If certain users’ links and posts are more likely to drive traffic to retailers, social media shopping sites are willing to pay those members for their brand and product endorsements. Well, that makes sense. No wait — Pinterest, the Fancy, and their ilk are supposed to represent organically-driven user content. What does it mean when people are getting paid for placements?
The answer seems to change depending on the venue. When Facebook and Twitter users post products via affiliate links (which allow them to get paid, either for the number of people who subsequently click the link or if someone buys the item), it seems sneaky. Those sites, after all, are for socializing, not selling (at least, not by individuals). Some shopping-centric social networks are up-front about their payment systems, however, and the transparency makes the practice seem more acceptable. Beso, for instance, is a social shopping site that makes it clear that influential bloggers get paid for their posts.
A gray area emerges where sites appear to be product-focused and driven by unpaid users, when in fact, site members are making money. Pose, for example, invites users to share pictures of their outfits. A recent upgrade now links relevant products to user photos, and both the site and the member who posted the original picture make a small commission if someone buys the item in question. And guess what — this new system allows Pose, for the first time ever, to generate its own revenue. As for users, the money they can potentially make just seems like an incentive to post more. In this case, it seems like everyone wins.
The Fancy, meanwhile, always intended to sell you things; co-founder Joe Einhorn told us that way back in August. Having simply changed the way members link to products, switching from regular links to affiliate versions, the site makes money. Again, this isn’t a bad thing.
All in all, the chance to make money via social media seems like a non-issue. After all, magazines like Lucky and Harper’s Bazaar are now directly selling the things they were supposed to once merely editorialize. What’s so bad about individuals making a little income (and really, it is just a little) by sharing the products they love?