If someone you follow on a social network recommends something to you, via an affiliate link, should they disclose it to you or keep it quiet?
As I am sure you know, a lot of people post affiliate links via social networking sites, which they do not disclose. Over the past few months, I have asked people why they are doing this. Some explained that they disclose their affiliate relationships on their blog or website, but not when they tweet affiliate links or post them via Facebook etc. Others told me that they are not legally bound to disclose their relationships to those who followed them, so they don’t. One explained that he sent a tweet out a year or more ago, which said he was an affiliate of a certain course; which he now tweets hidden affiliate links to daily, without disclosure.
There is also an increasingly popular trend right now, where ebooks are packed with affiliate links, and no mention of this anywhere. So, the ebook author strongly recommends products to his or her readers; which the reader doesn’t know the author is being paid to sell. They see the author recommending something and assume it is an unbiased recommendation, rather than something they get paid to sell.
Disclosure and trust
In my experience, trust plays a massive role in commercial success.
We buy from, and recommend, people we trust. Trust is also a key component in the longevity of a business. When someone discloses their relevant commercial relationships, they make it far easier for us to trust them. After all, if they are being honest and open regarding this, it’s natural for us to assume (rightly or wrongly) that they are also honest in other areas of their business.
Equally, if someone is an affiliate of something and they let me know it’s because they researched the product and LOVE it, I am actually even more likely to buy it, than if they just linked without any disclosure.
Disclosure and marketing relationships
People have previously told me, right here on this blog, that they always try to buy products or services via affiliate links, from bloggers / writers they like and trust, as a way of “tipping” them. I have done this many, many times myself. For example, when I bought the Headway blog theme that I use here, I bought it from Danny Brown; because Danny introduced me to Headway (affiliate link) and he uses full disclosure. It felt right to buy via Danny.
The business model for avoiding disclosure is a little unclear (to me.) My assumption is that the decision not to disclose, is based less on a business model, and more on the assumption that if people know you’re being paid to promote something, they will be less inclined to trust you – rather than more inclined. Whatever the reason for failing to disclose, in my experience, people hate having facts deliberately withheld from them.