As Amazon turns 23 this year, it’s about to get more closely in touch with its fellow millennials. The company (very quietly) introduced its new marketing tactic March 31st with the launch of the “Amazon Influencer Program” for social influencers.
What is a “social influencer”?
[soh-shuh l / in-floo-uh n-ser]: Someone who is well known primarily because of a prominent social media presence. This can range from YouTube stars to bloggers to Instagram celebs, foodies to comedians to fashionistas. These are social influencers.
Some influencers produce content regularly without ever mentioning a specific product or brand. Others may acknowledge some of their favorite items without any prompting, which is just free publicity for that company. (Props for having an awesome product that people want to share with their followers.) The vast majority of social influencers, though, are contacted by brands looking to promote their products with an offer of free samples or compensation of some sort in exchange for a promotional post. This is the type of relationship the Amazon Influencer Program will entail.
But wait, doesn’t Amazon already has an Amazon Affiliate Program? Yes, a rather notable one. The Amazon Affiliate Program is open to the public and allows you to build unique-to-you links, or vanity URLs, and shopping ads to insert on your website, social media, blog, etc. When a reader clicks on the link and buys the product, the affiliate receives a commission on the sale (since it was seen and purchased through the person’s distinct link). And it’s not just for individuals: some companies depend on this program for their product page’s “buy now” links.
So what’s the difference?
The main distinction between the Amazon Affiliate Program and the new Amazon Influencer Program is exclusivity. To be considered for Amazon Influencer status, you must submit an application that then goes through an extensive vetting process. Though Amazon has not laid out all of its criteria for selecting Influencers, it did say individuals must have a “large following,” without specifying a number. Other areas taken into consideration are fan engagement, quality of content and relevancy for Amazon. Another rumored difference, though Amazon has neither confirmed nor denied, is that Influencers will likely receive a higher commission than Affiliates.
Amazon is getting mixed reactions to this announcement, as the idea of commissioned influencers is somewhat of a controversial topic in the social media community:
+ In one corner, team pro-influencer supports the firsthand accounts of products from influencers they trust the opinion of. Just
like traditional ads, utilizing social influencers gets the brand name out there in a positive light.
– In the opposing corner, team anti-influencer believes that you cannot trust that the product is up to par, because the individual promoting it may be receiving compensation for speaking highly of it.
+ In response though, according to TechCrunch, Amazon has no input on product selection, vetting or providing free products.
– On another note, there’s also a growing concern from companies, and Amazon is no exception, that the materials influencers publish do not align with company brand guidelines.
+ Amazon is hoping a heavier vetting process will minimize this issue.
Who’s the winner? As the Influencer Program begins to infiltrate social media, we’ll see if it’s Amazon.