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How to Use Social Decision Making To Increase Your Affiliate Sales

Posted By Darren Rowse 3rd of May 2008 Affiliate Programs 0 Comments

Almost a year ago I started experimenting with a new technique (new for me at least) of creating ‘Best Seller Lists’ as a technique to drive more sales at Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

The concept was simple:

  • Analyze the things that customers have bought previously from your affiliate links to Amazon (they give you this information in their reporting area)
  • Pull together a list of the top selling items (those that are relevant to your niche of course) and list them in a post
  • Link to these items again with affiliate links

I wrote up the technique here.

Today I was looking through my Amazon statistics and realized that this technique has been responsible for around 40% of my earnings from Amazon over the last 4 months. A lot of the success comes from one page, the example I gave in my original post – Popular Digital Cameras and Gear but there are three others (Top 10 Point and Shoot Digital Cameras, Top 20 DSLR Models and Best Camera Bags).

Why does it work?

I give a few reasons in the post about the technique that I’ve linked to above but increasingly I’m convinced that it’s got something to do with our social nature as human beings and the way that we often make decisions as groups rather than as individuals.

I see it in my own ‘real’ life also. Among my friendship group four couples have purchased the same car, most of my good friends shoot with the same brand of camera to me, we’re all talking about sending our kids to the same schools…. the list goes on.

Social Proof and Affiliate Marketing – Two More ‘Techniques’

This idea of social decision making is powerful – particularly when it comes to affiliate marketing on blogs.

Reader Reviews – The other time I’ve seen it’s power is when I’ve posted a reader’s review of a product on DPS.

I have posted quite a few photography book reviews over on that blog – most of which I’ve written myself. They tend to convert quite well (depending upon the quality of the book) but the thing that I’ve noticed is that they convert up to 100% better when it’s a regular reader of the blog who posts the review and not me. For example this simple reader review of the Digital Photography Book did better than my own review of the same book!

I don’t think it’s because I’m not a convincing writing – I think the reason is that readers trust the opinions of other readers. Social decision making at play again!

When ‘Join Me’ Converts – Let me share one more example of this social decision making. Earlier in the week I posted here at ProBlogger that I had enrolled myself in a course to learn to make better videos for the web. This was a genuine post – I’ve enrolled in WebVideo University (it’s early days but it’s quite good so far). Of course the post contained an affiliate link (I’d like to pay for a new video camera for my videos somehow).

A number of ProBlogger readers signed up for the course (I think it’s around 10). It wasn’t a massive conversion but in talking to 3-4 of those that signed up I found that they were not only motivated by the course topic – but also by wanting to do something with me, to share the experience.

I didn’t use the ‘join me’ approach to the post to get more people to sign up and increase my earnings – but it did.

Now the course doesn’t give a lot of interaction between participants – but there’s still something about doing something that someone else is doing that I think comes into play here. The course is good and will fulfill a need but perhaps it’ll become more special to those doing it for the knowledge that others like them are also participating.

A quick aside – while I’m talking about ‘joining’ – if you’ve got a spare $8.62 check out a great book called ‘Join Me!‘. It’s about a guy who started a world wide movement of people simply by placing an ad in a local newspaper inviting people to ‘Join Me’. It’s one of the funniest yet also insightful books I’ve read in years.

What Do You Think?

I’m thinking out loud a little with this post – but have you experimented with these ‘social decision making’ ideas in your own affiliate marketing?

PS: Social Decisions Making and Blogging

OK – now I’m thinking out loud a little more (forgive me, it’s late on a Friday night… and I may just have had a couple of beers…) but I the more I think about it the more I realize that this social behavior goes beyond the purchases that we make and comes into play in a variety of areas of our blogging

  • It’s probably behind the way that many big blogs with their RSS counters on their blogs grow so much faster (people want to be a part of a blog that others are obviously a part of).
  • The same thing is probably true for blogs with lots of comments (people are more likely to interact on a blog where others are already doing it)

I’m sure there are other examples – looking forward to you adding to my list. Come on – think out loud with me my friends!

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Darren please keep on writing these kind of posts, because they are damn useful!

    Reminds me of a herd of sheep…You bought it? Oh snap, now I got to get it too. That kind of mentality

  • Getting some great ideas from reading your posts Darren. I wonder how I can implement these ideas into my facebook marketing campaign I’m planning…

    Thanks – I’m off to dig through the archives

  • I guess most of us feel comfortable going with the flow…’So many people can’t be wrong…So why not join them – makes my decision easier and safer’ kind of mentality…Croc shoes I think is one good example…I personally am not a big fan of these shoes but having said that I own a pair…

  • I call it the avalanche effect. That’s what makes alot of things difficult at the beginning. “the higher you go the cooler it becomes”.

    I think its nature’s way of rewarding perseverance, you keep putting in and then you get a little response one day and all of a sudden that response snowballs and you dont know what hit you.

    I think it’s also like the crowd effect. Maybe human beings feel ( a bit erroneosly) some safety in numbers i.e ‘we can’t all be wrong’, History has proven that notion wrong but….

    How else do you explain the ‘explosions’ in social networking sites. One day no one knows anything about them, the next day you’re archaic if you’re not on them.

    i think by letting a reader do the review the other readers feel ‘safer’, they probably think that if one of their’s feels the book is a good read then it probably will be same for them.

    Your post ideas are really good. I love the way you can switch between topics so effortlessly without drawing attention to it.

    Really nice post

  • Great post darren! I’ve had some success as well with posts of this type.

  • This is a nice idea, and because I frequently review personal finance books it is only logical that I create a “best business books” post with affiliate links.

  • I should probably trying to do this because I have started to write a few book reviews.

    You really do a service to the community by telling everyone the ins and outs of your experiences.


  • Hi Darren, another great post – it seems like you’ve been writing in a much more familiar tone lately, really enjoying them. Have a great weekend!

  • Darren, I actually signed up when it was still a regular link instead of affiliate link. Too bad. I’d gladly click on your affiliate link. Anyway, for me, it was not as much that the idea of a class about videos is sold to me. It’s just knowing the information that a class exists. For example, I wanted to take a voiceover class but I don’t know what instructor is good. So when a friend mentioned that her friend took one and like it, I signed up for that class. It’s the same in this case. At some point I’d have to look for books or DVDs about video-making. So when you, a source I trust, gave information that there’s a class available, it didn’t take too much convincing to sign up. So that’s the story for me.

  • Hi Darren,

    I can say the “join me” definitely worked for me. I’ve developed enough trust for you that when you recommended the web video course I signed up. Looks like a winner, too! Can’t wait to get started on a project next week.

    Hoping you have great sleeping tonight!


  • Great post,
    only wish there was a secret way to work out what people want to buy when you first start a blog (which is me) but otherwise you have to wait a year before you have enough data to analyse and create a top selling list
    great post though

  • I agree with Cindy above, trust is also a part of the “join me”.

    I haven’t been reading Problogger for that long, but your blog definitely builds up trust in its readers.

    This trust did influence me in signing up for the video course. But timing was ripe for me – I might have procrastinated a bit longer, did a little comparison shopping – or I might have signed up anyway, even if there wasn’t this prior trust factor.

    But, beyond trust and right timing, there were two other things that got me to sign up immediately:

    – The price was right
    – A fun factor

    Hey, this could be fun to do with others, hear their reactions etc. – the fun factor eliminated the procrastination of putting off something I want to do but never take time to do.

  • The RSS counter thing works both ways, doesn’t it… a big number says “hmm, this guy/girl must be credible”… but a small number says “guess no one trusts this bloke”. Of course, it could just mean someone is just starting out, but how can you tell from the number alone?

  • Thank you so much for the great ideas! Before I could get through the article… I was on the Amazon site… signing up as an affiliate. Thank you for making all of us better!

    Doyle Slayton
    Executive Director & Sales Strategist

  • The “Join Me” book makes me want to start a similar experiment myself! Is it the wisdom of crowds or the herd instinct?

  • I wrote a short post about flocking behavior which is kind of the same thing. You see I raise sheep so I know about followers.

  • Darren,

    Its really hard to keep up …. I mean with so much quality information and posts on all all good topics I wonder how do you think about all these topics….

    Since you are sharing alot of information …. Could you tell us how many of you guys are there in the think tank behind the Pro Blogger

    Anyways, Keep up the good work…


    Reply by Lara: Hi Mark, For the most part, Darren’s the one who writes almost everything here. He does have guest bloggers from time to time, and I work on managing comments and some other admin stuff around here. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that he’s always got something so fantastic to write about!? That’s why he’s THE ProBlogger!

  • I never thought of using social proof in amazon affiliate sales links :P But I think it has been used by marketers for long long time, like the whole “Here’s what other customers have had to say about this product..” sections in midnight tv ads (theres nothing better on and the girls selling workout products are hot) .

    Anyways I wrote an article on how to use it to attract women, has worked quite well so far.

  • Human being want to be part of the crowd [to be recognized, they afraid to be left alone] and also want to stand out from the crowd. That is why you can see people buy custom build home, special order vehicle [a lot of make over], designer fashion and limited edition stuff.
    It will work when you hit it at the right time only, but not every time.

  • No one wants to be cheated and we pretty much figure that if a bunch of people bought it then it won’t break.

    Which isn’t true of course. Just because a bunch of people own it doesn’t mean it didn’t break on all of them. It just means they whipped out a credit card.

  • This seems to be an innovative idea. Thanx for sharing.

  • Hmmm. Good idea. Never thought of collating data from the past myself, but you do give some good ideas to work on. Thanks.


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