We're running an interesting campaign for BOTS right now. Basically, it works like this:
- You're a current player
- You invite friends to play the game using a unique url
- Mine looks like this: http://bots.acclaim.com/entry.jsp?ref=GB-F001-toggle-0810
- Note the referral code at the end, this allows Acclaim to track who is driving traffic
- If you invite the most friends during the campaign, you win an iPod
Am I worried this will get out of control? You bet! This is similar to affiliate programs you see e-commerce sites use to generate traffic. Someone posts a url with tracking code, if someone else buys, the poster gets a cut. Inevitably, the url falls into spam or other unsavory places. I'm not sure if our typical player has the resources to do this (yet) but it is a possibility. This is, however, the dilemma facing an Internet marketer today: how much control do I want?
If you market on the Internet, there are certain tools in your toolbox that make you nervous. Search is your hammer and banner ads are a hit or miss wrench (sometimes it fits the bolt, sometimes you have to throw it back). Overall, those are relatively safe and useful. Affiliate or customer driven initiatives are the old powerdrill, you know, the one with the frayed wires and the sparks flying out the middle. You can get things done faster but you risk getting fried in the process.
Marketing online is becoming less and less about what you can do but what others can do for you. MySpace, YouTube, Digg and all those social sites are beyond the reach of marketers, you just can't buy yourself a hit. It's a club for the masses and the only way in is entourage first, not star first. Now you combine this with the fact that people are notoriously difficult to control and you see the problem. I need the help of my customers but I have absolutely no control over them.
There is nothing to prevent someone from promising riches untold if others click on the BOTS url. There is nothing to prevent someone from creating a virus that makes people visit the site. Some hottie (male or female) can post up a very suggestive video on YouTube and coo their way towards making others click. We don't want any of these things associated with our brand but can we stop it?
I don't think someone would go through this trouble for BOTS and a silly iPod. However, it's not impossible to believe. So we're going to have to watch closely, track incoming links to see if anything suspicious is going on and wishfully cross our fingers. If you're going to cook with fire, you better keep your eye on the flames.