This question could be extended by "and internet marketers in general". The answer to that question was widely believed to be "Yes".
The MisconceptionPeople tend to think of an Affiliate as a tech savvy geek that spends day and night to find ways to promote a big merchant and make big bucks via the commission earned for the sales made by the referred customers; a person that is very protective about everything he does, that generates at least a few sales or leads. You probably also thought of the people that run the Affiliate Program for a Merchant, who are called Affiliate Managers or short AM's, are snobby suits that try to use the legions of their affiliates to generate easy money for their employers.Socializing would almost be unthinkable if this is true. Who is going to socialize with his maid? Right?
This picture of affiliates and their counterpart on the merchant side seems to be a misconception that might be true only in some rare cases.
It did not took very long after affiliate programs became more and more popular that Affiliate Forums emerged, especially when Amazon.com launched their Affiliate Program (Amazon called it Associate Program) in 1996 which allowed instant signup and approval for anybody and his uncle in combination with the growing trend of creating personal home pages on free hosters like Geo Cities.
Early Communities, ForumsForums like the AssociatePrograms.com Forum , RevBoard, ABestWeb, Affiliate Boards and Affiliate Marketing Forum at WebProWorld were frequented by affiliates using nick names or just the first name to exchange general information about programs, commissions and that sort of things.
Posting of Affiliate Site URL's was a "don't do it" rule although most forums did not specifically prohibited the posting of links, if related to the discussed topic. Some had the rule not to post somebody else's Affiliate URL. The fear for copy cats and the potential loss of hard earned commissions was wide spread and sometimes also well founded. Anything that was giving hints to the identity of the affiliate and it's website was avoided by most members in the public forum areas.
That affiliates are social could already be seen in the "off topic" or "midnight chat" sections of the Affiliate Marketing Forums, if such a category was available. Towards the end of last year sites started to emerge that supported and even encouraged social mingling between affiliates and also affiliate managers and networks.
The New Trend, Social NetwoksAt the end of December 2005 launched the social site ReturnOnAffiliate.com (short RoA). RoA is a social community site following the trend of general social sites like MySpace.com, but was created solely for People in the Affiliate Marketing Industry. If it would be correct, that the people in that industry, especially the affiliates, are not social, sites like RoA would vanish quickly because of lack of users to support it.
This is not the case, quite the opposite. RoA grew it's member base within 3 month to over 2,000. Of course is a lot of the communication related to internet marketing, but the communication goes far beyond that.Personal Information and thoughts are shared in public message boards, special interest groups, blogs and mail. Every member has also his own blog, message board, book mark collection and can create freely new groups for others to join. Members that disguise their origin and blog their personal pages are the exception.
Another example for an Affiliate Marketing Community site is the Affiliate Summit 2006 East Social Network created for the attendees of the Affiliate Summit Conference which will be held in Florida on July 9-11 later this year.
FazitI am convinced, that this trend will continue in the years to come and have a major impact on the affiliate marketing industry. Connecting through social networks allows marketers to get to know each other much better and help with the creation of new professional and personal relationships.
Problems between merchants and affiliates will probably solved much quicker and easier without escalating as much as they used to in the past, because instead of Affiliate xxx having a problem with yyy, John has a problem with the Merchant Jane is working for.
If you ask yourself the question, who would you rather do business with, the one you don't know or the one you can associate a face with and know personally through interactions on community sites? If the business reasons are not overwhelmingly leaning towards one of them, I would go with the one I know personally. Business is much easier and enjoyable if you do it with a "him" or "her" and not an "it". See you soon at an Internet Marketing Community Site.
See also Social Networks, the New Affiliate Frontier by Shawn Collins
About the AuthorCarsten Cumbrowski has over 5 years experience in the Affiliate Marketing Industry and knows both sides of the Business, as Affiliate (ConsumerMatch.com - Price Comparison Search Engine and Coupons) and Affiliate Manager for Beverages & more! – Wine, Spirits, Beer and more at BevMo.com)