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Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024: What’s the Difference?

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Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024: What's the Difference?

Getting the word out about your brand is one of the most pressing problems business owners face today, especially in a competitive online landscape. Fortunately, there are lots of solutions to grow through the use of affiliate marketing vs referral marketing. Both are sustainable practices you can implement repeatedly, but which is better?

If you are thinking about launching affiliate and referral programs, you should know when to employ each and what it will ultimately cost you. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to decide which is right for your brand.

Let’s dive in.

Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing: Major Differences

Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024 Whats the Difference

The first major difference between affiliate and referral marketing is how a lead comes to you. An affiliate is typically another brand or influencer who markets your product on their platform. Their audience may or may not know them in real life. Referral marketing gets people to your brand by referring people your existing customers already know.

Another major difference is the payment method for both affiliate programs and referral programs. An affiliate referral program typically pays out in cash, whereas referral marketing may pay in rewards, free products, or discounts.

In both cases, you will pay for a successful referral but the marketing strategy is different for both. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from both and how you can implement affiliate and referral marketing programs.

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What is Affiliate Marketing?

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Affiliate programs rely on influencers and other avenues to relay the news of your outstanding product or service to their unique audience. The marketing person (the affiliate) is paid for their work based on the number of leads they generate or the sales they secure for you.

They must share your content on their social media platforms, YouTube channels, or blogs. They might post an honest review of your goods or service, putting you in front of a much wider audience. Because they are already known, liked, and trusted by their audience, some authority will transfer to you.

It’s important to note here that your affiliate marketer doesn’t necessarily know their audience on a more personal level. This is the key difference between an affiliate program and a referral program.

How to Implement Affiliate Marketing

The only real requirement for your affiliate program is to create personalized links for each affiliate you welcome into the program. This allows you to track who is making what sale and allows you to pay out the correct amount at the end of the month or quarter.

Of course, you will have to pinpoint brand advocates who can do your product or service justice. Make sure you interview or collect data from interested parties to check for alignment with your industry and the reputation of your brand. This also helps you to find more successful referrals instead of watering down your message.

Be sure to see our guide here on how to create an affiliate program.

If you don’t necessarily want to run your affiliate programs, you can register your brand through other companies like CJ Affiliates.

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What is Referral Marketing?

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Referral marketing is fairly similar to affiliate programs, but it has one major difference: they have a real personal connection with your brand and are marketing it to people they know in real life. Referral programs work by encouraging existing customers to share your business with their friends and family members directly.

They may not post it on their blog or even share it on social media. It could be far more targeted than that, sending your information to the specific people they think could benefit from your services.

You have a much higher chance of closing a sale via a referral program, but the reach is less than expected with affiliate programs. Still, these marketing strategies shouldn’t be overlooked when expanding your audience.

How to Implement Referral Marketing

Implementing a referral program might be a little more cumbersome, but that doesn’t mean you should immediately turn away. Referral programs require you to keep track of points, bonuses, and all of the goodies you deliver to your brand ambassadors for doing your marketing for you.

CRM software can go a long way toward making your referral program more robust without letting any details slip through your fingers. Things you will want to track include:

  • Referrals and who referred them to you
  • Dates of referrals
  • Sales conversions from referrals
  • Next step is to follow up with them and nurture them to close a sale

Don’t forget some of these best referral program ideas here!

Overlap Between Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing

While there are some serious differences between affiliate marketing vs referral marketing, it should be clear at this point that there is some overlap, too. Here is what you should know about your affiliate and referral programs and how to implement these marketing strategies effectively.

Know, Like, and Trust Factors Play a Role

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People are more likely to buy something recommended to them by someone they already know, like, and trust. This could be someone they follow online, even if they have never met them in real life, as is the case for most affiliate programs. Personal recommendations through referral programs work in the same way.

Whether it comes through someone they admire or know in real life, they are already warmed up to buying from you.

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More than 90 percent of people trust referrals from people they know, so pay attention to how your new customers come to you.

Consistency is Key

No matter which method you choose for your marketing efforts, consistency is the key. A single affiliate partner or referral link isn’t likely to help you move the needle forward. You will have to be diligent about signing up new and qualified affiliate partners and encouraging existing customers to refer you to others.

You will only see your affiliate or referral marketing program take off with sustained effort.

Cost-Effective Compared to Broad Ad Campaigns

1704453964 287 Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024 Whats the Difference1704453964 287 Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024 Whats the Difference

The good news is that referral marketing and an affiliate program are more cost-effective than you would find with a broader ad campaign. Why are your marketing dollars better spent on affiliate and referral programs? In a nutshell, it’s because you only pay for conversions into new customers.

Affiliates are paid based on their sales volume or per lead, they secure for you. Referral partners are only paid in your reward programs when they bring another customer into the fold.

On the other hand, advertisements to help get you to the top of the SERPs can drain your budget and may not move the needle forward in the same way.

Grow an Audience of Loyal Customers

Once someone enters into your brand’s ecosystem, your goal should be to delight and impress them. Both affiliate and referral programs can create an army of loyal customers that will stick with you for the long haul. It increases sales and retention, especially referral marketing.

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1704453964 0 Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024 Whats the Difference1704453964 0 Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing in 2024 Whats the Difference

The last similarity between affiliate marketing and a referral program is that you must track both the affiliate link and the referral link. This is how you know who is referred by whom and can cue you to issue payment, rewards, or discounts to the right person.

This might seem tedious to some, but it’s a mandatory component of both.

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing

Of course, there are some times when an affiliate program might win out over referral marketing. See if any of these benefits appeal to your brand.

Wider Audience Reach with an Affiliate Program

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One of the downsides of a referral program is that you can only reach people in the circle of influence of your existing customers. On the other hand, an affiliate has an audience who is ready and waiting to take their recommendations for products to buy.

While it might seem prudent to contract with any affiliate interested in your brand, you might find it helpful to have guidelines about who you will and will not accept into the program. You can do this with audience requirements to maximize your reach.

Low Overhead Costs (But More Out of Pocket Costs)

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An affiliate program is typically very inexpensive to start, making it appealing to businesses that don’t have much money to get started.

All you need to do is create a unique affiliate link for each influencer who partners with you.

The downside is that you may have more out-of-pocket costs. Affiliate programs pay their affiliates in cash for the leads or sales.

While you might be bringing more money in because of their marketing, it might also put a huge dent in your bottom line.

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Focus on Advertising over Personal Recommendation

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Affiliate programs are great because they allow you to focus more on your advertising efforts instead of convincing your existing customers to refer a friend. Advertising is impartial and allows you to best use an influencer’s market share.

Keep tabs on what marketing tactics you allow for your affiliates (videos, social media, blogs, etc.). All are important, but you may prefer one medium over another based on the conversion data for your unique field.

When is Referral Marketing Better?

While an affiliate program might be a great option for some brands, a more grassroots effort, like a referral program, could be the better fit. Here are a few reasons why referral programs should earn a second look.

No Cash Payments (Offer Discounts Instead)

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Perhaps the most important reason referral programs should be a part of your marketing strategy is because they don’t always have to cost you directly.

A successful referral doesn’t demand a cash payment to send business your way. Instead, you can reward them with discounts, store credit, or upgrades in your store or business.

Increase Customer Lifetime Value and Retention

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Want to keep customers coming back again and again? Referral marketing could be exactly what you need. Once people accrue points and other rewards, they are more likely to stick with your brand. They will continue purchasing from you, thus increasing their customer lifetime value.

Getting a new customer costs five to seven times more  than retaining an existing one, so this should be something you consider when weighing the perks of getting new customers via referral marketing.

Personal Recommendations Necessary

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Many affiliate programs might promote your product even if they have no personal experience with your brand. This could lead to inaccuracies or content that falls flat with their customers. On the other hand, referral marketing is only successful when they can give a rave review to their friends, family, and loved ones.

You already have one customer who purchases from you. Then, they refer more people to you. It’s a constantly evolving process that keeps people engaged and moving through your sales funnel.

Final Thoughts: Implementing Referral and Affiliate Programs

In many ways, affiliate programs and referral programs offer some of the same benefits. They get the word out about your business to people you may not have been able to connect with organically. For each referred customer, you have another opportunity to delight and engage with someone new.

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The best part is that you only pay if you accrue leads or sales — and sometimes, you may not have to pay anything at all.

Fortunately, you don’t have to decide between affiliate program rewards and referral programs. You can always implement both if you have the bandwidth to manage two programs. This can help you cast out an even wider net regarding your products and services.



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Learn to Play Guitar Even if You Have No Previous Training for Just $20

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Learn to Play Guitar Even if You Have No Previous Training for Just $20

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Moe than 700 million people worldwide play the guitar, and there are numerous enterprises associated with the skill. Of course, it’s also one of the most fun instruments to play and not very difficult to learn. If you’d like to have a business, or even a hobby, related to playing guitar then the 2024 Guitar Lessons Training Bundle can help you quickly learn to play guitar even if you are a complete novice.

You need no experience whatsoever to start with the Beginner Guitar Lessons Crash Course, a student favorite with an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. It assumes you know nothing at all about guitar, but you’ll get quickly up-to-speed without skipping anything important.

You can then follow up with Guitar Technique, another highly-rated course. It will teach you the most important techniques for playing guitar. This course is actually for students at any level because the lessons are easy to start off with, then become more difficult as you gradually advance. You’ll begin to develop your own style in this class.

Blues lovers will thoroughly enjoy the Easy Blues Guitar Crash Course. It’s another beginner course, but you’ll quickly learn to play real blues guitar and the basic terms used in this genre. One of the best, easiest and most fun ways of improving your soloing is to play children’s songs. So you should love the Children’s Songs for the Guitar course, in which you’ll learn 20 children’s songs.

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Once you’re done with the previous courses, or if you’re already at an advanced skill level on guitar, then you’ll be ready to take the Guitar Jam Method course.

It’s for just the intermediate and advanced guitar students, focusing on teaching you how to jam without needing to play a specific song. Creative guitarists can really improve their jamming and soloing skills in this class.

The course also contains seven modules “…for the Curious Guitarist”. These are Fingerstyle, Ear Training, Songwriting, Guitar Lessons, Jazz, Blues and Christmas Songs.

All of the courses are presented by Dan Dresnok, who has taught guitar to tens of thousands of students online and in-person. He’s also been a performer and recording studio session guitarist, specializing in music theory, guitar, blues, jazz, rock and bluegrass.

Get The 2024 Guitar Lessons Training Bundle while it’s available for only $19.99 (reg. $480).

StackSocial prices subject to change.

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Inflation Not Fading Fast Enough for Stock Investors

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Inflation Not Fading Fast Enough for Stock Investors

Investors may have celebrated the end of high inflation too soon. The CPI report shows inflation bouncing higher and thus pushing back the start date for Fed rate cuts. This has the S&P 500 (SPY) coming off recent highs. This begs questions like how much more downside could we see? And when will the bull market get back on track? 44 year investment veteran Steve Reitmeister shares his answers to these questions in this timely commentary including a preview of his top picks to stay ahead of the pack. Read on below for more.

High inflation refuses to “go quietly into the night“.

Instead, the most recent CPI report was too hot which greatly downgraded the odds of a rate cut coming in June or July. With that bond rates went higher on Wednesday and stock prices went lower.

Thursday’s PPI report was a bit tamer helping to ease the mood. But it does cloud the outlook for the market.

So, we will do our best to shine some light on our path forward from here in today’s commentary.

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Market Commentary

April started with a very mild sell off which seems quite natural given then rapid pace of gains in Q1. Then just as stocks were bouncing back towards the highs we got served up a unwelcome CPI report on Wednesday that had investors hitting the sell button once again.

Unfortunately, year over year inflation increased from a 3.2% reading last month to 3.5% this time around. Yes, that is the wrong direction as we want to continue on our glide path towards the Fed’s target of 2%.

We all know that inflation rarely moves in a straight line. But this was not the first inflation report above expectations…but it certainly was the most resounding negative that investors could not dismiss.

The nerds out there (like myself) will note that the Sticky Inflation readings got even worse. That reading went up to 5% based upon the month to month change from the previous 4%. There is simply no way the Fed can look at this recent data and decide to lower rates in May…June…and probably not July.

The world of investors most certainly agreed with this notion given the seismic moves in the bond market. Most notable was the 10 year Treasury rate spiking to nearly 4.6% on Wednesday. That cooled down a notch on Thursday given the “slightly” better than expected reading for PPI.

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This greatly changes expectations for the timing of the first Fed rate cut. A month ago there was 72% probability of that taking place in June. That is now down to 22%.

Moving out to July that was considered a near slam dunk at 90% odds of lower rates. That is now a coin toss at just 49% likelihood.

Finally, we see the September meeting coming in at 70% odds of lower rates. This all points to investors going over the May 1st Fed testimony with a microscope looking for even the smallest clues of what comes next.

Long story short, I think it is borderline insane for investors to expect new highs for stocks until inflation is better under wraps and certainty increases on the timing of the first rate cut. That points to the recent high of 5,265 for the S&P 500 (SPY) as being the top end of current trading range.

The bottom of that range is a bit less clear. Will investors do more of a consolidation slightly under recent levels? The hearty bounce on Thursday seems to point in that direction. But the longer things go on without a resolution to the matter, the more we could break below the 50 day moving average at 5,105 and perhaps give 5,000 a serious test.

If that scares you, then might I recommend you put your money in the bank rather than the stock market.

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The only way you can enjoy the reward of a 27% gain for the S&P 500 since late October is by taking the risk that comes with mild pullbacks and tougher corrections from time to time. Meaning that testing 5,000 or even lower would be a yawn in the history of stock market movements which has improved our net worth considerably over the past few months…years…decades…generations…and so on.

My trading plan is to remain bullish. Just have a better eye towards the value of your positions. If you wouldn’t buy more shares of those stocks today…then perhaps time to sell and add new stocks that you feel have better upside potential.

That also calls for a “buy the dip” mentality as there likely will be more volatility and rough sessions ahead. Those are the times to step in and add shares of your favorite stocks.

All in all, we are moving back to a more normal bull market. Where 2 steps forward and 1 step back is just part of the dance. So, all the more reason to find the beat and dance right along.

What To Do Next?

Discover my current portfolio of 12 stocks packed to the brim with the outperforming benefits found in our exclusive POWR Ratings model. (Nearly 4X better than the S&P 500 going back to 1999)

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This includes 5 under the radar small caps recently added with tremendous upside potential.

Plus I have 1 special ETF that is incredibly well positioned to outpace the market in the weeks and months ahead.

This is all based on my 43 years of investing experience seeing bull markets…bear markets…and everything between.

If you are curious to learn more, and want to see these lucky 13 hand selected trades, then please click the link below to get started now.

Steve Reitmeister’s Trading Plan & Top Picks >

Wishing you a world of investment success!

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Steve Reitmeister…but everyone calls me Reity (pronounced “Righty”)
CEO, StockNews.com and Editor, Reitmeister Total Return


SPY shares were trading at $515.01 per share on Friday morning, down $2.99 (-0.58%). Year-to-date, SPY has gained 8.69%, versus a % rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.


About the Author: Steve Reitmeister

Inflation Not Fading Fast Enough for Stock Investors

Steve is better known to the StockNews audience as “Reity”. Not only is he the CEO of the firm, but he also shares his 40 years of investment experience in the Reitmeister Total Return portfolio. Learn more about Reity’s background, along with links to his most recent articles and stock picks.

More…

The post Inflation Not Fading Fast Enough for Stock Investors appeared first on StockNews.com

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High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

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High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

If you are plugged into fashion discourse, you’ve probably heard about High Sport Kick Pant by now (perhaps against your will). They are stretch ponte trousers with a cropped flare above the ankle and pleats down the center of the legs. Sturdier than leggings and distinctly more polished. The intrigue around these pants reached a fever pitch on Substack in late 2023 – early 2024. The Kick Pant has developed a cult following, but skepticism has started to mount.

Substack, the newsletter platform, is integral to the phenomenon of High Sport. It’s where fashion influencers and ex-editors with large followings raved about the pants to their readers. Several glowing endorsements were published within a short time span. Word spread like wildfire within the platform’s ecosystem. Substack writer Rachel Solomon of Hey Mrs. Solomon describes the High Sport pants as a “fireball” item that seemed to “materialize out of nowhere.” She believes the hype is tied to the inherent “miracle potential” of pants, which are extra compelling because “the ass/thigh area is so important when it comes to fit and use case.” People will pay a lot for pants that make their butt look good.

“The chatter about these pants on Substack chat was non-stop,” says the writer of Totally Recommend, a self-described “recovering marketing CEO” who goes by Rufina. Her assessment of the situation? It seemed like no one beyond fashion writers and influencers actually owned the High Sport pants, yet everyone was hunting for alternatives. “I realized we were all searching for dupes without even knowing what the originals were truly like. That’s when my curiosity really kicked in. I knew I had to get my hands on these pants,” Rufina states.

Vi Huynh wears a thrifted version of the High Sport pants;

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Courtesy of Vi Huynh

1712933763 594 High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

Vi Huynh wears a thrifted version of the High Sport pants;

Courtesy of Vi Huynh

Solomon and Rufina both bought the pants and wrote about them on their Substacks. Both writers gave their honest opinions on everyone’s burning question: are they worth it? And, of course, where can one find a good dupe? Rufina’s review series, “The Scoop On The High Sport Dupe,” made the Substack rounds for its thorough list of dupes from Ann Mashburn, Donni, and Spanx to Banana Republic, Old Navy, and J.Crew. More chatter ensued.

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Then, The Cut published a High Sport piece last month that laid bare the financial incentives for Substack writers recommending the High Sport pants with affiliate links. The public reception of the article drove the discourse around these pants towards suspicion. It reminded people of the importance of taking product recommendations with a grain of salt when someone stands to make a hefty commission.

High Sport skepticism has kindled on Substack—the same place where the fanfare began. This time, discourse around the pants are tinged with mixed feelings around the gray area of affiliate marketing and fashion writing. Kickbacks on the Kick Pant have soured the hype for many.

In her latest High Sport dupe post, Rufina ponders if we should aspire towards these pants in the first place: “Are they an unspoken application to an elite club, where the entry fee is a slim waist, a fat bank account, and a life elegantly soaring above the mundane irritations familiar to the rest of us?” Readers resonated with this perspective. The comment section contemplated the writers’ ability to make $135 per sale via affiliate links on a rave review. “For some people, these pants might still be their top pick, fitt ing their style and budget. But knowing about the commission thing bursts the bubble,” Rufina continues. Solomon reflects on how the High Sport hype has played out. “I have noticed a little more skepticism, almost like we can all suddenly breathe a sigh of relief and go…wait, aren’t these just thick, hot pants that have a cute length?”

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Vi Huynh wears a thrifted version of the High Sport pants;

Courtesy of Vi Huynh

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1712933763 528 High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

Rachel Solomon wears the High Sport Kick pants;

Courtesy of Rachel Solomon

Some have held a critical eye towards High Sport pants from the start. Em Seely Katz, news editor of Magasin and writer of Human Repeller, knows the nitty-gritty economics of luxury clothing production and marketing. “I know a pair of stretch pants should not cost nearly a grand without a 1000% or so markup,” Seely-Katz reveals.

When vintage seller Vi Huynh first saw the High Sport pants, the “egregious price point” stopped her from what would have been an immediate purchase otherwise. Huynh keeps up with niche fashion discourse and believes that High Sport’s brand strategy relies on the appeal of “quiet luxury” rather than a truly superior material product. “They don’t need regular people buying their pants. They’re saying: we’re the Loro Piana of stretch pants,” she continues.

Despite the skepticism around price point and kickbacks, the appetite for High Sport dupes has not waned. Seely-Katz has been diligently researching mid-price-range dupes in response to the Magasin readership’s interest. For example, they say that Sézane’s new gingham pants (around $200) are just as worthy of wear as the originals. Huynh maintains that the High Sport look is easy to find at thrift stores due to the popularity of ponte pants during the 90s and 2000s. Her advice? Focus on material—while rayon, polyester, and spandex blends are common, the better quality ones feel thick to the touch and retain shape when stretched.

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However, High Sport diehards maintain that the dupes are incomparable to the original. Writer Jess Graves of The Love List reports that the material from Old Navy and Donni versions were “flimsy and thin,” a far cry from High Sport’s “thick Italian knit that holds you in.” Graves, who purchased the High Sports with her own money, wears the pants “so often the cost per wear is probably around a dollar at this point.”

High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

Ruffina wears a dupe of the High Sport pants;

Courtesy of Rufina

1712933763 874 High Sport Skeptics Have Entered the Chat

Vi Huynh wears a thrifted version of the High Sport pants;

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Courtesy of Vi Huynh

Unlike Instagram, Substack is still a relatively new space where the norms of affiliate marketing—and how consumers can expect to engage with it—are still taking shape. One can find a broad mix of fashion content, from personal essays and styling tips to shopping-driven posts heavy on affiliate links. Perhaps it is due to this broad spectrum of how and when writers participate in affiliate marketing that pinpointed skepticism towards High Sport pants in a way that may not have materialized on, say, Instagram.

Seely-Katz, who does use affiliate links on Human Repeller, emphasizes that they have built trust with their readers in terms of how they disclose commissions. “People who read my newsletter know that I emphatically don’t go out of my way to center affiliate links, many of my posts having none at all […] I am thoughtful about what products I endorse, no matter the price point,” they state. Graves echoes this sentiment. She views affiliate income as compensation for the work of content creation. In regards to her Substack, “my readers get that if I am publishing something without a paywall, affiliate links are a way to help me accrue some payment for that time spent. I don’t let it sway my editorial decisions though,” Graves notes. Rufina does not use affiliate links but acknowledges that with the instability of the media landscape, “It’s really tricky for me to say how writers should be making their money.” As a former advertising professional, her main concern was seeing High Sport purchase links posted without an affiliate disclaimer.

Ultimately, the story of High Sport reveals how Substack is becoming an increasingly robust ecosystem for launching status-y products that go viral within a subset of fashion consumers. Seely-Katz describes the phenomenon as a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” where people who buy such items are more likely to broadcast them in their publications, “creating an illusion that literally everyone is buying this stuff.”

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