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Share a link and earn

Sharing advertisements on social media such as Facebook and Twitter can earn you money. -ST
Melissa Sim

Tue, Nov 20, 2012
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The next time an irate parent or friend grouses that you are wasting your time on Facebook, tell them this instead: You are busy sharing links to earn money.

While Facebook and Twitter have long allowed users to post Internet links so that friends and followers can see them, in the last few years, these Web links have been marshalled into a referral and reward system.

Called "referral marketing", it works roughly this way: Person A uses, or finds out about a service or product, and shares a link about it through Facebook, Twitter or even e-mail. When Person B sees Person A's recommendation and clicks on it or buys the item, Person A gets rewarded either in cash or coupons.

Take undergraduate Lim Yong Liang, 23, for example. In the last 10 months, the banking and finance student at the Singapore Institute of Management has earned $140 in total by recommending links to his 571 friends on Facebook and 55 followers on Twitter.

The links could range from a chance to win a free movie ticket to food voucher giveaways, says Mr Lim.

Having product plugs showing up on your newsfeed may irk some, but Mr Lim says he has yet to receive any complaints.

"I happen to have understanding friends who have no issue about the posts on their Facebook or Twitter. However, if they found me an irritant, I would definitely reduce the number," he says.

Online referral marketing platforms and companies, such as Churp Churp, says.com, Gush Ad and ReferralCandy, have sprung up here.

Set up in 2009, Churp Churp has 40,000 users in Singapore and more than 200,000 across Asia Pacific. Gush Ad, which started earlier this year, has 100,000 users worldwide. Says.com declined to be interviewed for the story.

Users can log on to Churp Churp, says.com and Gush Ad to search for advertising campaign messages they want to share with their friends. Each resulting click earns a user between 10 cents and $2, depending on the product recommended. Only unique clicks are counted, which in Internet parlance means that only one click for each computer is counted, no matter how many times a user clicks on it.

Thus, a Churp Churp user sending a link urging friends to check out Disney's Frankenweenie film, which opens here on Nov 29, earns 20 cents for every friend who clicks on it. A Gush Ad user telling his buddies about the Marine Parade Christmas light-up earns 38 cents. Churp Churp co-founder Cheo Ming Shen, 29, says: "Earnings depend on how much they share, their influence, as well as whether their friends are receptive to the message."

Companies say regular local users, with about 200 friends on Facebook, can earn $80 to $120 a year. Top bloggers with a large number of followers can earn even more.

One of 50,000 Gush Ad users here, 24-year-old student Hong Li Qiang says he logs on to the website every day to look for new campaigns. Mr Hong, who has about 400 Facebook friends and 115 Twitter followers, earned $100 in eight months doing so.

Local blogger Ang Chiew Ting (also known as QiuQiu), who has 23,000 Twitter followers and 8,700 people on her Facebook fanpage, estimates she can earn anything from a few dollars to $50 just by sending out a link on Churp Churp.

"I earn money, advertisers get to spread awareness of their products, events or services, and my followers are informed of good deals and discounts. It's an all-round win," says Ms Ang, 25, who blogs mainly about fashion and beauty at bongqiuqiu.blogspot.sg.

Referral companies say they take at least 20 per cent of what their advertisers spend on their platforms. The remaining 80 per cent is distributed to users who share their links.

While Churp Churp did not disclose its revenue figures, Gush Ad says its monthly revenue is $170,000 - up from just $25,000 in February this year.

Sometimes, however, link referees are paid only when their friends buy the advertised product.

Popular United States website refer.ly operates this way, as does Singapore-based ReferralCandy, set up in 2009. Unlike the other platforms, which rely on a network of registered users to spread the word, ReferralCandy sells its service directly to online stores.

The stores send customers a link about a product, asking them to forward it and recommend it to their friends. When a friend buys the item using that unique link, the person who first sent it gets rewarded.

From just 10 stores in October 2010, ReferralCandy now has 500 online stores, mostly from the US, actively using its service. ReferralCandy takes a cut of the sales revenue brought in through its referrals, and says it has experienced 15 per cent revenue growth each month in the past year.

Still, what about those doubts that inflicting referral ads on your friends and acquaintances is anti- social?

As Gush Ad co-founder Althea Lim, 28, puts it: "Ultimately, users will not be sharing a Gush Ad that is irrelevant to them as they will be discrediting themselves in front of their friends."

In other words, the system counts on everyone's innate desire not to look like a fool, flogging a bad or uncool product to all and sundry on Facebook. Whether the civic or social impulse will over-ride the capitalist one remains to be seen.

simlinoi@sph.com.sg


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