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11 Steps To Success Online in 2023



11 Steps To Success Online in 2023

Collaborating with influencers is the fast track to online marketplace success!

Businesses with an online presence must up their game.


Successful influencer collaborations grab more market exposure, brand awareness, and sales than traditional advertising.

Plus, influencers provide positive social proof.

Sounds perfect? It is, and we will show you exactly how to do it!

Preview of the highlights:

  • Define Your Objectives
  • Set Your Budget
  • Pick the Right Platform
  • Find Potential Influencers to Collaborate With
  • Formalize the Agreement
  • Track Performance

Let’s get started!

Collaborating with Influencers: How To Guide

Follow our step-by-step guide here for successful influencer collaborations.

1. Choose Between Influencer Types

Influencers target different audiences. Deciding which social media influencer is best for you depends on your budget. According to USA Today, the common standard is $100 per 10,000 followers for a sponsored post.

Here are the main influencer types based on target market size.

Grab the Niche Market

Nano– (<10k followers) and micro-influencers (10-75k followers) have specific topics and dedicated followers. These influencers have a locked-in market that takes their endorsements to heart.

If you have a specialized product/service, these are the influencers for you. These influencers are the lowest cost-wise and more likely to review product samples free of charge.

In an article by Andrew Macarthy, Instagram cash payments range between $10 to $500 per post. YouTube influencers cost $20-$1,000 per post, and you will pay around $500 per 24-hour campaign for Snapchat influencers.

Seize Specialized Markets

Affinity influencers and bloggers cater to special interest groups with 50,000+ followers.

For example, in the healthy food niche, one of these influencers will net you a target market, not just in your location but nationwide.

A post costs $500 to $5,000.

Go Global with Mega Influencers

Mainstream social media influencers are the stars of their particular platforms and can turn any trend viral. They have a minimum of 500k followers.

With global reach, these influencers are for a business that plans market domination on a large scale.

For example, Prime, the latest drink sensation, was the brainchild of influencers Logan Paul and KSI. According to Bleacher Report, Prime made over $250 million in its first year.

Go Global with Mega Influencers.

These influencers charge from $10,000 up per post.

2. Define Your Objectives

Defining your goals is the first step. Do you want brand exposure, more sales, or to launch a new product?

Define Your Objectives.

Use these goals to define your objectives.

These are measurable. Instead of aiming for increased brand awareness, set an objective like “increase brand reach by 20% within three months” or “generate 500 leads in one month”.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure that you are on the right track. These have a minimum acceptable amount for achieving your goals.

Here are some examples:

Goal – more website exposure.

  • Objective – drive website traffic up by 30% over two months.
  • KPIs –  click-through rates or conversion rates. The acceptable minimum would be a 30% increase, anything over that means your objective has been achieved, and you can move on.

Goal – get the brand noticed.

  • Objective – a brand awareness campaign that grabs 30% more followers or shares on social media. This will take 3 – 6 months.
  • KPIs – follower growth, impressions, reach, or social-media mentions. If these metrics are above the 30% increase minimum, all is good.

How Long Will It Take?

How Long Will It Take.

According to LinkedIn, the timeline varies across platforms.

For product launches:

  • Instagram may take 1-4 weeks
  • TikTok 1-2 weeks
  • YouTube 1-2 weeks

Brand awareness goals take longer:

  • Instagram 1-3 months
  • TikTok 2-4 weeks
  • YouTube 1-3 months

Between one and three months, you can expect initial traction, audience engagement, and measurable progress. This phase is for working out what content works best.

At the six-month mark, there will be a deeper audience connection, increased brand recognition, and a growing customer base. This is the time to optimize your campaign message.

Naturally, if your campaign goes viral, all your goals are achieved virtually overnight!

3. Set Your Budget

Budget costs vary wildly depending on the type of influencer collaboration. A once-off post may involve giving away products or cash. For anything more, other factors come in.

Points to consider:

  • Duration of the influencer collaboration. Is it a one-time sponsored post, a week-long exposure, or an ongoing campaign that may last months? For a nano-influencer, it may just be samples. For an affinity influencer, with an average of $250/post, Considering a weekly frequency of 5 posts, a week’s worth of exposure is $1,250.
  • Assess content creation costs. Include the price of samples provided or if the influencer provides customized creations. According to Statista, Instagram nano-influencers charge $ 20- $100 on average per video, and micro and affinity influencers will cost you up to $ 2,500. Prices are slightly lower for TikTok and marginally higher for YouTube.
  • Factor in the cost of giveaway prizes.
  • If you want the influencer to work exclusively with your brand during the campaign, prepare for an exclusivity fee. For example, if a social media influencer charges $500 for a post and social shares, a 3-month exclusivity fee would be $500 x 3.

Check out the stats on influencer marketing platforms. These detail the influencer’s demographics, engagement rates, and estimated pricing. Some influencers provide pricing information on their social media bios.

4. Pick the Right Platform

Pick the Right Platform.

Do you understand your target market?

Knowing details – age, location, interests, behaviors, etc. helps you find the platform where they spend their time.

Check the demographics for the different platforms. For instance, around 32% of Instagram users are 18-24 years old. Around 23.5% of Facebook users are 25-34.

Consider user behavior. Look beyond demographics – consider the platform’s culture/user behavior.

Some platforms are better for visual content (e.g., Instagram and TikTok), while others excel at longer-form (e.g., YouTube and blogs).

5. Find Potential Influencers to Collaborate With

Some services only help you find a partner and others set up the influencer marketing relationship or manage it.

Influencer marketing platforms provide databases of influencers. Search based on criteria such as niche, audience size, location, and engagement rate. Examples are Upfluence, AspireIQ, and Tribe.

NinjaOutreach allows you to do even more once you have found the right influencer in their huge database. You can manage your outreach campaigns using their CRM to track negotiations and contracts.

NinjaOutreach landing page

Influencer marketing agencies simplify finding and collaborating with influencers. They match you to a creator. They can also guide influencer campaigns.

Here are examples of influencer marketing agencies: Viral Nation and Obviously.

Find Potential Influencers to Collaborate With -Viral Nation.

Online directories and databases are where you find lists of influencers from various industries.

They provide detailed profiles and contact information for influencers so you can reach out directly. Examples include, Social Blade, and Grin.

Find Potential Influencers to Collaborate With  - Grin.

6. Check Influencer Performance

Before contacting your potential partner, check their track record. Here are some options:

  • Explore the influencer’s social media accounts. Look for sponsored posts that indicate previous brand collaborations. Influencers disclose these partnerships by using hashtags like #sponsored, #ad, or #collab. 
  • Conduct a general search using the influencer’s username with keywords like “past collaborations” or “brand partnerships.” 
  • Examine the influencer’s engagement metrics, such as likes, comments, shares, and overall engagement rates. 
  • Contact businesses that have previously collaborated with the influencer. Inquire about the influencer’s professionalism and results achieved. This provides insights into the influencer’s reliability, communication, and effectiveness.
  • Some influencers have case studies on their websites. Look for strategies employed and the outcomes achieved.
  • Easiest of all, some influencer directories and platforms provide information about an influencer’s previous collaborations and brand associations. 

7. Choose the Type of Collaboration

The best collab depends on your objectives, budget, and timeline.

Choose the Type of Collaboration.

Quick guide:

For a once-off collaboration, many creators prefer cash. Smaller influencers may accept product samples. Some may ask for payment for the review; others may review your product free of charge.

Online competitions are a good tactic. The influencer will get followers to like predefined posts or a site, and subscribe.

Affiliate marketing is an option where your influencer gets a commission for sales.

Sponsored Content: you sponsor a blog post that the influencer dedicates to your brand. The influencer shares info about your brand/product and a link.

Working With a Brand Ambassador

Choose wisely because it is a long-term relationship!

Brand ambassadors represent your company on social media. Creators may attend events or do a set number of posts monthly.

They will not partner with a competitor.

Want to find out more about the difference between influencers and brand ambassadors? Read our article dedicated to the topic: Ambassador vs Influencer.

8. Select an Influencer

Ready to make contact? Remember – it is easy to change an influencer partnership, but you cannot change a brand ambassador every six months.

Select the best platform and find influencers whose target audience aligns with your market. Ask yourself: Do they have a strong engagement rate with their followers? Will their style fit your brand? Is this the influencer marketing style you want?

If you already love an influencer, you are halfway there. Confirm your choice with these points:

  • Reach and engagement
  • Content quality
  • Past performance metrics and collaborations.

Influencer sorted, now to make things official.

9. Formalize the Agreement

You want results in real life and on social media. If you are planning long-term influencer collaboration, consider a trial period of between one and three months.

Formalize the Agreement.

Everything should be discussed, finalized, and formalized in a written contract. Cover these elements:

  1. Campaign objectives. Communicate the exact results you want from the collaboration.
  2. Confirm your influencer’s content creation. Include CTAs and features like logos.
  3. Agree on social media channels. An Instagram influencer has a different target audience than a Tik-Tokker. The influencer marketplace is all about brand visibility.
  4. Finalize when and on which platforms post(s) appear. Frequency and timing make an effective influencer marketing campaign.
  5. Decide which hashtags will increase visibility and tracking. They can be business hashtags, campaign-specific, or audience-related.
  6. FTC guidelines and disclosures. Ensure you stay on the legal side regarding influencer marketing. There must be a clear disclosure of the relationship. 
  7. If applicable, have the influencer agree to exclusive collaboration.
  8. Compensation and deliverables. Specify expectations, payments, and result measurements.

You can find more information in our Influencer Contracts article.

Different Compensation Types

Payments can work in several ways:

  • Pay per post – pay for each content piece created.
  • Cost per engagement – based on engagement level (likes, comments, shares).
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • Give influencers your products/services instead of cash.

Successfully collaborating with influencers can be simple.

Is there a way to check how well influencer marketing is working? Glad you asked because, yes, there is!

10. Track Performance

Track Performance.

Tracking the performance measures your influencer collaboration’s effectiveness. This is how to do it.

A social media platform provides built-in analytics. These tools offer data on engagement, reach, and follower growth.

Check sentiment analysis from feedback received on the influencer’s posts.

Use customized tracking links or UTM parameters to track click-throughs and conversions generated from an influencer’s content. These bits of code are added to the URLs of website links or marketing campaigns. Sites like Moz and HubSpot give detailed instructions. Google Analytics Help Center has step-by-step guides.

Request regular reports from the influencer that give performance metrics and suggestions.

How to Work Out ROI

Assign a monetary value to goals. For example, if your goal is to generate sales, calculate the average revenue generated from each sale. Now you can quantify the campaign’s impact.

Record all expenses from the influencer campaign, including influencer fees, content creation costs, giveaways, and any additional costs.

To calculate the ROI, use this formula:

ROI = (Net Profit / Campaign Costs) x 100

Net Profit = Total revenue generated from the campaign – Campaign costs

If your Net Profit is $1,000, and the campaign cost $600:
ROI = ($1,000 / $600) x 100 = ($1.66) x 100 = 166.66%.

In other words, you earn $1.66 for every $1 spent on your campaign.

The ROI percentage indicates the return on your investment.

If you are running several campaigns, use this handy ROI calculator.

What can you get?

According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s Benchmark Report, businesses see an average return of $5.78 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing campaigns. Other studies show that 13% of businesses get $20+ for every $1 spent. 70% make $2+, the rest break even, with the lowest not earning at all.

83% of companies consider the Earned Media Value (the estimated amount of all exposure generated from third parties) a good measure of the ROI.

Izea found that influencer marketing can generate as much as 11x the ROI of traditional digital marketing methods.

Track Performance - ROI

However you look at it, it is a significant return!

11. Deal With Relationship Issues

Like all relationships, influencer collaborations need attention. Sometimes, everything works. Other times, not so much. The big question is – is it over?

Here is what to do when it is a case of “It’s not me – it’s you!”

Rewriting the Agreement

Rewriting the Agreement.

If expectations are not met, reconsider your relationship.

If the creator is great, but they have not met the required influencer marketing results, it is decision time. Renegotiate the contract to continue working together.

They may lower their rates or offer more services. If it does not work out, consider offering an affiliate partnership.

When it’s Time to Break Up

What if the influencer doesn’t work out?

Time to look elsewhere. Breaking up with your creator can be civilized.

  1. No one wants to be labeled the bad guy, especially on social media. Be polite. Do it in person if possible.
  2. Make it about business, not about them. For example, a budget constraint or business goals have changed.
  3. Express gratitude and acknowledge their work. A breakup is easier to handle when done sensitively.
  4. If you have unfinished work, a transition plan that allows them a graceful exit is essential.

Be professional at all times. Ending a relationship with respect leaves you with a positive reputation.

A Real-life Example of Collaborating with Influencers

A Real-life Example of Collaborating with Influencers.

Many online sites, like Everything PR and Qoints, were blown away when a major brand had huge success with a micro-influencer campaign.

Google used two Instagram micro-influencers, The Sorry Girls (less than 100,000 followers), to focus on their new Pixelbook laptop. It was a simple giveaway on a single sponsored post.

The post earned 11,137 likes and nearly 8,000 comments, which is an engagement rate of nearly 60% – in 1 week! (They posted on 28 November, and the giveaway ran until December 5th.)

This high engagement rate is exactly why big brands are refocusing their influencer strategies. Smaller influencers offer lower costs, higher engagement rates, and, most importantly, a better ROI.

The Final Word on Collaborating with Influencers

Global influencer marketing spending is predicted to reach 21.1 billion dollars this year.

With influencers guiding the purchasing power of millions of followers, you should take advantage. A relatively small outlay and a well-crafted relationship can get a massive ROI.

The hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt already has over 63 billion views, so there is no doubt that influencer marketing works.

Ready to go viral? Decide what you want, choose the right influencer, and care for the relationship.

Collaborating with influencers will unlock your brand’s full potential. See you online!

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John Thornhills Ambassador Program Review: Unleashing Digital Prosperity



In the realm of online marketing, the pursuit of high-ticket commissions has become a focal point for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Among the various programs available, the John Thornhills Ambassador Program stands out as a proven system that offers a pathway to substantial earnings. This comprehensive review will delve into the core components, benefits, and earning potential of Thornhill’s program. By the end, you will have a clear understanding of how this program can empower you to achieve digital prosperity.

Understanding the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Designed by the seasoned digital product expert himself, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program presents a unique opportunity to generate significant commissions. This high-end affiliate marketing initiative revolves around promoting Thornhill’s flagship programs, providing participants with the chance to earn up to $3,493 per high-ticket sale. Notably, the program also offers a 50% profit share from the sales generated by referrals, creating a two-pronged income source.

John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Core Components of the Program

To fully comprehend the Ambassador Program, let’s dissect its three core components:

  1. High-Ticket Webinar Funnel: As an Ambassador, you gain access to a personalized high-ticket webinar funnel, allowing you to effectively promote Thornhill’s flagship programs.

  2. 50/50 Profit Share: Any sales generated by your referrals entitle you to a 50% profit share, further augmenting your income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Building and leveraging your email list, which you solely own, is a fundamental skill that you will acquire through this program. This skill will result in consistent monthly revenue.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Benefits of the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

The Ambassador Program offers several distinct advantages that set it apart from other online marketing programs:

  1. Earning Potential: With the Ambassador Program, your earning potential is substantial. Not only do you receive significant commissions from high-ticket sales, but you also benefit from the sales generated by your referrals, creating a dual revenue stream.

  2. Second-Tier Profits: The program provides an opportunity to earn second-tier profits through the success of your recruited ambassadors. This mutually beneficial arrangement enhances your overall income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Effective email list building is a critical aspect of online business. The Ambassador Program equips you with the skills to build and monetize your list effectively, ensuring consistent monthly revenue.

  4. Fast-Mover Bonuses: As a testament to Thornhill’s confidence in his program, he offers Fast-Mover Bonuses to those who take swift action. These bonuses typically include additional resources and tools that can jumpstart your affiliate marketing efforts.

  5. The Guarantee: Thornhill’s commitment to the success of his program is evident through his guarantee. If you don’t earn at least $2,000 within your first 60 days, he pledges to work with you until you do.

Success Stories

Numerous success stories from beginners to seasoned marketers exemplify the program’s effectiveness. These stories serve as a testament to the potential that the Ambassador Program unlocks, showcasing the real opportunities it offers. The program has empowered individuals to achieve their financial goals and build thriving online businesses.

Joining the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Joining the Ambassador Program is a straightforward process. Once you sign up, you gain access to all essential resources, including the high-ticket webinar funnel, promotional materials, and comprehensive training modules. This all-inclusive package provides you with everything you need to start earning high-ticket commissions.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

A Deeper Look into The Ambassador Program

To truly maximize the benefits of the Ambassador Program, it is important to delve into its various aspects:

The Training

The program’s comprehensive training serves as the cornerstone of your success. It guides you through every step, from setting up your webinar funnel to driving traffic to your site, ensuring that you have the knowledge and tools necessary for success.

The Commission Model

The Ambassador Program employs a unique two-tiered commission model that allows you to earn from both your sales and the sales made by your recruited affiliates. This model enhances your income potential and provides additional revenue streams.

The Benefits of High-Ticket Commissions

Focusing on high-ticket items has the power to transform your income potential. Selling high-ticket items translates to higher commissions per sale, potentially catapulting your income to new heights.

 John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Making the Most of The Ambassador Program

To truly capitalize on the Ambassador Program, you must take action and implement what you learn. While Thornhill provides the tools, resources, and knowledge, it is your commitment to applying them that will drive your success. The program offers several strategies to help you make the most of your journey:

Networking and Collaborations

The Ambassador Program is not solely about selling; it also emphasizes building valuable relationships. Networking with fellow ambassadors can lead to collaborations, idea sharing, and more commission opportunities. By fostering connections and engaging with the community, you open doors to new possibilities.

Continual Learning

In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, continuous learning is essential. The Ambassador Program provides consistent support and updates, ensuring that you stay ahead of the curve. By staying informed about industry trends and implementing new strategies, you can maintain a competitive edge.

The Power of Thornhill’s Proven Funnels

Leveraging Thornhill’s proven funnels is a game-changer. When you join the Ambassador Program, you gain access to his tried-and-tested strategies that have generated millions in sales. By utilizing these proven funnels, you eliminate the guesswork from your marketing efforts and increase your chances of success.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Top 10 John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program FAQs:

1. What is the John Thornhill Ambassador Program?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program is a program designed to help individuals build a profitable online business leveraging John Thornhill’s affiliate marketing resources and strategies.

2. Who is John Thornhill?

John Thornhill is an entrepreneur and online marketer known for his expertise in affiliate marketing and digital product creation. He has built a successful online empire and aims to empower others through his programs and courses.

3. What are the benefits of joining the program?

The program offers several benefits, including:

  • Access to John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and resources.
  • Done-for-you marketing materials and sales funnels.
  • Community support and mentorship from experienced online entrepreneurs.
  • Free training and resources on various online marketing topics.
  • Lifetime commissions on sales generated through your affiliate link.

4. Do I need any prior experience to join?

No, the program is designed for individuals of all experience levels, even those with no prior knowledge of online marketing.

5. How much time do I need to commit to the program?

The amount of time you need to commit will depend on your individual goals and desired level of success. However, the program recommends dedicating at least 10-15 hours per week to achieve significant results.

6. What are the payment options available?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program offers three main payment options:

  • One-Time Payment: Pay the full program fee upfront through a secure online payment system for immediate access to the program’s resources. This option offers significant savings compared to monthly plans.
  • Flexible Payment Plans: Spread the cost over several months with convenient monthly installments. The program offers various plans with different durations and pricing. Choose the one that best fits your budget and financial situation.
  • Financing Options: Partner with third-party financing providers to extend your payment term and manage your cash flow. This option allows you to access the program and start generating income while making manageable monthly payments.

7. Is there a guarantee?

There is no money-back guarantee offered by the program. However, they offer a 30-day refund policy in case you are not satisfied with the program content.

8. What makes this program different from others?

The program emphasizes John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and provides access to his done-for-you marketing materials, which are designed to save participants time and effort. Additionally, the program offers personalized mentorship and support from experienced online entrepreneurs.

9. Who should consider joining this program?

This program is ideal for individuals who:

  • Want to learn proven affiliate marketing strategies from a successful entrepreneur.
  • Are looking for a step-by-step system to build a profitable online business.
  • Appreciate done-for-you marketing materials and resources.
  • Desire community support and mentorship.
  • Aim to earn lifetime commissions through affiliate marketing.

10. Where can I learn more about the program?

You can learn more about the John Thornhill Ambassador Program by visiting their website. They also offer free training sessions and webinars that provide further details about the program and its benefits.


In conclusion, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program offers a comprehensive and proven model for earning high commissions online. With its focus on high-ticket products, a two-tiered commission structure, and proven funnels, it presents a compelling opportunity for anyone seeking substantial online income. Success in the program requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to apply what you learn. By leveraging the training, support, and mentorship provided, you can embark on a journey towards achieving digital prosperity.

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Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity



Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity

Affiliate marketing spends in India are estimated to be Rs 2500 crore in FY 2023, constituting eight percent of the overall digital marketing spend, according to the State of Digital Marketing in India report. Despite the popularity of affiliate marketing, the model presents its own challenges, such as onboarding and managing affiliates, high commission fees, and vulnerability to fraudulent and malicious practices.

During a discussion at DigiPlus Fest 2023, marketers explored the evolving landscape of affiliate marketing and strategies to optimise return on investment (RoI). The session featured Nishant Jaiswal, VP – marketing, Zupee; Sachin Vashishtha, chief marketing officer, Paisabazaar, and was chaired by Saumya Jain,

Essentially, affiliate marketing involves incentivizing affiliates with a commission or payout to drive a business action, such as a click or purchase. The practice began with blogs, websites, and email but has since expanded to include social media and e-commerce platforms.

Vashishtha observed that while affiliate marketing was one of the most profitable and RoI-positive ways for online businesses to grow, it didn’t take long for bad actors to leverage it for fraud. Affiliates with malicious intent began generating traffic for brands using any means necessary to earn a commission.

The practice started losing its appeal until the explosion of the creator economy and the rise of influencers. Additionally, improvements in technology and the emergence of attribution models like multi-touch attribution or view-through attribution started bringing transparency into the affiliate marketing model.

Jaiswal remarked that affiliate marketing in India is still nascent compared to global platforms, where many end publishers are not directly accessible to advertisers. He said, “With technology, many fraud-related concerns like click hijacking, app install hijacking, and click spam can be controlled by your mobile measurement partner (MMP) or attribution partner.”

However, despite technological advancements, brands still run the risk of being visible in an unsafe environment due to the way affiliate marketing models are structured. While advertisers primarily engage with larger affiliate networks, campaigns might be outsourced to smaller publishers, networks, and individuals, making it challenging to map where conversions are coming from. Additionally, smaller publishers or creators may create clickbait content or reach out to irrelevant audiences simply to drive traffic or act with malicious intent, harming the brand’s reputation.

Vashishtha stated, “You can go back to the affiliate network and ban the publisher, but it is still very difficult to work with the ecosystem the way it is now. We prefer to work with large publishers or content creators directly.”

By working directly with publishers or creators, brands can see how content gets created and deployed to generate conversions. Jaiswal suggested that brands could share a high volume of assets with affiliates directly to test their effectiveness and ensure that the brand positioning and messaging remain consistent.

While it is not entirely avoidable to discourage malicious activity, Jaiswal opined that assigning realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) while designing the campaign can automatically rule out any fraud from the equation. He said, “Marketers could leverage a combination of hard KPIs and soft KPIs, where soft KPIs can be click-to-conversion rate, sign-up-to-purchase rate, and hard KPIs could be cost-to-purchase or cost-to-sign-up.”

Affiliate marketing has its fair share of challenges; however, the ecosystem is continuously evolving. With new technologies like AI, affiliate marketing initiatives will become sharper and more targeted.

  • Published On Dec 9, 2023 at 05:03 PM IST

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First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice



First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice

Open this photo in gallery:

Real Sports Bar and Grill in Toronto on Nov. 24, 2016.Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

When Sports Illustrated was outed last week for its alleged use of generative AI to create online articles – and, even worse, for topping them with fake bylines and AI author headshots – readers of the legendary glossy were appalled and disappointed at how the mighty had fallen.

But there was one element of the story that largely got lost amid the outrage, and it hints at an even darker prospect of what lies ahead for sports media and fans.

The SI pieces in question were product reviews: Inoffensive rankings of say, seven brands of volleyballs, which included links to Amazon that a reader could click on if they suddenly felt the urge to take up the sport. So, not only was the editorial copy generated by fake people, it was actually fake editorial copy. It was real advertising.

The practice of peppering editorial content with commercial links – known in the business as affiliate marketing – is a mainstay of Internet advertising, from movie reviews that direct readers to online ticketing sites, to podcasters and TikTok influencers giving out discount codes for listeners or viewers to buy merch from specific retailers.

But affiliate marketing has exploded in recent years in one notorious segment of the industry – sports betting, and its gush of ad dollars that are falling on a desperate media sector like rain on a parched prairie.

Affiliate sites that funnel new customers to online gambling operators are raking in the cash because of a quirk in that segment of the business – and they’re doing it on the backs of those new bettors.

In the spring of 2021, the Canadian sports media startup Playmaker Capital went public on the TSX Venture Exchange and quickly began scooping up digital properties with large followings that the company believed could be converted to bettors. When I interviewed Playmaker’s CEO, Jordan Gnat, shortly after shares began trading, he said he wanted to be in “the fan monetization business.”

There were tens of millions to monetize. The company began by buying soccer-focused sites in Latin America such as Bolavip, which targeted fans in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Central America and the United States, then expanded into the English-language North American market with the newsletter publisher and aggregator Yardbarker. Here in Canada it bought The Nation Network, which operates the hockey fantasy site, Daily Faceoff, and the Quebec-based La Poche Bleue.

But last month, Playmaker went from the hunter to the hunted when Better Collective, an affiliate-marketing giant based in Denmark that Gnat had cited to me as an inspiration for his company, gobbled it up for about $260-million.

The flurry of activity is partly because affiliate marketers who funnel customers to sportsbooks are an entirely different beast. They’re not just making one-time commissions, as they would if they were helping to sell concert tickets or tennis racquets or fly traps. Instead, they get a percentage of the sportsbook’s net revenue made from any new bettor.

“Net revenue” is another term for “total lifetime losses by a new bettor.”

Forget the pennies that digital ads are infamous for bringing in. If a site converts a reader or listener or viewer into a regular gambler – that is, a regular loser – the payday can be hundreds of dollars or more.

Here’s where it might occur to you that the incentives for a site to give you good betting advice might clash with that same site’s incentive to get you to sign up with a sports book and then lose a lot of money.

You would not be wrong.

In the social-media industry, there’s a saying that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. In the world of affiliate marketing, you are the product – the one that’s being sold to the sportsbooks. But boy, are you paying for it.

An academic paper published in January, 2020, in International Gambling Studies titled Affiliate Marketing of Sports Betting – A Cause for Concern? points out that many sites aren’t transparent about their duelling allegiances. It also notes that “people assign greater levels of trust to expert advice during decision-making tasks involving financial risk. This may be a particular concern for those who are just beginning to gamble upon sport, as they may be more inclined to rely on expert advice on bet choice due to their lack of experience.” Newbies may be especially susceptible, given that affiliates position themselves as being on the side of the bettor, when in fact they’re being paid by the sportsbook.

Which brings us full circle back to where we started. Generative AI is notoriously bad at a lot of things, including getting facts straight. But it’s very good at sounding confident, even as it bluffs its way through life.

And it’s about to use its charms to lull you into thinking you can beat the house.

Last May, Lloyd Danzig, the managing partner at the New York-based venture-capital company Sharp Alpha Advisors, noted in a piece for Sports Business Journal that publishers doing affiliate marketing for sportsbooks, “will soon leverage generative AI to instantly create thousands of SEO-optimized articles that discuss the current day’s calendar of games, betting trends, stories to follow, and sportsbook promotions. Pregame previews, postgame summaries, and highlight reels can be created on command without the use of specialized software or manual oversight. Articles, sportsbook reviews, and odds comparison pieces can be generated for any audience, with a fraction of the effort required from human writers.”

Think we’re already swamped with sports betting content? You haven’t seen anything yet.

Après ChatGPT, le déluge.

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