Any marketing expert can tell you the value of a social media influencer – a highly followed user of a social media platform who blogs, tweets, or otherwise posts on a topic related to your business. Marketers attempt to win over these influencers as advocates of their products, thus reaching hundreds or thousands of the influencer’s followers. According to eMarketer, 81% of advertisers who have used influencer marketing believe it is effective. And now retail giant Amazon wants to get in on the action.

Last month, Amazon quietly released a beta version of its own influencer marketing program. Amazon’s invite-only influencer program was created for social media influencers with large followings and a high amount of content with shopable potential (i.e. blogs or videos that mention products that can be purchased online). It allows influencers to earn fees for the purchases they drive through their social media networks.

Similar to the current Amazon Affiliate program, which allows anyone to sign up and build links as well as shopping ads to put on their website or social media profiles, Amazon’s Influencer Program allows an influencer’s readers to visit a linked curated online “shop” or list of products that the influencer recommends. The program provides accepted influencers with a vanity URL that can be used within blogs, in YouTube video descriptions, or elsewhere on a website. The vanity URLs make it fast and simple for customers to find, look at, and purchase the products influencers introduce to them via their website, blog, and social media posts. Once a visitor has clicked through and directly purchased a product, the influencer who listed the product receives a commission on that sale.

How Do You Join the Program?

Currently open by invitation only, any social media influencers interested in joining Amazon’s new program must apply and wait to be accepted.

The application process includes three steps:

1. List the URLs of your social media accounts in Amazon’s public profile page settings.
2. Verify your email address in Amazon’s account settings.
3. Click the “Apply for an Invitation” button on this page.

Once you have applied, Amazon will review your application and contact you via email if you qualify.

What Factors Does Amazon Look For?

Amazon doesn’t just look at the number of followers one has on their social media profiles. Other factors include post engagement, quality of the content, and how relevant the content is for Amazon. There are no set number quotas one must fill to apply to the program, nor are there category requirements.

What Does This Mean for Marketing?

In some ways, Amazon’s influencer marketing program is simply an extension of its existing referral program, which allows website owners and bloggers to earn referral fees when buyers purchase a product via a link posted on their website or blog. However, the influencer program represents a new venue by which influencers can expand their reach outside of their preferred social media platform. In the same way that Oprah Winfrey expanded her influence in publishing by creating a book club, Amazon is giving influencers a forum to endorse a collection of products to their audience.

Thus, regardless of the extent to which Amazon’s Influencer Program is a leap forward, it underscores the rising influence of social media VIPs and ensures that they will remain a central focus of digital marketing campaigns..