No press samples featured. No affiliate links used. Not sponsored.
Affiliate deals aren’t really interrogated by readers in the same way that other blogger revenue streams are. There hasn’t been a huge push for transparency. That strikes me as odd because I’ve often found affiliate marketing can be more misleading and persuasive than a straightforward advertisement.
With that in mind, I thought I’d break down the workings of affiliate deals, the ethics of blogger/brand affiliations and what it means to the reader.
Hey, at least it’s not an ad!
When directing readers to purchase a product with an affiliate link or code, I’ve noticed that some content creators emphasise that their recommendation is not an advert, that they are not being paid to feature the product. Well, no. That line is technically true, but it’s misleading when you know how the content creator actually benefits. Let’s discuss the incentives for content creators:
Deal One – You’ll get paid €20 to feature some shampoo. You read the script, show the shampoo and then get back to Snapchatting the important things, like cats and other cats. (Find me and cats/other cats at lorrainehaigney)
Deal Two – You’ll get paid commission on every sale made through your link or using your code. Your rate depends entirely on how many people you can influence to buy the product.
Which one would make you more emphatic in your recommendations? You know, assuming you’re doing it for the cash and without much integrity. The commission, duh! Because of that, trying to gloss over an affiliation to frame endorsements deals as organic placement is more of an issue than a simple and disclosed advertisement. It’s not just misleading, it’s lying.
If I were following a blogger who used misdirection like this, I’d take their product recommendations with as much credence as I would the owner of the brand or a stockist of that product.
This Old Thing?
I’d love some feedback for this point in particular. Casually dropping an affiliate link without disclosing it as such is not good. That is the official stance of me. In some territories, content creators have to disclose their affiliation right beside the link AND they have to explain what that affiliation means there are then – not hidden in a policies section or at the end of a feature. Personally, I think that method is the most transparent way of operating, but I would bend the rules for Twitter, where I think a hashtag is enough disclosure for a straightforward affiliate link.
But in real life, there aren’t very many content creators admitting to using affiliate links. Why? I suspect they’re worried that their readers will choose not to follow an affiliate link if they know what it is. There are loads of reasons a reader might choose to do that – they might not want to enable cookies; they might not fully understand the deal and just want buy directly; they might not want to support the blogger.
There’s also the fact that disclosing is sometimes difficult. I completely understand that it’s not feasible to write out your disclosure policy on Twitter, but I don’t think an aul #affiliate is too much to ask. Right?
What’s That Over There!? Gotcha!
Clickbait affiliate linking might not seem as bad as other forms of unethical affiliate marketing, but it gets a mention because it’s so bloody common.
If you’ve not seen it in your timeline, it’s a type of bait and switch. Oh my GOD – have you ever seen such a beautiful bag? Link. Um, would anyone actually wear these? I can’t even look at them! Link. Oooh, I have a hot date this weekend – do you gals think this dress would work? Link.
Now, what’s the harm? Granted, you might not buy the items that you clicked through to see, but on some affiliate schemes, that doesn’t even matter. Clicking through to the website is enough to get your cookie stored. For about a month, if you buy anything off that website, the commission can go to the clickbait blogger.
This sharing method basically the same as straight-up undisclosed linking, but the clickbait element makes it worse – it says to me that the blogger lacks respect for their audience. Each to their own, but I end up unfollowing bloggers who carry on like this. Get me to click on a link to a crocodile skin thong once, shame on you, get me to click on a link to a crocodile skin thong twice, shame on me.
On The Bright Side…
After all that ranting, I’ve got to stress that I’m pro-affiliate linking. If I enjoy a blogger’s content and trust their opinion, I will always use their link or discount code. Always! I would click the underside of a donkey’s arse if it meant a good blogger made a few cent. We all need to make a living. Once it’s done correctly, there should be no issue.
I was inspired to write this post because 1) I’ve been in bed for three days so everything matters too much and 2) I’m Just Here For The Tea put together some incredibly informative videos on shady affiliate deals in the UK and US beauty vlogging world. Go watch her videos!