Talk of how to monetize Twitter, both from its founders perspective and a third-party point of view, is dominating conversation on the web these days. Tweetbucks, a startup founded by entrepreneur Chris Sukornyk, is hoping to make money for users of Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed through leveraging affiliate fees and CPCs from ads.
Here’s how it works. Tweetbucks has a database with thousands of online merchants that offer referral fees (or money you get from merchants when your advertisements of a product result in a purchase ), including Amazon, BestBuy, Barnes & Noble and Shoes.com. All you need to do is find a product on a retail site, enter it on Tweetbuck’s site, and the startup will automatically shorten (via Bit.ly) and convert it to an affiliate enabled link, referencing the site’s data base of online merchants that pay out affiliate fees. You can then add the link to in a Tweet, Facebook status update or FriendFeed message.
Every time people click your link and your recommendation results in a purchase, the online merchant pays a commission to you. For example, referral fees for Amazon’s Associates program hover around 6%, BestBuy pays out 3-4%, and CompUSA pays around 6%. Tweetbucks will take 30% of the money you earn through each referral leaving you with 70%. So if you send out a link via a Tweet to a Kindle being sold on Amazon for $359.00 and someone purchases the Kindle from the link, you will receive $15.12 and Tweetbucks will take $6.46. On the other hand, if your affiliate fee comes from a book on Barnes & Noble (which also pays out 6%) that totals $16.76, you will receive $0.70 cents and Tweetbucks will get $0.30 cents.
Tweetbucks also lets you earn money off of any non-retail site, by allowing you to enable a “custom ad-frame,” on a site you Tweet the link to. Tweetbucks displays an ad at the top of your destination page and you earn a variable rate (CPC) on every click. You can also customize this ad frame to include a hyperlinked logo of your choice. The compensation from this doesn’t seem to have as much potential as the affiliate fees; Sukornyk says returns are around $1 to $2 per thousand clicks.
Tweetbucks give you a complimentary $5 in your account to start with and pays you via PayPal each month. You can also earn a 10% commission on all revenue earned by people you refer to Tweetbucks for 6 months after their approval date. It’s a little shady to be sending out links to friends and followers with out them knowing they you will be making a cut off of their sale. Sukornyk encourages Tweetbucks users to add the hashtag #tweetbucks at the end of any link so that people who click on your link will know whats in it for you.
This has a few similarities to Microsoft’s controversial CashBack program, which gives users monetary incentives to click through and buy products from the ads they’re shown. But Tweetbucks gives users the power to make money from others (and forbids the user to click and buy from the links themselves).
There seems to be the whole double edged sword issue with Tweetbucks. The more affiliate links you send out, the more people will probably purchase from that link and the more money you will make. But the more links you send out, whether it be via Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed, the more you hover on that line of being a pseudo-spammer of links to retail sites. And you could come across as opportunistic if you send out a ton of links that make you money every day, regardless of whether you disclose or not. I guess it was inevitable that services would eventually leverage the power of links with Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook for monetary purposes. For some reason, it just doesn’t sit right with me.