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Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, and Jason Falls debate affiliate links on Twitter


Posted on 24th February, by Tom Williams in Misc. 16 Comments

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I was part of an interesting debate that broke on Twitter today.  Chris Brogan tweeted out a link for StudioPress but did not disclose in the link that he is an affiliate partner for StudioPress.  An Affiliate is a social media marketing technique where if someone clicks on the link Chris provides and then purchases the product, Chris receives a commission on the sale.

Chris Brogan Affiliate Tweet

Chris was not being sneaky here, quite honestly it probably didn’t occur to him or he just ran out of room in the Tweet.  Although most people know Chris is an affiliate for StudioPress, many do not. Danny Brown happened to see the tweet, noted the affiliate link was not disclosed in the tweet and called it to Chris’s attention.

Danny Brown Tweet

Chris acknowledged the oversight and sent out a disclosure tweet to disclose the affiliate nature of the link, however, Jason Falls from Social Media Explorer jumped into the conversation and took a position opposite to that of Danny saying that if proper disclosure is made in other locations, such as the person’s website, that this was sufficient and it was unreasonable to expect disclosure on Twitter with a 140 character limit.

Jason Falls jumps into the affiliate link debate

What ensued next was a lively and thought provoking debate primarily between Danny Brown and Jason Falls with Danny taking the position that affiliate links should be disclosed in every tweet in which they occur and Jason taking the position that formal disclosure on a separate location (website or blog) was sufficient for the reader to find it.

The issue of disclosure is not a new one.  Food sold through stores must contain disclosure right on the packaging but if you purchase the food in a fast food  restaurant, you have to ask for a manager to dig out the disclosure from the basement – if they can even find it.

So here is the million dollar question:

IF YOU TWEET OUT AN AFFILIATE LINK, DO YOU NEED TO DISCLOSE THE AFFILIATE NATURE IN THE TWEET?

What makes this a unique problem is disclosure is not a real issue in other locations such as blogs and websites.  There is plenty of room to disclose affiliate status in those mediums.  What makes Twitter so tough is it’s short real estate so it’s  hard to provide tweet-by-tweet disclosures. I suggested to the guys that they establish the hashtag #AF or #AL to designate the affiliate status of a link.  Thus you could disclose by only using 3 / 140 characters – which seems reasonable to me.

Affiliate hash tag suggestion

Chris countered that no one would know what the hashtag meant so it would be ineffective.  This is true…at first.  However, If Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, Jason Falls and many of the other Twitter trend-setters adopted this method, it could catch on and become the standard.

What do you think?  Should affiliates disclose in their tweets?  Is that over kill?  Do you think my #AL idea is stupid?

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16 Responses to “Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, and Jason Falls debate affiliate links on Twitter”

  1. Michael E. Schmidlen says:

    I’m of the belief & opinion that as long as it’s disclosed, wherever it may be, it provides the “consumer” with adequate disclosure of the relationship between the two parties and it’s NOT necessary to be in large bold red print everywhere! Buyer beware, assume that there IS a relationship unless otherwise stated!!!

  2. Jason Martin says:

    I’m going to side with my namesake on this one. Not only is there little to no space in a tweet to disclose the affiliation, it also doesn’t provide any quality content that we all crave, and expect, from the tweets we read. I believe that full disclosure can appear immediately on the page that is linked from the tweet. Finally, I’d say that I really don’t care if someone is affiliated with a business and being compensated if I purchase an item. What I care about is the item itself, and whether or not it will solve a problem or enhance my life. But that’s just one man’s opinion.

  3. Mack Collier says:

    I understand Danny’s concerns, but lean toward Jason on this one. Chris does a pretty good job of disclosing his affiliate links, as anyone that reads his blog knows. I don’t think he was trying to pull a fast one, and the obvious space limitations of Twitter can make disclosure problematic as well.

  4. Tricia Meyer says:

    I’m with Jason on this one. It gets so incredibly tricky. What about all of the people who send out their Mypoints referral links? Do those also need to be tagged as “affiliate links” because the people get money when those they referred join? Does it make a difference that they are a blogger and using a MyPoints affiliate link rather than a “referral” link? In either case they are making money off of it, but just in a different way.

    People need to pay more attention to who they follow and decide whether they trust them or not. If they trust them, it doesn’t matter if a link that they Tweet is an affiliate link. If they don’t trust them, then they shouldn’t click on the links. The way to figure out whether to trust them is to check out their blogs and look for disclosures and “About” pages.

  5. Danny Brown says:

    Hey there Tom,

    Nice recap, mate, and thanks for being part of the discussion, definitely some interesting takes there.

    For me, disclosure should be always – there really aren’t any half measures when it comes to benefiting from something and not telling people you’re benefiting. If it’s not directly tied to *your* company then you need to disclose.

    Affiliate products; client work – if you receive compensation and you’re promoting to grow that compensation (because a new sale for a client or a new WordPress theme sale is compensation), then people deserve to know that connection.

    While having a blog or website disclaimer page is great, not everyone that follows you on Twitter reads your blog so they’ll miss that. The same goes for well-known affiliations; if I just started following you on Twitter, I’m not going to know your affiliations.

    While I see what Jason’s trying to say re. “just Twitter”, it’s a moot point for me. It’s a sales and promotional channel (just like a blog, Facebook, etc) where links can lead to sales. That makes it a bona-fide advertising channel and as such, disclosures are needed.

    I like your idea of a global hashtag, and if Twitter wanted to encourage its use as a business platform, a simple FAQ on global hashatgs would also explain to new users what it’s all about.

    Cheers for the continued discussion, mate.

    • Tom Williams says:

      Thanks Danny. You were the catalyst for this entire discussion so I thank you for stepping out there and not just going with the status quo. You’re a change agent.

  6. I’ve long been of the opinion that disclosure is stupid in any situation other than reviews. If you’re reviewing a product or service it is right and proper to disclose that you either have been or will be compensated. Aside from that, I don’t see the point. It’s a standard held to websites that is not held to other forms of media. You don’t see a disclosure on NBC during 30 Rock commercials saying “NBC and 30 Rock were compensated by the producers of this commercial”. Yet, here online, we’re expected to go out of our way to disclose every little thing, relevant or not. Now, we’re learning, it’s not enough to have a disclosure page, we’re supposed to put a notice after each and every link. Ludicrous.

    Take Chris’ tweet for example. He’s not endorsing or reviewing anything. Why should he have to disclose at all? Who cares if that’s an affiliate link? In my experience, most of the people who complain are people that have a problem with the concept of affiliate marketing to begin with.

    As for hashtags, it’s been tried before. We in the affiliate marketing industry have been floating the ideas of #aff #afflink #af #affiliate and others for quite a while. Nothing ever catches on because there is no central body with the authority to require such a tag. It’s a fine idea, but ultimately, I don’t think it will go anywhere.

    My 2 cents.

    • Tom Williams says:

      Daniel, I never said thanks for the thoughtful post on affiliate marketing and disclosure. I think you raise a very valid point – especially in your comparison to traditional media.

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Williams, InnoGage. InnoGage said: New Blog! Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, and Jason Falls debate affiliate links on Twitter: I was part of an… http://bit.ly/gyCkmO [...]

  8. Nathan King says:

    I think that disclosing affiliate links in every tweet is a little overkill. Put in the effort, spell it out once in a while. As for #AL, I immediately think of Alabama. #AF may work a bit better

  9. [...] Danny Brown and I have talked about disclosure in the past (not so much directly, but in dueling posts and tweets and the likes. ( Here’s a sample of such.) [...]

  10. [...] Danny Brown e io abbiamo discusso di trasparenza nel passato (non di persona, ma in alcuni post di botta e risposta, ma anche tramite tweet e “mi piace” (eccone un esempio). [...]

  11. [...] not the first to ask this question. Social media star Chris Brogan has been asked this question (over affiliate links on Twitter) and he came out very well out of that debate. He even added, [...]

  12. Denys Kelley says:

    This got my thinking- and when I checked with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines- there already is a #ad for affiliate marketing. No need to create a new one- just need to be aware that there is one and get everyone on board using it.

    • Jeff says:

      Whether or not to disclose the use of affiliate links has always been a gray area, however, I agree with you Denys, FTC ruled it already.

  13. bib says:

    Until every politician is forced to disclose what major corporation is funding them to push whatever stupid agenda they are peddling, I say screw disclosures.

    Disclosures are just another petty attempt to make everyone honest.

    How about we just pass another law where everyone who connects to the Internet is forced to check a box that says, “Yes, I understand that people will try to make money off of me.” Maybe that will fix everything.

    Building trust is #1. Disclosure statements will end up being just another legal document linked to in the footer of all websites.

    What hashtag do I enter to get people to trust me?

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