Brands & Influencers: How they help each other make $$$

Last week, Amazon launched a Social Media Influencer program. The program will allow the influencers to earn fees for purchases that were made through their social media accounts and posts. Amazon will also assign a custom URL for the customers who would want to shop a certain influencer’s feed. Unlike the existing Amazon Affiliates program that allows anyone to build in Amazon product links into their websites or blogs in exchange for sales commissions, the new Social Media Influencer program will be highly selective.

To apply for the program, one must list their social media accounts in their Amazon Public Profile Page and verify the email address. Amazon will then review the applications on a rolling basis, and contact the influencers if selected. Of course, getting selected is not guaranteed. According to Amazon,

The Amazon Influencer Program is exclusively designed for social media influencers with large followings and a high frequency of posts with shoppable content. … As we evaluate requests for invitation to the Amazon Influencer Program, we look at various factors including but not limited to number of followers on various social media platforms, engagement on posts, quality of content and level of relevancy for Amazon.com. There is no set cut-off and influencers across all tiers and categories are represented in the program.

As you can see, the guidelines for being an influencer are not clearly defined, and Amazon reserves the right to decide whether or not you will be able to participate in the program. Although utilizing a network of engaged Internet users in order to drive sales is not a new move for Amazon, the new influencer program will allow Amazon to access higher quality users who have a dedicated and active following, and the rigorous application process allows Amazon to control who will promote their products on their behalf.

The Other Side

Just like Amazon, I find it hard to define who Social Media influencers are. In general, they are power users on one or more social platform that have built a substantial following and are actively posting and engaging on those platforms. Most of Social Media Influencers gain their following by showcasing their life or a particular aspect of it on social media platforms. They also make income from demonstrating various products and brands – in a lot of cases, that is also their only source of income. So how exactly do they get paid? There are several ways of monetizing the posts.

  1. Affiliate links

This is the most common way for a lot of influencers and bloggers to make money. When they feature products in their posts, they also provide links to purchase those products from their posts – and if a purchase happens, they get a small commission on the sale. Amazon Social Media Influencer program works the same way. A similar program is offered by LIKEtoKNOW.it, a network for fashion bloggers and their followers that allows the partnering bloggers to place the links to the detailed items in their outfits, and the users to easily find them. The platform has been highly successful, generating over $1 billion in sales for its 4000 partnering stores.

  1. Free products/services

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    The FTC requires disclosing brand partnerships by using hastags like #ad or #sponsored to avoid a fine of up to $250,000.

Many brands contact SM influencers directly and send them products for review or simply as a gift. Depending on their own policies, the influencers then share their honest feedback on the products, or just thank the brand publicly for the gift (free product), showcasing it to all of their followers, which is most certainly bound to generate some additional clicks for the brand in return.

  1. Brand partnerships

As an extension of #2, brands sometimes enter into wider partnerships with influencers in order to expand their reach. A famous travel blogger Jack Morris (@doyoutravel) partnered with Airbnb on a series of posts on his SM channels where his travels and stay were sponsored by the brand. In addition to that, he hosted a Snapchat takeover for Airbnb as well – driving some of his audience to Airbnb’s channel.

Celebrity Influencers

While a lot of celebrities can be considered Social Media Influencers as well, not all Social Media Influencers are celebrities (but they can be considered “Internet famous” regardless). The main difference between the two is that the celebrities are famous in the “real world”, be it through music, sports, movies, reality TV, or something else. In the case of SM influencer celebrities, brand partnerships and free product deliveries are the most common ways for marketers to increase their engagement.

Perhaps the most notable partnership lately was the one between Coca-Cola and the singer Selena Gomez, where the company released a limited edition of bottles with the singer’s lyrics printed on them for their “Share a Coke and a song” campaign, an extension of the highly successful “Share a Coke” campaign that has earned the brand a lot of points with its introduction of personalized bottles with names. As a part of the new campaign, Selena Gomez posted a photo of herself holding a Coke bottle with her lyrics on it to her Instagram page. With over 6 million likes as of today, the photo quickly became the most liked photo ever on Instagram, earning Coca-Cola a powerful wave of engagement through word of mouth – and putting their new bottles in front of Selena’s 116 million followers at the same time.

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The most liked photo on Instagram.

The Result

Researh by McKinsey shows that WOM is the primary factor in making 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions, and Social Media Influencers are a perfect channel for WOM marketing. The categories in which SM influencers are active and present are virtually endless – travel, fashion, fitness, beauty, child care, pets, or the more general lifestyle category. And while there are common power users in each category, there are even more influencers in subcategories – and this segmentation is exactly what appeals to marketers when they choose to partner with a Social Media Influencers, as it gives them access to an audience highly engaged in a particular subject. Often times, the users form an emotional bond with the particular person they are following, which makes them even more likely to trust a particular brand or product recommendation. Being able to demonstrate your product in a front of an audience that is highly interest and involved in that category, and trusts the person who provides the product recommendation is almost guaranteed to get the brand a higher ROI on an influencer-backed marketing campaign, which is why we will continue to see more and more brands trying to engage with audiences in this indirect, but highly effective way.

Do you think Social Media Influencer campaigns are good for the brands? What are some of the campaigns that have stood out to you in the past? Let me know in the comments below!

10 comments

  1. laurenmsantilli · ·

    Really good post! It was clear you researched the topic and provided a lot of important information in the blog. I think social media influencers are amazing for brands and definitely can boost sales. Another blog in the past talked about how it takes long for Youtubers and other internet celebrities to build credibility, but once they do, their followers are loyal to them and likely will buy into brands they follow. For example, I follow Stephanie Ledda on Youtube for her videos about fashion, makeup, and lifestyle. In her clothing hauls, she often features clothes from Lululs, which I started buying from after hearing her mention the quality and pricing of the brand. Additionally, I follow Tammy Hambrow for fitness information, and she promotes Women’s Best Protein. I ended up buying the protein with her discount code after hearing her attest to the results. Having a social media influencers with strong followings can really influence the target market of a brand, and expand their following.

  2. viquezj · ·

    Excellent post! For the last couple of years, I have seen this ‘media influencers’ posting pictures of their most recent gifts or publicly supporting one particular brand, but the Amazon influencer program seems like a better solution to establish relationships between the company and the user. It is definitely going to be a challenge for Amazon to choose who is fit to represent a particular brand and who isn’t. Specially because you do not really know who is behind those accounts, and you are trusting them with the representation of the brand. At the same time, I would to see the reaction of followers towards these product partnerships with media influencers because I do not think people use their social media to see ads. In my personal experience, I tend to unfollow those accounts that are currently posting to sell something. I would like to see if other people are going to do the same

  3. aecharl · ·

    Great post! I do wonder, however, if Amazon is losing some potential revenue by being more selective about who can generate a link to an Amazon product. Amazon is known for selling just about everything, so it isn’t like a high end consumer goods brand that needs to maintain a high status and only have elite influencers. I wonder what their rationale was for cutting out potential profit by limiting influencers.

  4. alexisteixeiraa · ·

    Really enjoyed this post and am very interested to see how the Amazon influencer program works out. I often am on my explore page seeing what appears to be unsponsored ads because while they are probably not getting paid, but probably getting free products and incredibly enough I usually look up the product even if I don’t buy it. I think this is a brilliant way to market, especially if you are a lesser known brand, you find a celebrity or an influencer and immediately over 1 million people know about your product. That said, it becomes difficult when these people are being paid because it is hard to know whether the product is actually good or if they are just posting about it because they are getting paid… Overall great post, really interested to see how this program does and if a lot of people use it!

  5. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Great post: good layout and awesome content that was clearly something you are passionate about. I really liked that you introduced us to this new venture because I will really enjoy watching it grow wither successfully or flop. I agree there may be some difficulty defining who is a social media influencer and picking specifically people who have a big shoppers following. I wonder if Amazon would let them sell their own products on their or just the ones that they are endorsing? I cant wait to keep learning about this. nice Job!

  6. lenskubal · ·

    What a great post! I think social media influencers are an integral part of brands and how they raise awareness to their product. I have seen media influencers before, but the Amazon program seems like a better way to form relationships with users. A friend of mine was a social media influencer for the brand, Sun Bum. At first, she had trouble building credibility, but shortly after her Instagram follower count skyrocketed and she became very popular on social media. I loved the section of your blog that featured Selena Gomez and her partnership with Coca-Cola. What a brilliant way to expose and market your brand!
    I am very interested to see how the Amazon influencer program works out and how it compares to the standard social media influencer. Their program seems like it will really establish a bond between brand and user, but it will be difficult for Amazon to identify candidates that fit the requirements each brand has.

  7. How influencers make money was always confusing to me because it always seems like they live the most extravagant lives but don’t work (this is probably only a select few). It’s also interesting because there are so many influencers. Everyone seems to follow their own “2nd tier” influencers and then there are a few really popular accounts.

    I think the Amazon Influencer Program will be a great opportunity for influencers. With the amount of information and guidance Amazon can provide, this program will be invaluable. I think that keeping it more exclusive in the beginning for a “soft opening” will be the most effective way to launch this program because it is somewhat unchartered territory.

  8. I’m somewhat torn on the whole “influencer” thing. If its just notifying these key people of your product so that they’ll review it, no problem. It’s when they start getting paid to sell products without revealing it that problems arise.

  9. talkingtroy · ·

    Great post! I’m curious to see how well this will work for Amazon considering they have so many products. Are they trying to push people to Amazon in general or pitch specific products? Selena Gomez with a Coke is simple to understand but Amazon seems a lot more complex to me. Utilizing influencers definitely makes sense – I go to people all the time for their opinion as unofficial experts.

  10. fayehubregsen · ·

    If not before, I am definitely convinced of the value Social Media Influencers serve to brands after reading your post. In particular, Amazon’s move to enter the Social Media Influencer Program space is a strong one considering that Social Media Influencers cover several of the steps in brand development that marketers do not have to dedicate as much energy to as before including vetting qualified leads and as you mentioned trust and WOM through creativity. However, I wonder what implication this may have for the average social media user who often takes these Influencers’ word at face value. If the recommendation for a particular brand by an Influencer is oversold, I sense that consumers will be highly dissatisfied because people do not typically like surprises. This could be a risk that brands take in trusting Influencers to carry their message and with that, potentially failing to manage consumer expectations.

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