From TikTok Shop To Amazon Affiliates, We’re All Working On Commission

Whenever I need new skin care, I make sure to buy it from my friend Rachel. She doesn’t make skin care, nor is she some kind of influencer, but if I purchase a product that she recommends using a special link, I get a moisturizer, and she gets a small commission. Win-win.This kind of advertising model, called affiliate marketing, has long been a staple of the influencer industry, reserved for creators with large followings or relationships with brands. But the proliferation of platforms like TikTok Shop has brought the power of affiliate marketing to the masses, from established digital creators to stay-at-home moms with hardly any social media presence at all. Now, in the words of influencer coach Lissette Calveiro: “If you’re talking about something, you can make affiliate income from it.”Before creator Shelby Tomalin, age 30, decided to dabble in affiliate marketing in 2021, she’d spent a year writing about midsize fashion on her blog, Shelby Say What, amassing 20,000 Instagram followers. She made $4,000 in her first month.“The brand deals just weren’t cutting it at the rate that I was at, at the engagement I was at, to really sustain this as a business,” says Tomalin, who’s based in Seattle, Washington. “I knew I needed another pipeline of revenue.” On top of the commission, affiliate marketing programs like Amazon and LTK provide her with valuable data, which helps her negotiate more lucrative brand deals. “I was getting in front of brands with actual stats and analytics to be like, ‘Hey, here’s my ROI; I sold 800 of these tops. Would you want to work with me?’” she says. These days, Tomalin has more than 735,000 Instagram followers. Affiliate marketing makes up two thirds of her total income and allowed her husband to quit his job.Katera B. similarly found affiliate marketing when looking for another revenue stream. She’d just graduated college but was eight months pregnant with her son and knew she wouldn’t be able to go straight into a 9-to-5. She joined Amazon’s affiliate program, as well as an affiliate program through Benable, and set up storefronts selling everything from fashion finds to products she recommends for natural hair. She then began sharing these products on algorithmic platforms like TikTok, which she says are helpful for newbies because they rely less on follower count for distribution.“I’m promoting products on my various pages, which don’t have large followings,” continues Katera, who’s based in Mississippi. “But those videos have gone almost viral because I just mastered the art of creating engaging visual content.”In 2024, there are almost too many affiliate marketing programs to choose from, but all promise participants roughly the same thing: unique, trackable links to products and a percentage of any sales made using those links. Making a sale can be as easy as posting a link to a gadget on Instagram stories or creating a TikTok video dedicated to showcasing the latest viral water bottle and directing people to your personalized online storefront.When it comes to how much you can actually make, every affiliate marketing platform is different. One of the first mainstream programs, Amazon Associates launched in 1996 and offers bloggers and content creators the opportunity to earn up to 10% in commissions from qualifying purchases and programs. In 2017, the company launched the more exclusive Amazon Influencer Program, which assesses every applicant’s followers and engagement metrics. If accepted, participants can make a commission of up to 20% on a sale, Business Insider reports. Over the years, Amazon’s affiliate program has introduced a number of other features, like Storefronts (a shoppable page of an influencer’s recommended products) and Amazon Live (a platform where influencers can share their recommendations via video livestream).Personal recommendations are especially valuable for a store like Amazon, whose bloated expansion into an everything platform has resulted in an inventory of seemingly infinite, nearly identical products, all named something indecipherable like “Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 Long Slot 4 Slice Toaster, Reheat, 6 Toast Settings, Defrost, Cancel Functions, Built-in Warming Rack, Extra Wide Slots for Bagels & Waffles, Stainless Steel & Black.” (Much of Amazon’s bloat can be attributed to the rise in third-party sellers, which are brands it lists alongside its own products but does not stock itself.)Increasingly, the only way to make it through checkout with your sanity still intact is to rely on influencers or other websites to curate the shopping experience for you.Increasingly, the only way to make it through checkout with your sanity still intact is to rely on influencers or other websites to curate the shopping experience for you.Influencers are making these recommendations on platforms that, until recently, didn’t benefit from their sales. But last year, TikTok revamped its model, launching TikTok Shop, through which brands can directly peddle their wares on the For You Page. Creators, too, can join in through the affiliate program, provided they have more than 5,000 followers and are older than 18. Once they’re in, they can search the Affiliate Marketplace and add items to their Showcase, through which BI reports they tend to receive a 10% to 20% commission rate.“With TikTok affiliate, I’m getting like $7-plus per sale,” says Katera. “Where on Amazon you get pennies. So I feel like I’m going to move more toward TikTok Shop.”But TikTok Shop might not always be so generous as the novelty fades and the company has to get serious about making money. The writing’s already on the wall: In early January, TikTok announced it would be quadrupling seller fees on most items from 2% to 8% over the next few months.Like any form of passive income, affiliate marketing is often hailed as a get-rich-quick scheme. (“No hate to the MLM industry, but [affiliate marketing] feels that way,” Calveiro says.) In reality, it’s more likely to be a helpful side hustle than anyone’s primary income. The results are highly individual and are often at the mercy of the algorithm. “In advertising, we used to say it takes seven impressions for someone to convert, to see an ad and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m buying that thing now,’” Calveiro says. Unless you’re routinely going viral, it’s easy to sink time into content that won’t ever return commensurate sales.“That’s [my] lowest revenue stream,” says Ishita Khanna, a 30-year-old YouTuber based in India who is part of Amazon’s affiliate program and uses other platforms like Wishlink. “I know the more effort I put in, it’s going to get me more revenue, but it gets a little tedious.” Instead, she sees affiliate marketing as a solution for months when brand sponsorships or Google Ad revenue is thin.While affiliate marketing might be more trouble than it’s worth for creators, it works well as a low-effort side gig for regular people with in-demand expertise. My friend Rachel has years of experience in the beauty industry and was already answering the group chat’s questions about everything from dermaplaning to moisturizer to treating hormonal acne. Now, instead of dropping an Amazon link to her recommendation, she’ll direct us to her ShopMy storefront.Christina Strauss, a St. Louis-based 38-year-old who works in marketing, similarly found herself the go-to in her community for skin care recommendations. She created a separate Instagram account, Virgo Skin, for sharing tried-and-tested products with friends. After a friend sent her a referral link, she realized ShopMy could help her organize her recommendations, even if it doesn’t make her any substantial income.“It’s definitely just a fun perk,” she says. “If anything, it helps me rationalize product purchases I might not have made before so I can try them out and let people know what I think.”Ultimately, this natural, friend-to-friend connection is what influencers should aim to emulate, Khanna says. Otherwise, you’re liable to get lost in the noise — yet another person hawking goods on the Internet.And yet, every creator who spoke to Bustle said they hope to increase affiliate marketing. Right now, Khanna says affiliate marketing makes up 10% to 15% of her income. By the end of 2024, she’d like that number to be closer to 20%.“E-commerce is king, so I don’t think this is going anywhere,” says Tomalin, who’s creating her own course on affiliate marketing. “If anything, we’re going to see a spike and a lot more retailers offering things like shoppable links. TikTok Shop is just the beginning.”

https://www.bustle.com/entertainment/tiktok-shop-amazon-affiliate-marketing-influencer

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