Sam Harrelson

Leveraging Social Media in Affiliate Marketing

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I’m doing a solo presentation on the Sunday of https://www.fusionquest.com/cgi-bin/main/hotlinks.cgi?aflt=afc1&client=affsumAffiliate Summit East in Boston about how to use “social” media in the context affiliate marketing.

My opening line is “you probably know of and maybe use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed, Google Reader and Ning, but you are probably using them wrong if you’re connecting them with your affiliate program…”

I’ve got a rough sketch of how the rest of the hour will go, but I’d like to make sure I cover the bases you’d like covered. So, comment (or email, call, twitter, etc) below and let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to hear about using social media in an affiliate program.

Affiliate Summit East 2008 Agenda: “Leveraging Social Media
Location: Harborview Ballroom 1
Time: 1:30pm-2:30pm

(This Session is Open to Full Conference Pass Holders Only)
This session helps affiliate marketers, networks and merchants recognize the power of adapting and adopting social media platforms into their programs for increased traffic, conversions and profit.

* Sam Harrelson, Director of Performance Marketing, Motive Interactive”

For instance, I’ve got close to 2,500 people following me on Twitter and the platform provides a nice stream of passive and active traffic (when Twitter is up). However, I don’t just throw affiliate or even site links up to get that traffic. There are very specific and practical steps that you can take to be a productive part of a community like Twitter and still derive benefits.

So, let me know what you’d like to hear…




Thoughts on New York Affiliates Situation: Industry Org Needed?

Michael Vorel posted an interesting tweet this morning:

I am concerned many NY affiliates will loose interest in affiliate marketing, solutions?

which was followed up with a tweet from Shawn Collins:

@vastplanet I think it could help to publicize Amazon’s battle and try to bring grassroots blog pressure on NY to get more mainstream media

The back and forth refers to the developing situation surrounding recent legislation in New York state that seeks to collect taxes on online revenue generation and immediately effects large merchants as well as the NY state affiliates.

There was a question as to whether Amazon would drop NY state affiliates, but it looks like the first large merchant to take that step is Overstock.

Shawn Collins covered it first and best at AffiliateTip Blog:

Today the Small Business Blog reports that Overstock.com has issued a notice to all New York state affiliates that they are being dropped from the Overstock Affiliate Program, effective May 20, 2008.

As the day went on, more bloggers and discussions started appearing about Overstock’s actions. Even Saul Hansell of the NY Times is following the developments with an in-depth piece and link back to Shawn’s piece:

There were two predictable fallouts from New York State’s move to force online companies to collect state sales tax: There would be a lawsuit. And some online merchants would cut off their affiliates in the state.

Then, over on ReveNews Heather Paulson covered the situation and got a very precise comment from Todd Crawford:

I am very concerned that NY sees affiliate marketing differently than other forms of online advertising like CPM and CPC. I do not understand the logic they are using that affiliate marketers create nexus for advertisers allowing them to charge sales tax. If this is not overturned, I would expect NY to extend the nexus to any online advertising – including CPC and CPM. Idiots!

As Todd and others have pointed out, this is a very short term play from NY state and will eventually cost them revenue in terms of sales tax and income tax generation from merchants and affiliates. However, states are cash strapped (I won’t get too political, but let’s just say the current administration’s fiscal practices haven’t exactly helped states deal with rising health care and education costs) and looking for ways to get into the black during an important election year when the turnout is going to be exceptionally high.

Will more states follow NY? Yes. It’s almost a certainty if NY is successful at collecting taxes from large companies such as Amazon (which it looks like will be the case judging from the NY Times piece). Does this mean affiliate marketers or merchants will suffer and eliminate affiliates working in those states? Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s a necessary certainty.

Instead of making the case that affiliates are being treated unfairly, I think our best bet as an industry is to make the case to state governments that this is an economically short minded tactic. Robbing Peter to pay Paul never works and the states will loose more long term revenue in the form of sales and income taxes than they will gain by a tax system that will surely have more holes than a sieve.

I fear it will be the affiliate marketers themselves and not the merchants who have to make this case. The merchants seem willing to either pay the tax or to stop working with NY state (and eventually others) affiliates instead of making the case against such a tax scheme.

Industry organization anyone?




Google’s Friend Connect and Long Tail Marketing

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This is interesting. Basically, sometime tonight you’ll be able to grab a snippet of code and install it on your site/blog allowing you to combine that site with your activities in various social networks…

Google Press Center: News Announcement: “Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social — and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect (see http://www.google.com/friendconnect following this evening’s Campfire One), any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming — picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.”

Here are some of the more “long tail” implications of Friend Connect:

“Google Friend Connect is about helping the ‘long tail’ of sites become more social,” said David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google. “Many sites aren’t explicitly social and don’t necessarily want to be social networks, but they still benefit from letting their visitors interact with each other. That used to be hard. Fortunately, there’s an emerging wave of social standards — OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, and the data access APIs published by Facebook, Google, MySpace, and others. Google Friend Connect builds on these standards to let people easily connect with their friends, wherever they are on the web, making ‘any app, any site, any friends’ a reality.”

And here are the immediate benefits possible:

Without requiring coding experience, Google Friend Connect gives site owners a way to attract and engage more people by giving visitors a way to connect with friends on their websites.

Drive traffic: people who discover interesting sites can bring their friends with them, and can opt-in to publish their activities on those sites back into their social network, attracting even more visitors.

Increase engagement: access to friends and OpenSocial applications provides more interesting content and richer social experiences.

Less work: any site can have social components without hiring a programming team or becoming a social network.

I see this as the culmination of the widget craze that swept the online world in 2007 and a way to start bringing in tangible benefits for website owners and bloggers. In other words, the more efficient back-and-forth between social networks and sites/blogs will only increase traffic and exposure for both (if the person behind them is interesting, relevant or adds something to the viewers’ lives).




Twitter Track and Twitter Abuse

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On Saturday I noticed that my tweets were being repeated by Twitter user @panopticons (if you’re curious about the name, it refers to an 18th century jail design based on seeing every prisoner that has been extended into a metaphysical metaphor). I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but as the day went on, the retweeting was constant and annoying.

It was annoying because I use a function of Twitter called “Twitter Track” on GTalk which allows me to track terms that I am interested in such as “Wilco” or “Nascar” or “Obama” or “Ryan Adams” or “Asheville” (btw, if you use Twitter Track, I do not suggest tracking “affiliate”… omg). I also track people’s names that I am interested in, so that I can see both sides of the conversation that person might be participating in and not just one way conversation. And of course I track my own name in case someone I’m not following, etc tweets me so that I can see them and respond.

I prefer using GTalk as my Twitter client because even though I follow close to 2,000 folks I can turn device updates on and off for close friends or people in town. That makes the Twitter stream much more controlled rather than a firehose. Plus, I’m able to use the GTalk app on my BlackBerry to stay in the stream when I’m mobile.

It’s a perfect system… or so I thought until Saturday night.

I dug a little deeper into the @panopticons account and found that the account and many similar ones were set up by a guy named Noah David Simon in order to prove a (misguided) point about privacy and information:

My aliases on TWITTER are listed on my website. I’m keeping it transparent so it doesn’t bite me in the ass. Eventually I assume most of you will unfollow n block me… but by that point I will have perfected the craft of puppet accounts! puppet accounts can be fed N2 a root account, where I can follow all fools that thought they could block me. there is NO blocking! the final account will take the RSS feed of multiple accounts and run it N2 one account. you will not realize the new account is me.

Please understand that I have absolutely no problem with protests, satire, uncomfortable demonstrations with a sharp edge of irony, etc. There is a needed place for those sorts of things in every aspect of society, especially something like Twitter where the micro nature of the platform often engenders a feeling of unnecessary importance (even more so than Techmeme and the blogosphere).

However, the point being made here about privacy is just mean spirited (especially with some of the back and forths that have developed on Twitter and in the GetSatisfaction forum for Twitter) with no real point to be made beyond who can yell the loudest and longest.

Simon and his supporter (no plural there) @prokofy (see the GetSatisfaction forum if you need more) suggest that if people don’t want to be troubled by the retweeting of their messages, they should stop tracking their own names and that if you’re tracking your own name, you’re doing so just for vanity purposes. That’s a ridiculous premise to begin with, especially for people like myself who use the track feature to engage in conversations with other users we might not have otherwise met. Then, using bullying tactics and spewing pretty hateful messages (calling specific Twitter users who object Nazis, etc) is just immature and shows the lack of a well thought out intention behind this sort of purposeful abuse.

After being pestered by @prokofy, Steve Gillmor had Prokofy on an episode of NewsGang Live last week that pretty much sums up the situation (be warned if you listen… the podcast will make your ears bleed).

I use Twitter on a more than regular basis for a number of reasons. Twitter has transcended the realm of social networking or messaging for me and has become a neural center for my activity on the web. Because of the track feature, I’m able to keep up with a variety of topics throughout the day or at my pleasure through RSS. So, interruptions like this are costly both time and gesture wise for me.

And now for the final act.. it looks like the issue has caught the attention of the often hands-off Twitter staff:

We believe these accounts are in violation of the terms because the cross posting of updates from multiple accounts is a way to undermine the block and unfollow functions. Twitter is a recipient-driven service and when abusers seek to negate the ability for users to choose what content they receive from other users, they degrade our service. This is the stated intent of the abuser in question in this thread.

There’s also been a thread set up to discuss Twitter’s stance on abuse by Twitter admins:

What is Twitter’s stance toward abuse?

So hopefully this issue will be resolved soon.

In the meantime, we always have the spammers present to keep the town well full of piss.




GeekCast Episode 6: Plugging the Right Holes

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Every week Lisa Picarille, Shawn Collins, Jim Kukral and I do an episode of “GeekCast” where we discuss current trends in the geek marketing world ranging from tech to performance marketing.

The show is very free form and wide ranging, but there is a good deal of valuable discussion on affiliate marketing and related tech issues.

Here’s a brief and incomplete list of discussions this week:

-Headset Tech – Analogue or USB?
-Lisa’s Skype Troubles
-Cable is Dead?
-Super Bowl Twitter Friends
-Paying to Play in UK Affiliate Networks
-HD DVD is Dead
-Group Twitter at Affiliate Summit
-Ze Frank is the Steve Guttenberg of the Internet
-Jangro’s Approach to Affiliate Summit
-Affiliate Summit Attire
-Interesting Trends from the AffStat Report
-Aweber and Email Lists
-Gratuitous Nudity
-Gratuitous Pre-Rolls
-Gratuitous Politics
-Jim’s YouTube Porn Searches
-Jesus Horses
-Shawn Loves Metrosexual Country

Give it a listen and let me know what you think.




GeekCast Episode 5: Cease and Desist

Lisa Picarille, Shawn Collins, Jim Kukral and I taped another episode of GeekCast that was published yesterday. It’s a free-form and fun show where we discuss current trends in the geek marketing world ranging from tech to performance marketing.

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This week, the gang tackles wearable video, fake Twitter-ers, master link baiters, affiliate link cloaking and Lost Geekend ’08. Give it a listen and let us know your thoughts.