It takes a lifetime to build up social capital, but now it’s easier than ever to burn it all to earn some discounts via new ecommerce discovery site affiliate programs. But why should Fab, or The Fancy, or other Pinter-esque services care? They’re not the ones getting spammed. It’s Facebook and Twitter’s problem.
But that’s bullshit.
By incentivizing aggressive sharing with monetary discounts — not a spot on some leaderboard, or (gasp!) a sense of altruism, these ecommerce sites are growing and making money at the expense of financially-strapped users and the social networks they frequent.
The world economy is rough. Meanwhile, shopping discovery sites are booming. They inspire a materialistic culture where you’re only as good as your Italian leather sofa, your hand-knit pea coat, or your picture-perfect wedding dress. This puts people in tough spot, where they can’t afford the things they mistakenly think they need.
But what many of these users are rich in is social capital. Over the years they’ve gained a few Twitter followers or more likely, plenty of Facebook friends, all at the other end of that status update box. The more thoughtful ones realize the true worth of these connections: emotional support, crucial advice, a foot in the door to a new job. Others don’t, or don’t care for the right price.
So when sites tempt their users with money or credit to share their links, some will take the bait. If you don’t think this is a problem, maybe your friends are really smart and won’t succumb.
But right now somewhere, someone’s seeing product links from The Fancy on Facebook or Twitter, not because their friend necessarily thinks they’d love those products, but because The Fancy launched an affiliate link program today. Meanwhile, that site gains exposure, traffic, and maybe even more money per referral purchase than their users do.
Yes, sites like Amazon have long had affiliate programs, but they were pretty clearly designed for career or at least hobbyist marketers. The new line of ecommerce discovery referral programs are different. They don’t even require you to sign up separately. Just share away and discount credits pile up in your account. They’re bringing affiliate marketing to the mainstream.
This all hurts the prevailing social networks, where these links decrease the relevance of content feeds and make the services less addictive.
In response to a question about whether the program promotes spam, The Fancy’s CEO and founder told GigaOm, “We’re going to have to watch it. But, right now, I think you know what your audience is going to tolerate, it’s the same as anything else. If you tweet a bunch of junk people may unfollow you on Twitter.” That doesn’t address the harm these programs do to the user experience of the communication platforms they piggyback on.
And Pinterest? Don’t you dare.
Pinterest is a social networking site with a visually-pleasing “virtual pinboard” interface. Users collect photos and link to products they love, creating their own pinboards and following the pinboards of other people whom they find interesting. The site has experienced rapid growth in recent months.
Fab is on a mission to help people better their lives with design. Fab was founded by serial entrepreneur Jason Goldberg, Bradford Shellhammer, Nishith Shah and Deepa Shah in February 2011 and launched on June 9, 2011. Fab’s headquarters are in New York. The company also has offices in Berlin, London and Pune. Over 6 million people around the world use Fab to discover everyday design products at great prices, to connect with the world’s most exciting designers, and to...