The Angel and the Devil – Business Ethics & Affiliate Programs

We live in an odd time…. this whole new-fangled internet thingamajig….  We have more information at our fingertips than ever…. and it is good and bad.

Take for instance, business ethics.  Keep in mind, I’m an ISTJ

ISTJs tend to believe in laws and traditions, and expect the same from others.

business photographersIf you are starry eyed and following your dream, you may not have seen some of the uglier parts of the photography industry – the parts where photographers post fake reviews of their competition…. the parts where photographers find out that you are photographing someone they know, and they jump in and offer to do it discounted or free.  I’m not here to talk about that today.  Today, I want to compare affiliate programs and ethics.

Affiliate Programs

If you are unaware of affiliate programs, this is what they are.  I was briefly involved in a facebook group of photographers who ran affiliate programs (and was kicked out… because someone worried that I wouldn’t be ethical to THEM…. hahaha.  What, cause I would stand up for those who were being taken advantage of? Imagine that!)  Their program went something like this.

Photographer A would post “Best 30 photographers of 2014! List”  Out of the 30 photographers he listed, one was himself, and 26 of them were in that Facebook group.  Why?  People decided that associating themselves with other people and is a win in marketing for those individuals involved even if there are no real credentials.  Better yet, if you build up a site/blog that becomes popular, you can sell ad space to other people so they can advertise under you, but better still, make them give you a kickback, MONEY, for each of the product that you sell through your website for them.  Multiply that times 50 advertisers, and you are making bank.

So what’s wrong with that?  Nothing at face value, until you realize that the blogger is now posting advertisements for other businesses and telling photographers that YOU NEED THIS PRODUCT/CLASS/WORKSHOP and the only reason they are promoting it is so they get their kickback – not that the product/class/workshop is best business practices for photographers or that the person behind it is even legitimate.  In fact, many of these affiliates that are being pushed for kick back are actually not even working professional photographers – they are simply making money off of the photographers reselling what they learned elsewhere, or reselling lies…. there, I said it.  Some are promoting complete lies and bad business just to get their money kickback.  (Disclaimer:  Some are legit, but many many are not.  How can  you tell the difference?  Most cannot.)

Reviews for Photographers – The New Bandwagon

This morning, I was able to see a new “review board” that has popped up.  Funny, with all this talk of fake reviews being put up and photographers’ reputations on the line because of scams, extortion, etc., someone is right on the ball with the latest trend – this person put together a review board.  You can have your workshop or class put on this review board and have people review it so you can get more people to come to your workshops or classes.

But even better, not only will your business be up on the review board (good or bad reviews – or…. wait, do the bad reviews get deleted?  How does this work?  How does this benefit the workshop teacher?  I haven’t figured that one out yet….. as you can get reviews on your Facebook, Yelp, Iformative, and plenty other review boards out there for… wait for it…… FREE!!!!…..)

Now, how will you get the word out that you are on this review board?  You can put a banner on  your site – for…. get this…. $1,000 per month.



For the cost of your home that you live in (in many areas), you can have this little digital banner on your site that now advertises the person who owns the review board…. You are PAYING to advertise someone else’s review business.


So here’s the question.

You have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  What do you feel about the ethics of something like this.

business photographers 1How Dare They?

Personally, when I am feeling compassionate, I get angry.  I get angry with the person who is taking advantage of the people who do not know any better (or even prey on their fear of bad reviews).  How dare anyone try to convince someone that this is something they need – how dare they take someone’s hard earned income like that, that could go to feeding their kids, taking a nice vacation with the family to build memories that will last forever….. for what?

Should I Admire This Practice?

…..but the other side of me goes – You know, I am very booksmart.  I can run circles around many people my age when it comes to maths, etc., in fact, today I’m reviewing my Trigonometry and Precalculus so I can go test out of those college classes and not have to take them.  But…. this “street smart/internet savvy” stuff….. I’m frankly, a bit dumb on.  I would never dream of taking advantage of people like this.  It’s not in my nature.  However, as a business that is out to make bank, it’s brilliant.  Take an idea that is already out there for free and make people pay for it and who cares if someone can’t afford their monthly bills cause they are putting out that kind of money for a little digital banner – if they are that stupid to put that kind of money out there for something like that, they deserve it, right?

…. while laughing all the way to the bank…..

I mean… let’s take emotions out of business.  I should practice what I preach, right?

Fascinating….. How do you hate and admire someone at the same time and end up with these complete conflicts of ethics/morals?

I’ll save this question for another day – but who is behind all these fake reviews that we have been talking about lately?  This new bandwagon…. Is this a deeper thing, a ploy to get people to buy assurance that they aren’t going to have bad reviews published?  That’s really messed up.