try to make money off my online behavior — unless, of
course, I get a commission.
the idea behind San Diego tech startup Wildfire Systems,
which launched an app Wednesday to help internet users
make money from of conversations they’re already
having online. The company, founded by a former eBay
executive, lets users earn commissions from
recommendations they share on the internet, whether
it’s on social media, by email or through text
example, a friend buys an Instant Pot after you raved
about the pressure cooker on Instagram, the software
would let you get a cut of the sale.
is particularly timely considering the public outcry
against tech giants like Facebook, which have been
lambasted in recent months for making money off their
users’ activity and personal data.
merchants are tripping over themselves to sign onto
Wildfire’s platform, which already has 20,000
retailers on board, including Expedia, Nordstrom’s,
REI and Walmart.
CEO Jordan Glazier’s new app, Wildlink, brings to mind
the marketing tactics that bloggers use, in which they
get kickbacks from brands for pitching products online.
industry, that is called “affiliate marketing,” and
it’s a tool mostly used by people who have large
followings on social media (collectively known as
“influencers”). But it’s not so easy to make money
this way. People have to sign up for individual
affiliate marketing programs depending on the brand or
retailer and then jump through hoops for each one before
they can start earning cash.
said it shouldn’t be so hard to make money from your
recommendations. And you shouldn’t have to be
internet-famous to get paid when you directly encourage
a sale, he said.
don’t have to be an influencer to have influence,”
bells may be ringing for the privacy-conscious. Will
Wildfire now be reading my text messages, emails, and
social media posts? Glazier says no. The software runs
on your device, and it’s only searching for brands
that match with its database of merchants. And the user
always has the option of generating a link or ignoring
the software’s suggestion.
Wildfire may have to deal with other concerns. For
example, will a friend’s recommendation lose its power
of influence if it’s known that they’re making a
commission off the recommendation?
Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State
University, says there’s a big transition going on in
the influencer space in which fans want transparency
from the influencers they follow about their economic
incentives. Fans and followers want those individuals to
be transparent about the economic incentives they’re
getting to pitch a product.
nuance here is disclosure,” Copic said. “Not that
your friend won’t be your friend anymore, but they
might question your motives if they find out you’re
being compensated for your suggestions.”
Bohm, CEO at a company called Liquid Grids in San Diego,
has been working in a similar space for years. His
company also uses natural language processing to
understand what internet users are saying on health
forums, and how it relates to brands.
Wildfire could be on to something big, but it’s
critical that they maintain transparency along the way
grass-roots level, this could be disruptive in terms of
how brands get recommendations,” Bohm said. “As long
as they maintain authenticity, it could be really