Web 2.0 / Web 3.0 Shifts That Affect Affiliate Marketers

by Sherry Gordon


Affiliate marketing is now over a decade old, and the Web is well into its turbulent teens...  Things don't stay the same, do they?  

Somewhere around 2004, Web trackers started to speak of major changes to the structure and usage of the Web (calling this shift toward more social interactions "Web 2.0").  Affiliate marketing is mostly done online, so you won't be surprised to learn (or maybe you already know) that many of these Web 2.0 changes are affecting affiliate marketers.

In another article, I'll note some of the new directions that affiliates are taking in response to these changes.  For now, let's run down in a list of evolutionary shifts and divergences that are coming more fully into play circa 2010.  (If you don't know anything about some of them and are interested, try looking them up in a search engine for more information.)  While you're reading through them, be thinking in the back of your mind about how such things might affect affiliate marketing...

  • Interactivity & social networking - from blog commenting to an emphasis on real-time interaction such as instant messaging (IM) and online conference rooms, person-to-person and person-to-group interaction is a big draw; out of this has come the development of communities of people all interested in the same thing (either on separate topical sites, or in multi-topic sites such as Facebook)
  • Social sharing - a specialized form of social networking, there's far more sharing of information going on, from sales sites such as Amazon ("Listmania" lists, "So You'd Like To" guides) to sites dedicated to such (eHow, social bookmarking sites like Delicious, photo-sharing sites like Flickr, and of course YouTube for videos)
  • Customer rating/voting - there are rated product reviews enabled on sales sites (Amazon and HomeDepot are examples); there are sites such as Digg and Reddit where members vote their approval (or disapproval) of web content (and numbers of votes = rating)... all of which utilize the collective intelligence of the crowd of participants/users  [A note:  Anyone on the web might assume that they and their site will be talked about!]
  • Greater inclusiveness of social sectors - there's been a vacuum that's slowly filling up, of websites and online services for bricks-and-mortar small businesses, local agencies, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, all the bits and pieces that makes up a community in the real world
  • Collaboration & "crowdsourcing" - not just the social networking communal stuff, but also more group collaboration on shared projects (e.g., open source software, IdeaMamaClub.com invention incubator), and the whole idea of farming projects out to the masses (à la Wikipedia)... which allows the crowd to participate in changing the direction of the project
  • Customer definition vs. business dictation - as just mentioned, there's a whole lot more asking of customers what they want rather than the traditional emphasis of telling customers what they should want... which again leads to an unpredictable, "organic" development of sites and products/services, and a more cooperative mindset in general
And these are some of the "costs" of asking the crowd what it wants and allowing users to morph the direction of a service (initiating overall change that leads to greater opportunity for more naturally giving-focused entrepreneurs to "lead with their hearts"):
  • Focus on "free stuff" - at this late date in the history of the Web, someone will offer something for free that someone else is offering for a price... so why would you not learn from that and give so as to establish trust and a good feeling about you?
  • Less intrusive advertising - with the burgeoning of competing websites as well as these other changes, people respond less and less to in-your-face banner ads and more and more to what helps them:  more contextual ads (like Google AdSense) and truly helpful, freely given enticements (ebooks, trial memberships, etc.), as opposed to spammy onslaughts of emails and mere pieces of things (like only the first part of an article, and then you have to pay for the rest)
  • A rise in altruism - from what we might call "wishful altruistic thinking" of entrepreneurs who set up a framework that encourages altruism (e.g., IdeaMamaAdNetwork.com, with a stated emphasis on promoting "green" companies, and which enables participants to channel funds to charities), to communities inclusive of and supportive of charities (as with many Facebook "Pages"), to more purposeful support for non-profits (NetSquared.org)
...And because of all this, perhaps:
  •  A greater difficulty in monetizing major offerings - note that YouTube, after an ad-free "honeymoon period", now places ads in front of you when you view any video (obnoxious, isn't it? - they have to make money somehow; and the flip side is that those are golden advertising opportunities for some businesses)... and we can expect more of that "honeymoon is over" stuff all along the line  [Shall we call this "Web 2.1"?]

And then there are some other factors that play into these evolutions in different ways:

  • Mobile reach - with so many using mobile internet devices, mobile reach becomes more important; location-based search and location-based marketing are also more popular and more important all the time
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is a little less critical - with blogs, forums, wikis, article repositories such as EzineArticles.com and eHow, and plenty of online communities to join, you don't have to undergo the rigors of website SEO to participate as an author on the Web
  • Syndication of content - while RSS and Atom web feeds come first to mind, similar Google Alerts, the technology that enables streaming audio and video, website news  and stock quote feeds, and YouTube videos to be embedded on other sites, and even Twitter "tweets" are all examples of content syndication (much of which is automated - like Amazon's category-related affiliate banner links - rather than the one-off decision to embed a specific video on your site)  [Syndication keeps a website "freshened up" - and provides content authors with the great benefit of viral reach]
  • New ways of using old material - "data mining" or "scraping" (extraction of specifics from huge, unwieldy databases - such as Satellite-Sightseer, scientific aids such as Volcano Monitoring Using Google Earth, and all the "funniest videos" sites) and "mashups" (combinations of elements from two or more databases - check out these cool examples of Google Maps mashups) continually provide greater depth and incisiveness to users' accessing of information

Some of these factors you'll certainly have been aware of already.  Even if you're aware of all of them, it's pretty interesting to put them all together, isn't it?  It's certainly a different picture than when I started looking into webmarketing a decade ago.  It's even a darned different picture from a few years ago. ...Which underlines a major truth about the Web:  

Things change!  We're wise to expect it - and to be willing to shift when shift happens.

Gordon Pioneering - Copyright 2-2010



You are very welcome to reprint this article in its entirety, including hyperlinks, if you'll also put this resource box at the end:

Sherry Gordon is the learn-it-and-pass-it-on creator of "The Affiliate Marketing Primer", at http://www.AffiliatePrimer.com/


Many thanks for your interest! 

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