the pre-CANSPAM era.

It’s pretty easy for the legitimate businesses he sources as being defrauded to check their logs and any affiliate manager or OPM worth their salt will catch this kind of scam traffic, especially if they are dealing with the lead based side of things in the CPA and lead gen areas.

The real heart of the piece should be about the need for better digital literacy among users of spaces like Facebook (especially if they are browsing on a Windows machine with IE6 or 7).

Cue Wayne Porter

“For criminals, it was not enough to just trick users, as criminals need to make sure the attacks spread and continue to trap other people, Commtouch said. They were most likely to trick users into sharing the links almost half the time, but also tricked users into copy-pasting malicious code to trigger a cross-site scripting attack or downloading malware. Rogue applications and “like-jacking”—which employs a malicious script on the page to convert any mouse clicks on the page as a “like” that is also visible to other users—were employed in about a third of the scams.

“In 48 percent of the cases, unwitting users themselves are responsible for distributing the undesirable content by clicking on ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons,” according to Commtouch.”

It’s fascinating to me that many of the conversations Wayne and I were having back in 2008 about a future of social-engineered badware that would find virility through good-willed sharing are coming true in 2011 and even more so into 2012.

At the root of the issue isn’t affiliate marketing or how easy it is to scam businesses. Businesses have failsafes and checks in place to catch these things (ideally). Instead, we need to have more savvy users who realize the implications of sharing or liking a suspect link or article or site.

This sort of manipulation of otherwise trusting, naive or uninformed users of the web will only intensify as more people go on the web with mobiles and tablets in the coming five years.