Getting paid to Tweet or post on Facebook sounds like an incredibly easy side hustle. But whether it’s worth the cost of our friendships is a lesson consumers might learn have to the hard way. We first spotted the trend on fashion apps/sites like Fancy and Pose, as well as Referly, where people get paid to use Facebook or Twitter in order to drive clicks. Last Tuesday Beso launched a new program that rewards so-called “content creators” for pushing traffic to hundreds of retailers’ sites.
“Beso pays an average of 14 cents for every click sent to participating retailers,” according to the Times’ Stephanie Clifford, while others “pay only when a purchase is associated with a link.” Still others pay about five per cent of the purchase price, and keep close tabs on people gaming the system.
At first, monetizing word-of-mouth makes good business sense. Companies are hungry for revenue, and social media seems to be feeding the beast. More than ever, consumers are eager to use the tools at their disposal to bend and shape that power to their will. However, the real danger lies in how we’ll leverage that power to convince our friends and family a company is worth doing business with, says Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist.
“There are consumers who love something and want to tell their friends, and if they make a bit of money from it, that’s fine,” she tells Business Insider. “If they make a bit, they figure they can make a bit more. But what starts off as innocent marketing campaign can quickly turn into a mercenary exchange, and I think it corrupts a friendship. There’s always a small per cent that go off the deep end.”
The question, then, is whether we’re keen enough to tell the difference between a harmless exchange among friends and a paid referral meant for personal gain.
“It’d be really hard to say I started doing this just to share, and then I started doing more products,” she says, adding that people will quickly get burned once they get a bum referral. “I don’t think most of these people are trying to be bad, they’re just enthusiastic and like the notoriety. They get a bit of money and it’s fun.”
But the pay-for-clicks joyride can only last for so long. Groupon turned word-of-mouth into a cash cow three years ago with its of-the-moment coupons, but the company couldn’t stave off deals fatigue among consumers, which set in when the market grew bloated. Yarrow forsees the same thing happening with promotional links: As more people sign on, more bad deals will be had, and consumers on both sides, buyer and seller, will abandon the process altogether.
“Consumers figure things out so fast, and then it’s over,” Yarrow says, “they move on to the next thing. We’re far less trusting than we were in the fifties, and it’s only accelerated in the past five years. Tech has given us access to info that’s allowed to look around and get disappointed.”