What Does OpenSocial Mean for Affiliate Marketing?

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Within tech circles, there is a huge amount of buzz swirling around the Google OpenSocial initiative. Google has partnered up with Myspace, Hi5, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Oracle, Bebo, Ning and a host of others (however not Facebook yet) in support of an open API for social web mini-applications. What the OpenSocial initiative is really about is providing a common API, or common language for application developers to write mini-applications for the various OpenSocial participants.

What are the advantages or uses of applications?

Using mini-applications/apps/widgets, companies / affiliates can now efficiently extend their website experience to existing communities on popular social networks.

What are social networks?

An existing network or community where friends or people of similar interest share.

Facebook was the first social network to open up their API for application development. Applications sat on top of the Facebook platform, and were accessed and used by users through their Facebook profile pages. There are a few affiliate approaches with applications; from Social Shopping Mall which allows users to share / clip and use coupons through the app toiBought which allows product recommendations and purchases through the app.

The OpenSocial API takes the Facebook concept and transforms it to an open standard accessible to any social network. Now with the OpenSocial APIs, application writers can write one application and have it run on a variety of platforms, thereby opening up exposure to even more users. One interesting side note about the OpenSocial participants, Oracle, SalesForce and LinkedIn have chosen to join up, thereby leading one to believe we’ll be seeing many more business related applications in the future.

I have listened to some affiliates complain that they’ve tried to market on Myspace or other social networks with very minimal success. The initial attempts were flawed; making a profile, adding as many people as possible as friends, and then trying to push a marketing message out to these people. This approach didn’t fill a need or solve a problem. Now with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and write an application that can fill some need or solve some problem, marketers have a  new world of opportunities before them.

Will this be the gateway to instant success, or lead to fast millions, probably not. We are potentially riding the very beginnings of a shift. A shift away from traffic being driven by open searches through search engines on the open web, to more defined niche based traffic coming through user selected applications and widgets. Why not be prepared for when this potential shift picks up furious momentum?

If you are a merchant, do you have a social web strategy? If not, one potential way to dip your foot in the water is through your affiliate program. Partnering with value adding affiliates who are already building social applications can give your business and products exposure to the social web while minimizing your risk with the new medium.