For some unknown reason, I keep getting targeted ads asking me to sign up to become an ‘Amazon Influencer’. At first, I was taken aback—does Amazon, with its owner Jeff Bezos literally being the richest man in the world, really need the extra help in marketing and promotion from social media influencers?
For the sake of this article (that’s what I’d told myself), I tried to sign up and see what the big deal is. Of course, as I only have around 770 followers on Instagram, I did not meet “the eligibility requirements”, and was asked by Amazon to apply once I’ve increased my “level of influence” within social media—a reminder of the daily realities of my life as a non-insta-famous Gen Z’er. In order to set up an Amazon Influencer profile, also known as the “Amazon Influencer Programme”, you need to have an Amazon account, as well as either a Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or Instagram one and be successful at it, too, as Amazon states it looks at the number of your followers and other engagement metrics of your social media presence (purchasing fake followers won’t cut it, sorry). Once approved, the influencer is to set up their own Amazon ‘shop’ with a custom URL, recommending thousands of products, all in one spot. The influencer would then receive a commission for whatever they manage to sell.
So what’s the deal with Amazon’s decision to start using social media influencers as a marketing tool? Jeff Bezos seems to possess the ability to capitalise on literally anything, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. Over the years, the word ‘influencer’ has acquired a number of negative connotations, with people instantly rolling their eyes once they hear it. And yet, influencer marketing works, and it is actually very effective—Fyre festival, for example, is a painful proof of how much influencer marketing works. As much of a failure as it was, it would have never gained as much momentum if not for the social media influencers who marketed it (and are now being sued over this).
But who exactly is Amazon’s programme targetubg and how is it beneficial? Laura Fuentes is a chef, food blogger, and mum of three, and her Instagram account @momables has over 43.8K followers. She is also an Amazon Influencer and her shop comprises of different kitchen utensils and items, from tupperwares to cookbooks and supplements, and claims that since joining the programme, she has “seen an increase in affiliate sales revenue by 30 percent.” Laura promotes the exact type of products most of us buy on Amazon anyway, and as she says, “it is an easy way to serve your community by providing them with an easy and trusted source.” In other words, it does essentially benefit all three, Laura, the buyers, and the company.
Personally, I have never even considered Amazon when shopping for clothes, and neither did most people I know. There are so many options on the site that it is difficult to find the right piece, which is why so many people simply don’t bother. This is where Amazon fashion influencers come in. @colette.prime’s entire wardrobe allegedly consists of Amazon fashion, and Amazon fashion only. She began her fashion blog as a means to show the possibilities of engaging in fashion while also being able to afford it, which is how she came to Amazon. Her goal is to “take the best out of these options and put it onto one page”, enabling Amazon users to a much easier shopping experience. She, however, no longer works for Amazon exclusively.
This year, Amazon also launched the Amazon “drop”, consisting of limited-edition fashion collections designed by global influencers. It is uncertain why the company chooses to collaborate with influencers rather than giving a platform for emerging designers; nevertheless, once the collection drops, the Amazon drop user has 30 hours to shop until these items disappear forever. Amazon claims the ‘drop’ to be sustainable, as it doesn’t even start to make the piece until it is purchased in order to reduce waste. I applaud Amazon for this attempt to shift toward the right direction, but it does not make up for the years of environmental damage caused by excessive and unnecessary packaging or the CO2 emissions from rapid transportation.
It is good to see that Amazon can help working mothers like Laura or emerging fashion entrepreneurs like Colette gain revenue and essentially improve their lives for the better, but what about their factory workers? Just last month, Amazon was under fire over the mistreatment of factory workers in the U.K. warehouses, when Amazon created what seems to be an army of Twitter bots disguised as warehouse workers claiming just how much they love their jobs—exposed through a series of tweets. So how ethical is it to promote this new branch of the brand, really?
While we question the intentions of the brand and its decisions, the Amazon Influencer Programme is actually something good, and has the potential to benefit millions—the company just needs to rearrange a number of structures within for it to work. Amazon, the ball is in your court.