Many experts consider this a game changer for the space and a powerful signal that the influencer marketing industry is here to stay. Others note that Amazon's program might not be all it's cracked up to be.
Over the past two years, online marketers have witnessed an influencer marketing explosion. Google acquired FameBit to scale their influencer marketing services, Twitter acquired Niche to produce more internal branded content, and most recently Adobe's launch of the Adobe Fleek influencer marketplace. Influencer marketing platforms like NeoReach are now processing multi-million dollar campaigns for the world's largest brands. Even Facebook is getting into the space with their recent announcement ofbranded content tools for creators along with revenue share for live streamers.
In 2015, AdWeek reported that Influencer Marketing is The Next Big Thing. Since then, it has lived up to the hype and became the fastest growing channel in digital marketing. It's logical that an internet giant like Amazon would want to make their presence known and capitalize on the growth. This is especially true since their business is heavily dependent on affiliate marketing revenue generated from blogger and marketers.
So what is Amazon's program all about?
According to Amazon, "the Amazon Influencer Program is exclusively designed for social media influencers with large followings and a high frequency of posts with shoppable content. An intuitive vanity URL makes it easy for customers to find, browse and buy the products introduced to them through social media influencers. The program allows influencers to earn fees for purchases they drive through their social media platforms."
While this may provide some extra revenue for influencers, many influencers don't necessarily see this is as a game changer for the industry.
"It's cool that Amazon wants to get involved with influencer marketing, but affiliate programs have been around for a long time and this isn't really a game changer," says YouTube Star, Toddy Smithy, who has amassed over a million followers across his various channels.
What's interesting, though, is that this serves as a signal that Amazon wants to enter the influencer marketing space.
Silicon Valley startups are known for being on the forefront of technology, but they always run the risk of a bigger company overtaking their initial market leads. What do these influencer marketing startups have to say about this?
One self-service influencer marketing platform, NeoReach, has established a reputation in the industry for orchestrating large influencer events and campaigns. NeoReach was behind the influencer flash mob in NYC, the officialVidCon influencer party, and major campaigns like Demolition Ranch's viral exploding tank video.
While their software manages 7-figure campaigns for brands like NBC, Walmart, and Microsoft, we wondered if Amazon's launch in the space would impact their business.
When asked if they feel that Amazon is competitive to them, NeoReach CEO, Jesse Leimgruber said "Not at all. Amazon is a $400 billion dollar company, so we are obviously going to keep an eye on their developments, but they really are not competitive with us. We provide a self-service solution for companies who want to run their own influencer campaigns, whereas Amazon's influencer program focuses on providing an improved version of its current affiliate system. If anything, it's a clear sign the industry is maturing and we are excited to see how they will help push the space forward."
A live influencer storefront from The Deal Guy as part of the Amazon Influencer program
To get the perspective of major spenders on influencer marketing, we also reached out to Ryan Faber, CEO of award-winning growth marketing agency FlatIron Collective. Ryan and his team have managed over $100M in digital marketing spend for major brands.
"The reason Amazon quietly released their influencer program is because it's just a light modification of their existing affiliate program. Just change 'affiliate' to the more on-trend 'influencer', add an 'exclusive' application process and layer in the option to use vanity URLs alongside an enhanced buying experience. Same house, new paint" said Ryan Faber, who went on note that "influencers with any substantial following will not see this as a replacement to their existing brand deal flow. Nothing to see here folks."
In many ways, it is the next logical step after seeing the success of their affiliate network. But the fact that they've dialed into an opportunity with influencers confirms the already widespread speculations: people buy from referrals and recommendation. In today's media landscape, it's the influencers that are the ones driving brand growth, purchasing decisions, and the backbone of an entirely new marketing category that's here to stay.