Affiliate links can be a simple way to pick up some extra cash, but at what cost?

Before we explore the pros and cons, let’s first step back and talk about what they are. Brands set up affiliate programs to reward people, often called brand ambassadors, for directing sales their way. Each brand ambassador is given a unique URL for tracking purposes. Click on that link for a product, for example, and the referring party (often a blogger) will get paid a predetermined fee if it translates into a sale.

For example, some bloggers are Amazon affiliate marketers. So if you’re reading a book review and want to learn more, you click on the link. It takes you to the Amazon sales page. Buy the book and — voila! — the blogger’s made a little money.

There are pros and cons to affiliate marketing.

Before you start adding affiliate links, consider this.

Affiliate Links: Hype or Hot?

Here’s why you might consider affiliate relationships:

  • you love the product
  • you’re already writing product (or service) reviews
  • you want a passive income stream

Lots of people have affiliate marketing deals with various companies (notably Amazon). And maybe it is a perfect fit for you. But “lots of people” aren’t your brand or your reputation. Before you start adding affiliate links to your website, ask:

  • What will my audience think?
  • Will my readers still find my reviews credible?
  • Will people think I’m sales-y?
  • Does this product fit my brand?
  • Is affiliate marketing consistent with my brand values?
  • Is the extra cash worth it?

Affiliate relationships must be disclosed.

This isn’t me on a soapbox — it’s the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has pretty clear guidelines that you must disclose sponsored posts and that influencers must disclose when they are paid. The FTC disclosure rules were prompted by the rise of the “mommy bloggers” — a powerful group in the mid-2000s that were commanding all kinds of swag to write favorable stories about a wide range of products. The commission saw the direction that blogging was headed (and, subsequently, social media as well) and ruled that transparency and disclosure were essential.

I’ve become a brand ambassador — and all the money is going to charity.

There are no affiliate links on my website.

Whether you’re landing on my site for the first time or are a regular visitor, it’s clear that I don’t have affiliate links. Nor do I have badges and other faux social proof points. It’s never been my thing, and it’s not authentically my brand or me. I provide recommendations to readers (and clients) because a book or a product has helped me or could be of use to you. Full. Stop.

And that is not going to change. But I do love Buffer, and I’ve been recommending it for a long time. It’s a pretty cool company and a handy social media scheduling tool that I use every day. So when Buffer said they were rolling out an ambassador program I knew I wanted in.

Here’s how it’s going to work. For every person who signs up using this unique Buffer referral link, I will donate my referral fee to charity — and match the first $150. It’s a win-win. And that is consistent with my brand and my values.

If you’ve been thinking about using Buffer but haven’t made the plunge, now’s your chance. The Pro Plan is $15/month (with a 20-percent discount for paying annually) and lets you schedule up to 100 posts at a time across your social media platforms. There’s also a free option and business plans (if you have multiple users) that start at $99/month.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. (Unsplash).

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