If you’re going to monetize your blog through affiliate marketing, then it follows that your audience is your target market. But something you have to remember is that your audience is more than just a target market. They are also a community of readers.

Magazine readers are simply a target market because they’re just that: readers. They might all share a common interest (the content), but they’re completely disassociated from one another.

Blog readers are different because blogs are a form of social media. Users interact with the writer, the content, and other readers, and for that reason they’re a community.

The New ROI: Return on Influence
Bloggers have such potential as affiliate marketers because of their return on influence. They’re independent third parties who have built a community around their content. Since consumers want someone that they know and trust to inform their purchasing decisions, bloggers are in an opportune positions: they’re readers are readers because they trust them. To that extent, blogger have influence.

Trust Economies
Now, if you start referring your readers to products just so that you can make a quick buck, sooner or later they’re going to lose trust in you, and you’re going to lose them as readers. You have influence over your readers because you’ve built a trust economy with them. If your trust economy crashes, then your potential as an affiliate blogger is going to enter into recession.

Communities vs Markets
If you want to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing but maintain your reputation as an independent third party, you have to think relationships before sales. After all, it was putting those relationships first that made you a successful blogger, so those relationships (your trust economy) is the foundation of your potential as an affiliate marketer. Consequently, you might want to take some of the following precautions when you set out as an affiliate blogger.

Encourage Participation: When you start promoting products, encourage user feedback. Openly inviting user feedback on those products will not only protect your reputation as a blogger when you refer a reader and they become an unsatisfied customer, but will give you invaluable feedback on what your readers think about you promoting certain products.

Disclose Your Promotions: Consider the ethics of affiliate blogging when you decide how to promote you products, and don’t try to hide that you’re promoting them. Sooner or later, someone is going to notice that your links are affiliate links. In fact, a disclosure page with a list of all your affiliate programs is not only a great way to remain transparent, but even gives you the opportunity to make commissions by referring other affiliates.

Choose Your Affilaite Promotions wisely: If your showing your readers ads that have nothing to do with your content (or their interests), they’re going to feel like you’re spamming them. Keep your affiliate ads contextual.

Don’t Spam Your Blog: When it comes to affiliate blogging, your earning potential is about quality, not quantity. When planning your affiliate ad placement, make sure to not compromise usability. Certain kinds of ads belong in certain places, and nowhere else. As members of a community, your readers feel a partial sense of ownership over your blog (whether you like it or not). If you violate that, you’re not going to have much of a community left to try to monetize.

Community Service
Remember the saying that “the customer is always right.” Well that extends well beyond the check-out
line. As an affiliate blogger, you’re basically becoming a freelance salesman who works strictly on commission. So stay customer service oriented and avoid becoming a used-car jockey. Don’t tell your readers what they want, give it to them.

It’s the basic law of supply and demand, the only difference is that you’re not dealing with a market demand, you’re dealing with a community demand. Not only do you have to offer what individual members of the market are looking for, you have to consider what the community as a whole wants.