Amazon wants YouTubers to get involved in its influencer program, but will they take the bait?

Amazon wants YouTubers to get involved in its influencer program, but will they take the bait?

Amazon has opened up a self-service tool for YouTube influencers to join its highly-vetted Influencer Program.

The web giant, which has been touted as a possible “third force” against the Google and Facebook duopoly by WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell, quietly brought the Influencer Program out of a closed beta last Thursday, allowing YouTubers to put themselves forward for consideration.

The program was initially launched in Spring to let influencers set up their own pages within Amazon's walls to serve as a sort of 'storefront' for their favourite products.

The move was first spotted by TechCrunch, with Amazon confirming to the title: “We recently enabled a self-service tool for YouTube influencers only to be able to sign up for the Amazon Influencer program."

The ultra-selective scheme builds on the existing Amazon Associates affiliate program by providing influencers with their own unique page on Amazon, on which they can curate lists of product recommendations to their followers.

This means traffic will be driven straight to Amazon’s site by a vanity URL, which could, for example, be posted underneath a YouTube video or within a blog post to direct viewers to the site.

This way of working is commission based, so when customers purchase products suggested by an influencer, the YouTuber will earn a commission on qualifying products.

This is a clear play from Amazon to boost sales by inserting itself into the influencer ecosystem. Some marketers have praised the move, including Matt Donegan who is managing director of Social Circle, a platform which connects creators with brands; though he was pragmatic about whether influencers will bite.

“It’s interesting that Amazon will not be paying directly for the content created; rather they are offering commission off the back of subsequent sales,” he noted, adding: “Influencers are creative and talented, and spend time and resources creating and curating content that their audiences will enjoy, so it’s important to value this when building effective relationships between brands and influencers.”

He added the success of Amazon’s platform – which still appears to be a bit of an experiment – will rely on whether influencers see the value in commission-based product placement, and how easy they find it to use overall.

“It will have to be both easier and more rewarding for both the creators and their followers,” he finished.

For now, the scheme is only verifying influencers who have YouTube profiles, applications are vetted - with reported factors taken into consideration being reach, quality, fan engagement and relevance. Text on Amazon's website hints the retailer will open up the scheme to influencers who have large following on other social networks, like Twitter, and Instagram.

"This is a really significant step in the maturation of influencer marketing, but it will be a while before we see whether it's a good or a bad thing," said Felix Morgan, senior strategist and innovation lead at Livity.

Morgan believes the move provides a more robust structure to a revenue stream that is somewhat under-utilised by influencers at the moment, as well as making it easier for brands to measure the impact of their influencer work.

However, he cautioned that it also runs the risk of pushing influencer marketing even further towards traditional marketing, and losing some of the key elements that make people value their opinions.

"It's an undeniably important move, and will help traditional marketers take influencer marketing more seriously, but at the same time it might be another step towards compromising it's magic," he added.

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. She primarily writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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