Your journey to become a wise consumer of hair care products starts here.
Don’t Let Hair Care Marketing Waste Your Money
If you read hair care blogs and watch hair YouTube videos, then you must read this post. It discusses a very important topic: How hair care blogs and websites (including CheckThatHairFact) make money from you, our readers.
In this age, hair care affiliate marketing is an important source of income for anyone who has a hair blog, website, or channel. And that in itself is totally fine. I don’t think any of us consumers mind paying for great products, services, and knowledge. However, affiliate marketing is a powerful tool that can be easily misused. Let me explain how that might happen…
What is affiliate marketing?
I’m assuming that most people are familiar with the term “affiliate marketing,” but if you’re not, don’t sweat it. Here’s a quick lesson:
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is promoting someone else’s product/service, and getting paid a commission for every sale that happens as a result of your promotion. There are many different ways that this general setup can be structured, so we’ll just jump straight into how the hair care industry usually does it.
What does hair care affiliate marketing look like?
For the vast majority of hair care v/bloggers (bloggers and/or vloggers), affiliate marketing brings them commissions through online links to products. Here’s a bare-bones example:
You’ve seen links like this in almost every hair blog. When you click on either the name or the image of a product, a new window opens where you can buy the product. Those links to the sale page are called affiliate links, and both the company and the v/blogger can track how many people buy a product through those links.
Once the reader purchases a product, a small (usually 2-4%) percentage of the product price goes to the blogger. The reader is not affected monetarily by an affiliate link; the price you pay through a blogger’s link is always exactly the same as the price you’d pay if you bought the item directly. In fact, bloggers often have links with discount codes.
The benefit of hair care affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing helps bloggers offset the cost of running a blog. After all, it’s not free. There are website hosting fees, as well as taking up time that you could have devoted to making money in a different way. This means that affiliate marketing helps bloggers who are passionate and talented dedicate even more of their time to providing truly valuable content to the public. In other words, magic happens when affiliate marketing is used as the means to a community-benefiting end goal.
The danger of hair care affiliate marketing
The danger arises when bloggers make affiliate marketing itself their end goal, instead of their means. They write dishonest content to promote everything under the sun, even useless products from shitty companies. And they often promote needlessly-expensive products, since their commission percentages would be greater.
Think about it, how many times have you bought a very costly hair conditioner because a cute blogger with gorgeous curls gushed about it on her YouTube channel? Before seeing her (possibly dishonest) review, you didn’t know about the conditioner, but now you’re digging for your credit card without a second’s hesitation. This brings me to my next point:
Why is it so easy to get tricked by hair care affiliate marketing?
The answer is two words: social proof.
We’re all human, and that means we’re psychologically wired to trust a product more if it’s being recommended by a friendly, “regular person” rather than a company [1, 2]. In the days of passion-driven blogs, we could read a blogger’s posts and know that they’re writing about the topic because they truly care, and that made us trust them. Today, we still trust blogs, not realizing that many blogs aren’t passion-driven anymore, they are money-driven.
Readers don’t realize how incredibly easy it is to start a blog in this day and age. Seriously, you can have a functioning blog within a few hours and immediately start filling it with product review posts that are stuffed with affiliate links.
So we’re used to thinking that people who are publishing online are all dedicated professionals in their topics when it’s just not the case anymore. Their opinion might be worth nothing, but we’re tricked into giving their opinion more weight than it deserves; we automatically assume that they are honest and experienced and that their opinion is valuable.
The end result of bad hair care affiliate marketing
Our hair and our wallets suffer. At best, we get frustrated that the expensive-ass products we’ve purchased based on a blogger’s raving review are not working out for us, and we’re back to square one with our hair. At worst, we listen to the wrong advice that actually damages our hair.
How to avoid getting tricked by hair care affiliate marketing
Not getting tricked is tricky (Ba dum tissss……). Here are the top three pieces of advice I can give you:
1. Assume all product links are affiliate links.
Blogs and websites are required by law to disclose that they use affiliate links. However, this law is rarely–if ever–enforced, which means many bloggers leave those words off their site. You could try to identify affiliate links by checking the full link address for the following tags: tag= or ref=, aff, rid, ref, refid. But really, in this day and age, you need to assume that any product you see on a blog has an affiliate link attached to it.
Oh and P.S., when a YouTube video says it’s “not sponsored,” it just means that the company didn’t pay the vlogger any money upfront to talk positively about the products, it does NOT mean that there aren’t any affiliate links in the video description.
2. Look for opinions that are based on the blogger’s human senses
Try to identify and trust only their observations that they can humanly make with their five senses. Check out the examples below:
Observations that are humanly possible to make at home:
“This leave-in made my hair feel very soft.”
You just need to touch your hair in order to make that observation. Our hands can perceive softness.
“This gel gave me the best definition!”
You can take photos of before and after and easily see a difference in definition.
Observations that are not humanly possible to make at home (and are usually scientific-sounding):
“This leave-in really sealed in my cuticles!”
There is no way to know that a product sealed your cuticles without having multiple super-expensive pieces of lab equipment….Unless you have a bionic eye that doubles as a scanning electron microscope…
“This conditioner penetrates the cortex extremely well!”
Once again, this statement requires expensive lab equipment to prove, so unless you see a reference to those actual test results, this is an unverifiable claim to make in an at-home setting.
3. Look for scientific references to hair care product claims.
When a blogger does say anything about a product that sounds scientific, they need to be backing it up with peer-reviewed research. It’s so easy for bloggers to throw in some hair science jargon and fool readers into thinking they know what they’re talking about. Don’t get fooled. Check. For. Sources.
So what now?
I hope that this information will help you be more alert to misinformation on the internet. And I hope that together, we can all do our part to raise the quality standard for the hair care blogosphere.
- Hajli, N., Lin, X., Featherman, M., & Wang, Y. (2014). Social word of mouth: How trust develops in the market.
- Amblee, N., & Bui, T. (2011). Harnessing the influence of social proof in online shopping: The effect of electronic word of mouth on sales of digital microproducts. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 16(2), 91-114.