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Affiliate Marketing on Twitter – Does it Belong?

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of October 2008 Affiliate Programs, Social Media 0 Comments


What do you think about affiliate marketing on Twitter?

Lately I’ve noticed more and more affiliate marketers getting onto twitter. There’s been a real buzz about it actually in many internet marketing circles – almost like it’s the latest ‘new’ thing (I guess it is relatively new).

The unfortunate thing is that the model I’m seeing some internet marketers use on Twitter is quite spammy. Some have spammed Twitter so much directly that they’ve been booted off.

Today I got an email from Joel Comm. I’m one of his affiliates and have promoted some of his books and ebooks previously. We’ve met in person and I admire his knowledge of internet marketing greatly. However todays email didn’t really sit that well with me and I’d love to hear your opinion on it.

Joel is currently promoting an AdSense Secrets ebook. I actually like his writing on AdSense and some of what he teaches helped me a lot in the early days of getting into blogging.

I’ve promoted his AdSense stuff before and would probably do it again – but not in the way he’s asking his affiliates to do it this time.

The promotion he’s asking people to do is to Tweet a link to his book. Not only has he asked us to tweet about it (something I wouldn’t be anti doing to some extend) he’s given his affiliates a link to make the whole process automated.

All you have to do is click the link and it sets up a tweet in your own twitter account (if you’re logged in) and it embeds an affiliate link into the tweet automatically for you so you can earn money if people make a purchase of one of Joels products as a result of clicking on your link ($10 a month for each month they stay in his program).

Looking at Twitter Search just now it seems that his tactic is working – to some extent.

Picture 4.png

I wouldn’t call it a raging success (yet) but with 30 or so people tweeting about it (largely using the automated script Joel’s provided) there’s been some take up of it.

Now on some levels I don’t have a problem with Joel’s campaign. I am not against affiliate marketing, I’m not against promoting products in new media – however there’s something that has been playing on my mind about this all day.

To be honest I’m not completely sure why I don’t like it (as I say above I don’t have a problem with some of the principles behind it) but there’s something that doesn’t sit well with me about this.

Risky Behavior and Spam

I think one of my main problems with it is that it almost seems like Joels asking others to engage in a little risky behavior for him and putting them a little at risk. Twitter is pretty anti spam and while he’s not done it directly the search results do look quite spammy when you line them all up and see the exact same message over and over and over again. I wonder how Twitter will respond to this and who will suffer? Joel or those who tweet it?

Impersonal Marketing

Another thing that I am reacting against with this strategy is that the tweets Joel is suggesting seem very impersonal.

“Download Joel Comm’s Adsense Secrets For FREE! “

This just doesn’t resonate with me as the type of message that would do well on Twitter. A message out of the blue about someone encouraging a download. I’m not sure it’s where affiliate marketing is going online either.

My own experimenting with affiliate marketing over the last few years is that it works best out of relationship and trust with those that you recommend products to. I find that promoting products do best when you are able to give an honest review of them, when you’re able to tell people who they are best suited for etc

This is actually why I think blogging is an ideal message for affiliate marketing. It’s a great place to build trust, fully review a product and give a balanced recommendation – 140 or so characters just doesn’t seem enough to do much to do most of that.

I guess what I’m coming to is that a tweet like this doesn’t really sit comfortably with my style of affiliate marketing.

What do you Think about Affiliate Marketing on Twitter?

But that is just me – what about you? Does affiliate marketing belong on Twitter? If so – how would you do it?

To be clear – I’m not wanting to start an anti Joel Comm thread of discussion here – like I say, I like the guy and don’t have anything against his products, but I am interested to hear what you think about the topic of affiliate marketing on twitter (and other forms of social media). Over to you….

How Affiliate Marketers Should Use Twitter?

It’s pretty easy to say you don’t like affiliate links on Twitter and not say anything constructive. So tomorrow I’d like to attempt to put forward some ideas on how Twitter (and other social media sites) could be used by affiliate marketers appropriately and effectively. Keep an eye on my RSS feed over the next 24 hours to see when the post goes live.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. It could be successful given the nature of the tweet.

    1) The person who sent the tweet did mention that it was someone else stuff that can be downloaded for free.

    2) “FREE” – this word stood out

    3) The link didn’t seem anything associated to any spam sites.

    Most likely to grab the attention of curious web users over on the web.

    Of course, not everyone would like it though.

  2. I am fairly new to social networking & blogging and just started twittering and pouncing around. I for one have been rather discouraged by both of these mediums. I have a “friend” on pounce that emails the same link to his blog EVERY single day. I only have about 12 people I’m following in twitter right now and I’ve already seen this and other spam type link several times.

    I think it will hurt Joel’s credibility.

  3. Affiliate marketers have left a bad taste in my mouth across some of my favorite social media sites. I believe there are appropriate, and probably more successful ways, to promote your links.

    That said, I don’t think requesting for ReTweets, which is basically what hes doing, is an effective way of promoting an affiliate link.

    I’m all about the relationship building across my micro-blogging platforms and I won’t hesitate to unfollow someone that I feel isn’t conversing with the twitterverse. If other people feel the same way then I don’t think his twitter campaign will work.

  4. There have been some good recommendations made here, but it’s pretty funny to see some of these commenters think they’re going to school Joel Comm on affiliate marketing. That totally cracks me up.

  5. Jennifer Barthe says: 10/10/2008 at 12:22 am

    I like it when people talk about products because they work and like it. Twitter is a place to share information, not spam.

  6. I’m loving this conversation!

    So for those who don’t know what we did with this experiment, let me explain it.

    We did NOT use the API to “spam” Twitter. There was nothing shady here.

    What we DID do was set up a link in our shopping cart system (Infusion) and notify our affiliates that they could Tweet the AdSense Secrets book promotion in two clicks.

    Basically, we provided the text “Download Joel Comm’s AdSense book FREE” followed by the affiliate link with their ID embedded.

    When they clicked the link it automatically took them to Twitter.

    This is the url format for a pre-written tweet.


    Once the link is clicked, the user only needs click the UPDATE button. Voila.

    We sent an email to our affiliates with their custom link and explained how it worked. We had no idea if they were on Twitter or not, but turns out a lot of them are. They aren’t even necessarily my followers, just affiliates.

    These are people who choose to Twitter because as my affiliates they believe in my products. They are NOT spammers. These were deliberate tweets.

    What we SHOULD have done is provided a number of different pre-written tweets AND encouraged them to change the text to best fit their voice.

    And please note, people ALWAYS promote things on Twitter via tinyurl and other services. We just asked a lot of people to promote so there was a lot of tweets. But what’s the difference?

    Here’s one thing we know for sure…

    As Twitter continues to grow, people and businesses will seek to use it commercially. You can count on it. The question is, what will be the best practices that lead to success in this arena. I think the marketplace will naturally dictate in the long run, but you can expect to see people take things way beyond our little experiment.

    And for those who are wondering… yes, it was very effective.

    Darren, your handling of this issue is admirable and I appreciate the conversation. Kudos!

  7. These are people who choose to Twitter because as my affiliates they believe in my products. They are NOT spammers. These were deliberate tweets.

    I think that it is here that the distinction has got muddied. I think if you had, like you said, asked the affiliates to reword the tweet into their own voice, it would have removed the element of ‘spam’ about the process.

    However it still wouldn’t have avoided the fact that multiple people are tweeting the same content at the same time. If the effect of tweeting could have been staggered over a longer period, say a week rather than a day, would the promotion –

    a) be as effective as it has been?
    b) seen as less spammy?

    As you say Joel, the boundaries are going to be pushed further and further – its a question of what gives first.

  8. That is pretty spammy on Joel’s side…

  9. Ryan Peterson says: 10/10/2008 at 5:40 am

    What is SPAM anyway? In the email world the FTC describes SPAM as unsolicited commercial email or UCE. Brent made a great comment when he said “The great thing about Twitter is it is pull marketing.” You clearly have a choice about who you follow mostly taking out the unsolicited portion. Now most end users don’t use the legal definition of SPAM so “SPAM” has become whatever the end user feels is SPAM or SPAMMY. I would say the true SPAM on twitter is when people create fake accounts and use them to follow large numbers of people to try and get them to look at post by the user when they try and see who is trying to follow. This was not the case in this instance. While this could have been executed better to reduce the perception of it being SPAM or SPAMMY I think twitter is a good medium for people to share their interest and things they are promoting with the people who choose to follow them. If you don’t like it don’t follow them it is that simple.

  10. I am a fan of Joel Comms, I bought his book, prior to the free giveaway.

    I have a few thoughts on internet marketing in general on Twitter. After watching all of the videos from Ed Dales 30 Day Challenge, and spending some time Tweeting it seems that Twitter is full of internet marketers and web savvy people. Are these the type of people that respond to spam style internet marketing?


    IMing on Twitter is really all about marketing relationship building. I cannot see that much results coming from the Spam style that Joel is suggesting his affiliates to follow

  11. This is a great discussion topic, Darren. Thanks for bringing it up. I posted our perspective and best practices for marketers on our blog, http://www.infusionblog.com/ so everyone can benefit.

    I’m not necessarily going go into the practice of marketing on Twitter itself; there has been quite a lengthy debate in the comments here, already. I want to caution all readers on this entry that whether this practice is never in the marketer’s control.

    What I mean is this — If a few users choose to take the initiative to report some suspicious Twitter accounts, created possibly by one’s Affiliate program, Twitter reserves the right to blacklist the domain in question for contributing as a “service disruption” or possible “spamminess,” even if it isn’t. Twitter doesn’t owe anyone anything, not even service. It’s free and has not had one advertisement on it published by Twitter themselves.

    Personally, I don’t advocate anyone to send the same exact message repeatedly over Twitter. Not only does it appear lame, it could result in further consequences later from SURBL, Twitter and any other social network who maintain anti-spam blacklists. However, I will contend, it’s a creative use of Twitter + Affiliate Marketing.

    Thanks again for posting this, Darren. We support small businesses who market themselves, even on Twitter. They just need to it responsibly. ;-)


  12. Twitter is definitely not a place to spam to be honest and what Joel has done would just harm is reputation, common if you want to drive traffic why not buy traffic from Google adwords.

  13. The name of the game is traffic , affiliate marketers were bound to pounce on twitter sonner or later.

  14. I’m a huge fan of Twitter, and I wholeheartedly believe it can do wonders for a person’s online presence. That said, I believe every affiliate marketer should create a Twitter account now. So long as you’re abiding by the Terms, your tweeting efforts should help to expand your brand online!

  15. If you didn’t tell me who he was and that you liked his work, I would definitely dismiss this as spam. It makes him look awful and denigrates his image. It’s a bad PR move.

  16. affiliate marketers can use anything for their traffic :)

  17. We have to allow affiliate marketers to use their own discretion when promoting their products. I don’t like to be censored nor do I want to censor anyone else. If I find activities of others offensive then I would simply unfollow them on twitter. I have actually found a lot of great information and tools behind a few affiliate links. Everyone should be allowed to build their online brand, manage their online credibility and reputations they see fit.

  18. This is pure sure twitter spamming. I have never been for spam. particularly when somebody gets traffic and profits for spamming a social network like twitter. It’s downright deplorable and unethical. I hope, Darren, that you don’t support it.

  19. I come to Twitter to learn and share ideas on how to build my brand, to nurture relationships and to sometimes just have fun! I do very little blatant self-promotion, and my only “promotional” tweets are done when I am doing giveaways or contests of some sort. I do think the above is SPAM and I do not think Twitter is the place for this type of post – just my 2 cents. I think it makes the person look desperate…he would peak my interest more by sharing tips from the book as opposed to blatantly linking to it. Then again, I never respond to any of those types of sales pitches anyway!

  20. I’m not sure twitter is reliable enough for anything these days… marketing or otherwise…. can you say FAIL WHALE??? LOL

    Momma at http://engineeradebtfreelife.blogspot.com/

  21. looks pretty spammy to me, I would consider it spam even if I saw only one of those, and if there is some sort of “report” function on Twitter I’m sure some of them have been “reported” unless only close friends watch what they write there. For me the way it’s done here is just a big no no for a program like twitter.

  22. Twitter will evolve in accordance to it’s users wishes… period!

    Whether it’s Joel doing the marketing or someone else the fact is that it will continue to go that way.

    Someone like Joel has a few thousand followers, who want to hear what he has to say… duh that’s why they follow him! He would be mad to pass them by and just tell em what he’s having for lunch!

    Given that, the people who do not like what he has to say or market can stop following.

    I for one do not like the way he throws his political leanings into the ring… and if that was all I was getting from him it would be bye bye Joel… however he has enough to say about other matters that make me excuse his politics.

    Isn’t this a bit like if you don’t like what you’re watching use the remote?

    So stop following the marketers… and stop following your friends who follow the marketers, and just maybe you should stop following the friends of your friends who follow the marketer… sheesh already!!

    Twitter is a marketers’ paradise… get used to it people!

    This is Dr. Kangaroo and I’m lookin’ out for the little guy! – gonna test your hype!

  23. Well, I definitely think that so long you don’t mislead your readers, sharing something that might benefit them will definitely be helpful.

    However, there seems to be so much that you can typed in on the updates on Twitter. Besides, I think Twitter is a great place to share a more personal side of you and build bonds with people.

    If too much of affiliates promoting the same messages, it definitely create the “spamyness” on Twitter. It can be quite frustrating if too much of the same messages appearing same time.

    But then again, I kindda feel that more of these might to come in the future, especially if more ‘Mentors’ are to pitch to more ‘Students’. So guess we kindda need to start with the root…

    – my 2cents

  24. Brian says: 11/01/2008 at 8:00 am

    Though I don’t think this was one of Joel’s better ideas it’s still within his and his affiliates rights to use twitter for promotion. If you don’t like it unfollow the bums and stop whining like little pansies.

  25. Okay, there really are several sides to the proposition at hand, all of them having value and merit. My first point of agreement is that Twitter as a platform does not fit into the “review” strategy, but rather the “comment upon, here’s an idea” strategy. In other words, I feel that Twitter is all about creating and establishing relationships, and updating followers and the Twitter community in general, to what you are up to. It is in this regard, the communal, that gives rise to concern, as Twitter, as the brilliant device for promoting our opinions and points of view that it is, will be used by marketers, indeed even presidential candidates, to solidify their relationship with their followers. To the very edge of some peoples tolerances. In my instance, the marketers that I follow on Twitter mainly Tweet personal stuff, like yourself Darren, John Reese, Frank Kern and several others. These are people that I want to hear from. This is what I like about Twitter, I also like the fact that if we are launching a new product we have the facility to promote the fact too. But as far as using links in the manner in question… Well, the jury’s out on that one. But I am quite inclined to agree with Brian.

    Keep Shining

  26. I’m not sure about doing twitter. I have an account but never used it.

    I’m sure Twitter has great applications, and is probably working wonders. I just don’t know if I need to be that connected to someone that they have to know what I’m doing every minute of the day.

  27. Invevitably, affiliate marketing is going to be pervasive on Twitter. It’s goot big a group of people to be ignored. However, I agree with you up to a point. The problem with Joel’s method is that as you stated it’s a) impersonal and b) that ugly affiliate link won’t sit well with anyone. Surprisingly, Joel has a url shortener not sure why he didn’t use it.
    There is also a growing crowed voicing their opinion against ANY type of commercial use on Twitter. To them, anything that’s not a link to news or something non-commercial is automatically labeled as “spam” Spam is way too generalized nowadays. People are posting links on Twitter all day long but, as far as affiliate marketing is concerned, it’s best to bring people to a site or blog and give them something for FREE. Then, in the material that’s given for FREE, they can pitch whatever they want. This assumes that if the person took the time to get something for free, they’re likely to be interested in other things. The notion taht people are just going to click on an affiliate link and buy stuff as part of a numbers game is nonsense. All Joel has to do is what I have done with my viral tool, send them to a blog, to another site, give them something for free and then hope they buy from your gifts and freebies. That way, the complainers won’t be so hard on the marketers. IN summary, there is a right and wrong way to market on Twitter and I have observed the same thing you have, right now it’s done wrong. Some people take Twitter very personal and they quickly complain about spam even when it isn’t. Perception of reality to them. So, marketers have to use common sense and think before they post stuff. Instead of buyers, all they get is a bunch of irate people screaming “Spam!”

  28. I think that as long as you’re not spammy then it will be tollerated by the community. If someone puts. “looking to buy a laptop” then I can’t see anything wrong with sending them a link if it’s relevant.

  29. wow alot of people have alot to say about this hot topic! as long as you dont spam you will be ok! im thinking about using twitter myself, only time can tell.

  30. I believe it can have it’s legit purposes with zero spam. What if I am an affiliate network that wishes to communicate to all my affiliates about a new program or commission change? The affiliates who follow me, will most likely get the info before someone who only relies on newsletter alerts.

  31. I think its okay to allow affiliate marketing on Twitter because if the volume of SPAM gets too high from any one tweeter you can choose to no longer follow them. I have done that on several occasions and have been satisfied with my experience.

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