FACEBOOK and Twitter users are bombarding their online friends with advertisements to earn extra cash from businesses hoping to boost sales.
Marketing experts say the new word-of-mouth trend, which is contrived and paid for by companies seeking to gain exposure and increase their bottom line, could backfire by alienating social media users.
More than 500 Australian companies, including Reader’s Digest, Perfume Connection, Starshots and Bevilles Jewellers, have signed up to social media marketing website socialloot.com to advertise deals, products and services.
A person can log on to the website, select the companies they wish to promote, post information about them on their Facebook or Twitter account and get paid each time a friend clicks on the link.
How much each user, or “socialite”, earns depends on the company, number of friends and followers they have, and their online influence.
For example, if you have 200 friends, an average influence rating, and a company is offering 20c per click, you will earn $2 for a post if 10 friends click on it.
If you post twice a day for one month, you will earn $120. The more friends who follow your links, the more money you make.
Menswear brand Barclays Sydney and online wine store Cracka Wines are paying users 18c for every referral, while Starshots pays 15c.
Since launching in June, the website now has a reach of one million Australian Facebook and Twitter users, with plans to go global.
But branding experts believe this form of guerilla-style marketing could lead to the downfall of social networking.
“The moment you commercialise Facebook, you shift the nature of your online relationships,” Deakin Graduate School of Business senior lecturer Paul Harrison said.