How much time have you spent Facebooking today? Twittering? Texting? Answering personal e-mail? If your social media habits mimic those of most Americans, you’ve probably spent a solid chunk of time catching up with mom, setting weekend plans, and perusing your high school soul mate’s Facebook page. In fact, the Mobile Mindset Study, conducted by security app creator Lookout Mobile Security, revealed that 58% of all U.S. smartphone users check their phones at least once an hour. At least.

Now, answer me this: How much time have your spent cultivating your relationship with your affiliates today? [Cue crickets]

Perhaps you’re wondering, “Why do I need to communicate with my affiliates? They know what they are doing. Sure, when I first started, I spent a ton of time building my affiliate network. But I don’t need to put so much time in anymore because it’s finally at a point where it runs itself. I get to kick back, relax, and reap the rewards.” Don’t worry. If you do nothing in the area of communication, your affiliate network will still run itself … right into the ground. But every successful affiliate manager knows that the real secret to a thriving affiliate marketing system is an effective and relevant communication path with their partners.

Think your affiliates don’t want to hear from you? Check this out: According to the 2010 AffStat report produced by Affiliate Summit, which included responses from 1,150 affiliates worldwide, the majority of affiliates (over 85%) want to hear from their managers monthly (49%) or weekly (36.1%). The overwhelming majority (62%) want that communication to come in the form of an e-mail versus social media. Still think they don’t want to hear from you?

But communicating with your affiliates isn’t just about sending e-mails. They need to be the right e-mails. Keeps these tips in mind when planning your communication strategy:

  1. What’s the right amount? It’s a balancing act, and only you can determine the appropriate level of communication. However, your affiliate partners don’t want to be barraged with irrelevant information. They get enough of that on a daily basis between phone calls, e-mails, and social media outlets. If you send too many messages, you run the risk of being ignored with an index finger to the Delete button. But your affiliates do want to be informed. Weekly might be too much; monthly might be too little. Perhaps you make contact twice a month. If you market a product with daily deals, then daily communication might make sense. It depends on your business, but make sure you tailor your communication to meet partners’ needs.
  2. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) You don’t have the time to create complicated newsletters. You have a business to run, and your affiliate partners have product to sell. The key here is to keep your communication short, simple, purposeful, and relevant, whether you send a fancy newsletter or a traditional e-mail. What should you include? Give your affiliate partners the tools they need to successfully sell your product. Product updates are always good. Give them a heads up on new product offerings. Include a short piece of industry news, or a fun fact about your product. Take this opportunity to educate them on your product. Solicit ideas for new marketing avenues. Always include a meaningful way to contact you (direct line, cell phone, direct e-mail address), and encourage feedback. Successful communication is a two-way street.
  3. Be responsive. Respond professionally and appropriately to questions, concerns, and ideas within 24 hours. Respond sooner if there is a true problem. If someone takes the time to apply to your program, respond as if they were already a partner. Don’t make them wait.
  4. Get personal. If you manage a large number of affiliates, it’s tough to keep it personal. But it can be done. Include a short handwritten note in their paycheck, thanking them for their work. If you notice an affiliate has had great sales or success with a new marketing campaign, let him/her know. Pick up the phone or write a note. It takes 5 minutes.
  5. Hang with your affiliates. Your affiliates are probably your best source of information about how your products are performing in the marketplace. Find out what blogs they read (or write) and comment from time to time. Ask questions about their marketing campaigns to find out what worked or what didn’t. Create a group Facebook page (or pages, if you have more than one product) just for your product where affiliates can go for information, support, or networking.

So, in the interest of pushing your affiliate marketing program to the next level, make the commitment right now to take a serious look at your current communication strategy. If you are already using these tips, great! If not, consider the steps you need to take to reach out to your affiliates. It’s ok. Mom will understand, and the weekend plans can wait just a little longer. As for that high school soul mate, you are on your own.

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