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.
- 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.
- Free products/services
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.
- 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.
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.
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!