This question could be extended to Internet marketers in general. The answer to the question has widely been believed to be "Yes."
People tend to think of an affiliate as: a tech-savvy geek who spends day and night finding ways to promote a big merchant and make big bucks via the commission earned for sales made by referred customers; or a person who is very protective about everything he does, who generates at least a few sales or leads. You may also have thought that people who run the affiliate programs for a merchant, who are called affiliate managers or for short AM's, are snobby suits who try to use the legions of their affiliates to generate easy money for their employers. Socializing would almost be unthinkable if this were true.
This picture of affiliates and their counterparts on the merchant side seems to be a misconception that might be true only in rare cases.
It did not take long after affiliate programs became more and more popular that affiliate forums emerged, especially when Amazon.com launched its affiliate program (Amazon called it an "associate program") in 1996, which allowed instant signup and approval for anyone and his uncle, in combination with the growing trend of creating personal home pages on free hosters like GeoCities.
High Performance Affiliate Marketing
by Jeremy Palmer
Successful Affiliate Marketing
by Shawn Collins
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Early Communities, Forums
Forums like the associateprograms.com's forum, revboard, abestweb, affiliate boards and the affiliate marketing forum at webproworld were frequented by affiliates using nicknames or just first names to exchange general information about programs, commissions and that sort of thing.
Posting of affiliate site URL's was a "don't do it" rule although most forums did not specifically prohibit the posting of links, if related to the topic discussed. Some had a rule not to post somebody else's affiliate URL. The fear of copycats and the potential loss of hard-earned commissions were widespread and sometimes also well founded. Anything that hinted at the identity of the affiliate or his 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. Toward the end of last year, sites began to emerge that supported and even encouraged social mingling between affiliates and also affiliate managers and networks.
The New Trend: Social Networks
The social networking site ReturnOnAffiliate.com (ROA) launched in December 2005. ROA is a social community site following the trend of general social sites like myspace.com, but was created specifically for people in the affiliate marketing industry. If people in that industry, especially the affiliates, were not social, sites like ROA would vanish quickly because of a lack of users.
This is not the case; in fact quite the opposite is true. ROA grew its member base within three months to over 2,000. Of course there is a lot of 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 email. Every member has also his own blog, message board, and bookmark collection and can freely create new groups for others to join. Members who disguise their origin, blog and personal pages are the exception.
Another example of an affiliate marketing community site is the "Affiliate Summit Social Network" created for the attendees of the Affiliate Summit Conference 2006 East in Florida.
I 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 helps with the creation of new professional and personal relationships.
Problems between merchants and affiliates will probably be solved much more quickly and easily without escalating as much as they did in the past. Now, instead of affiliate xxx having a problem with yyy, John has a problem with the merchant Jane is working for.
Ask yourself the question, who would you rather do business with: someone you don't know or someone you can associate a face with and know personally through interactions on community sites? If the business reasons are not overwhelmingly leaning toward one of them, I would go with the one I know personally. Business is much easier and more enjoyable if you do it with a "him" or "her" and not an "it". See you soon at an Internet marketing community site!
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©2006 Carsten Cumbrowski
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