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Web 2.0: Changing Affiliate Marketing

Sometimes you just need to change the rules to stay on message. So when a panel of affiliate marketing experts and consultants convened Tuesday to discuss their industry and how it can evolve and mesh with Web 2.0 ideas, we had to know more.

Joy Culbertson, a member of our production team, was on hand at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco to give us the play-by-play on this one. Her friend Lisa Picarille of Revenue magazine was moderating the panel, which included Stephanie Agresta (Affiliate Karma), Cam Balzer (DoubleClick Performics), Sam Harrelson (Sam Harrelson Consulting), and Jeremy Wright (b5media).

Affiliate marketing is a business model based on earning revenue by driving traffic to Web sites. The industry is comprised of publications, networks, and online marketers. What follows is Culbertson’s report:

Though often thought of as innovators and risk-takers in the Internet marketing world (for example, they were the first industry to buy up domain names for profit), affiliate marketers are also challenged with a “scrappy” reputation and a branding problem. To attract and recruit more affiliates, some marketers are rebranding their companies using euphemistic titles such as “Performance Marketing.”

And some are working to gain (potential customer) trust and legitimization by moving into new, more personal areas of the Web, such as podcasts, video blogs, and other social media interaction.

Panelists gave an array of examples of marketers who have successfully tapped into Web 2.0 technologies to gain revenue.

These include retailers:

  • Jones Soda has a popular community site. It uses contests and forums and more to create a buzz.
  • Kaboodle is a community site popular with tweens, who have user-generated an entire retail site about shopping (bought by Hearst Interactive Media in August ’07).
  • At Zappos.com, the CEO has an entertaining tweet stream that has attracted more than 2,000 followers with his charismatic personality and things like shoe giveaways. Gimmicky, yes, but 2,000 followers see it and many of them blog about it.
  • Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines have active Twitter accounts and blogs, plus contests, flight updates, and customer comments.

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