What is ShopSquad, and How Does it Work?
I received an email last month which looked like it had gotten through the spam filter. It talked about something called ShopSquad. I had apparently been invited to join this website. In reality anybody can join, but you may need proven knowledge to apply for a particular category that you intend to advise in.
I’m usually quite cynical when it comes to this sort of thing – not just the email, but the websites or products that they advertise. I always do a little digging first before joining, rather than diving in head first. ShopSquad was started up just this year by people who worked at Skype, for instance. It has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve read generally positive things about the site. $1 250,000 was given over to fund the project. So that makes one think that it must be for real.
This is what ShopSquad is in a nutshell: it’s a social networking website mixed with an online shopping experience, where buyers head over to the site, and advisors help them get what they’re looking for. It’s like a cross between Yahoo Answers and Amazon, perhaps, with a bit of Skype thrown in for good measure.
Once you register (it’s free to do so by the way), after providing your desired profile name and email (you can also sign in via Facebook) you are sent the usual activation email. From there you get to your dashboard once you’ve successfully logged in. ShopSquad’s website has recently undergone a bit of a makeover with the latest update this month, so I’m still getting a little bit more used to it.
The first place you’ll want to go is to your profile page. Here you can upload a photo of yourself or a picture of some sort. People are probably more likely to take advice from a human and not a shadow person. There’s a lot to be said about personalising your account and image on the website – or any website. You can edit the categories that you will specialise in. This will give people a rough idea of what your areas of expertise are. But you aren’t limited to these only – you can answer pretty much any question if you know the answer. You can’t be an expert in every single category though – you can only be a listed advisor in 3 categories.
Speaking of which, questions come in many different flavours. Right from appliances to video games, with queries such as: “Should I get an Apple iPhone or a Blackberry?” Some are simple questions, others more complex. Most of the time people are probably too vague, to be honest.
You want to be pole position here – or at least I do. If the first answer solves the problem, then the original poster is less likely to read the rest. You’ll notice that most of the time one question will have 1 or 2 answers, with the absolute maximum being about 5. There are a lot of times when you can have your say; express your opinions and give recommendations. Other times 1 answer pretty much covers it all and there’s little you can say without repeating something.
You are then rated by people who have accounts and are logged in. They can give you a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” (known as “helpful points”) if they like or dislike what it is you’ve given as a recommendation, and this is then reflected in your overall score as an advisor. This is one of the ingredients in a super secret recipe that determines how high your overall score is. People on HubPages should be all too familiar with this.
What I really like about ShopSquad is that it’s all ready partnered with many of the available affiliate programs out there. You don’t have to spend ages applying and getting turned down by some, accepted by others, getting booted out, or having affiliate partnerships expire after a length of time.
ShopSquad has taken care of all this. It’s basically like an entire affiliate network - except instead of having to apply for each one, all are all ready open to you for use. ShopSquad uses an affiliate network to apply for affiliate programs, and you can even suggest stores, too. All you need to do is visit a supported store online, search for the product you wish to recommend, get the URL, copy and paste it either in your ShopTags area in your profile or in the add product boxes below your answer (quicker, and less tabs in the browser need to be open). This then generates a link with your own ShopTag in it. If anyone follows the link and buys something, then you get most of the commission. You don’t even need to be an affiliate with that shop. This is a great way to say “Yah boo, sucks to you!” when you’re dealing with a store’s affiliate program which has rejected you time and time again.
Soon, you'll even be able link to products on eBay – and we all know how difficult it can be trying to get in to their ad program nowadays. I've received word that this will be possible in a few months, next year.
ShopSquad also has the usual statistics you can view much like you would with any run-of-the-mill affiliate program, telling you what products have been viewed, bought, and how much commission is pending and earned. There’s also a section where you can list all the things you own, want or would rather pass on. ShopTags are automatically generated here as you favourite things. These items are also put on their own shelves according to the category they’re associated with. These collections are visible to the public and if someone were to buy something, you’d earn commission, too. You can also earn discounts at stores if you're the first to add particular products. I got a discount of 15% on any two games at Gamestop. Nice.
The earning potential at ShopSquad can be very good. You’re dealing with people on a more personal level, answering their individual questions and recommending products. It’s not like on your blog, or even here on HubPages where you’re crossing your fingers, hoping for somebody to go through to Amazon or eBay and buy something. And certain affiliate programs might not like it if you beg or demand people to do it outright.
And besides just answering questions - if you want, you can take it further. You can type in your websites’ URLs in your profile page so people will be able to view your websites, blogs or other projects and what you’ve been up to recently, if you want. You can also enter in an IM account name so people can get a hold of you specifically if they’re looking for advice. There’s a toolbar you can download and install as an extension for your browser (Firefox and Safari are supported so far, with other browsers, like IE, to follow). You can subscribe to questions to see when there are new answers posted in a question “thread” you’ve participated in, too. You can also post your answers to Facebook or Twitter so your followers can see what you’re doing.
"What I really like about ShopSquad is that it’s all ready partnered with many of the available affiliate programs out there. This is a great way to say “Yah boo, sucks to you!” when you’re dealing with a store’s affiliate program which has rejected you time and time again."
Have you used ShopSquad? What do you think of it?
And the most advanced way is to set up a live chat via webcam where you can see and talk to the shopper in person. Nobody else can interact with either of you although they can see the video session taking place. By interact I mean that you can copy and paste links that will show up in both your browsers while chatting.
One of the greatest things about recommending products is that even if the person requesting advice doesn’t purchase anything, anybody else who happens to surf by and who goes on to buy things – you’ll still get commission if they got there using your ShopTag. It’s not limited to one buyer, as everyone knows.
So there are several ways to make sure you’re ahead of the game. You don’t have to do all of these things, but you are encouraged to do so by way of points. If you achieve so many points on your profile for doing tasks, you are awarded bonus dollars. But it’s a once off deal. Say you’ve gone ahead and set up a live chat, then you’ll earn points for that one time – not every time you do it. It’s also been said statistics show that you’re more likely to make a sale using the live chat feature.
The payout threshold is very low. With most programs out there it’s $50 or $100 at least. But with Shopsquad it’s a mere $10. And several websites or affiliates will only pay out via PayPal with a threshold that low. ShopSquad pays out via PayPal and cheque. The only program I’ve read about that’s any more accommodating than this is perhaps Black Label Ads.
Because at the end of the day it’s not an affiliate program. It’s a middleman of sorts that’s on your side – it’s done the hard work of partnering with programs, and it’s giving you 75% of the commission that you’d normally get from said programs. ShopSquad takes a 25% cut. The store itself, such as Amazon, still gets the lion’s share. Commission varies from store to store and of course cookies apply here too. If a user clicks through to view a product page but doesn’t buy it within 24 hours with some programs, then you lose the commission.
You might say right now: “Stuff that! If I manage to sell through my blog, then I get 100% commission on a sale”.
But yet on HubPages or Blogger, when you run Adsense ads on your pages, there’s a process called revenue sharing , where you get most of the impressions. If you were to set up Adsense ads on your own website, on its own domain, you would get 100% of the impressions. But my earnings are still greater on HubPages, and I generally still get far more traffic too. That’s why I’ve stuck with it for so long. Because HubPages also does a lot of the hard work.
You must remember that you can make a ShopTag out of any product link that is featured as a supported store on ShopSquad. It’s a big plus in my mind that I can basically recommend a product from any store without having to be apart of their affiliate program – and I can put the links on any website, blog or social networking profile I wish without having to have it approved first. Going the ShopSquad way saves you time, effort, and having to deal with several programs, managing accounts all over the place - all with different, sometimes complicated ways of creating product links with your own personal code.
And to sweeten the deal, there’s also a referral program too, where if you manage to get somebody to join after sending them an invite, you get a bonus $5 credited to your account. But the catch is that they have to make $50 commission before this happens.
If you still can’t overlook the fact that the website takes a 25% share of your commission, then you obviously won’t be convinced that this is the way to go. If you’re doing fine on your own, that’s great. But for people who are new to affiliate marketing and still learning the ropes, are too lazy to go to all the effort, or who haven’t had enough success doing it their way – you might give ShopSquad a try.
So I thought I might join and see what it’s all about; maybe report back on progress in some time. After all, it’s like I’ve said before: I’m an online adventurer – keen to find new experiences, join new websites, and always looking for new ways to make a little “supplementary income”.
Note that as of 2012, ShopSquad is now known as Ownza, seeing as it has come under new ownership.
© 2011 Anti-Valentine