The fun part about being online is the various ways to make money and become someone else behind the screen. Most affiliate marketers who step outside of their niche markets are faced with an identity crisis when trying to break ground in a new market. For instance I have a presence in the Equestrian market, but I don’t (or didn’t) know anything about horses however its an untapped market with a fair amount of affiliate programs and now I have an active presence in the market. I had to create an online personality which fit that market.
When creating my online personalities I get a bit involved. Here is a common process I step through,
- Identify the target audience
- Identify and join popular niche communities
- Identify leaders in the field and username stalk
- Grab a photo from the public domain which compliments my target market (such as a guy standing next to a horse for the Equestrian market, because a photo of a hip hop black guy with cornrolls and a bandanna wouldn’t necessarily fit the Equestrian market — and vice versa a country-styled white guy doesn’t necessarily fit the hip hop space either. Not to say there could never be a Jay-Z of Equestruan games or Toby Keith of hip hop).
- Create full profiles with contact details (name, phone number, address, bio, and uploaded pic)
- Research the target market (commonly I do news searches and find the latest news in the niche market — this gives me something to share or talk about)
- Share useful content and media (non-affiliate materials), participate in discussions, join groups, and add friends
After doing the above for a couple of weeks I usually build a solid following. At this point I start to silently push my agenda. I would begin answering questions using affiliate links. I will convert or add affiliate links to my profile. However, the most important thing is that I never force my agenda. I always answer a question that is relevant to the link I’ll publish. If I have advice without a link to share then I still share advice and use a signature that includes a (masked, i.e. TinyURL) affiliate link. i.e.,
The most important aspect of online personality building is you create a believable profile with a solid reputation. In the case you are outed as a phony in the industry then your own identity is protected and you can just repeat the steps above.
Sure people say this is an unethical way to make money online, but most people use multiple pseduyoms online for various reasons. No one is being hurt nor is anyone being taken advantage of, you simply building social links under a different profile. No foul, no harm!
My strategy is a little different than sock puppet marketing. Sock puppet marketing works in the same manner of creating profiles, but it is a little more underhanded and unethical. I wouldn’t practice it nor would I suggest it. Anyway, sock puppet marketing is the act of creating separate profiles which talk to each other. Such as, PROFILE1 creates a discussion post like “Hey where can I find the coolest new widget?” While PROFILE2 engages by replying to the question and pointing to your website or affiliate, such as “You can find the coolest new widget here, http://affiliateurl.com”. PROFILE1 and PROFILE2 are both the same person.
PROFILE2 makes the answer look more credible because it is intended to look as if it is coming from an independent party not the same person who posted the question. It’s very popular on sites like Yahoo! answers, the best answers is sometimes just self-promotion.
Some people will consider sock puppet marketing the same as creating identity profiles, but I disagree. Creating identity profiles is probably borderline, but sock puppet marketing is actually crossing the line and pure unethical. Most people have different pseudonyms online to serve their agenda.
Even Matt Cutts, the Google Web Spam engineer who advises against sock puppet marketing had created identity profiles to serve his own agenda. Though since that debacle it seems he may have had a change of heart.
Anyway, the takeaway from this is to not allow an identity crisis to keep you from tapping into a market. If building personalities is something you feel uncomfortable with or you think its unethical, then all I can say is don’t do it. But I will say this, I’ve seen a 200% increase in affiliate sales since I started creating niche profiles. No one has been harmed, hurt, or taken advantage of!
I have about 7 different personalities online. What about you?