Top 10 Tips for building a gTLD Affiliate Network through Social Media

It makes the strategist in my heart sing when I see that most of the new gTLDs labeled generic are in fact words that speak to a specific niche. Most are even so specific that the average person, a friend sitting next to you at a dinner party, your parents, can understand how a space online dedicated to that word might be a reasonable option for that audience and the names they chose online. And then inevitably you are forced to trot along the path of ‘what about .com??!’ with said dinner party guest. I like to let those registries who have applied for .com competitors (.web, online, etc..) take that discussion. I haven’t much to add there. I’m inspired by the niche names.

So, for all those that are launching a TLD for the first time, or those who are launching their 40th name and are getting tired by the traditional channel game, here’s how to really activate the niche you have chosen by enlisting their influencers as your resellers – and doing it through the most efficient means possible: social media. (Aka: Inbound Marketing)

1. Identify the application(s) of your name

How will this be used, under what circumstances would your buyer think “Oh yeah, this is a great option for that thing I wanted to do”. Choose no more than 2-3 versions of this application – it’s critical that you focus on telling the story of ‘How this name is used’.

2. Choose the niche audience that looks like that buyer

You can’t blanket a market from day one, you must trust in organic growth and genuine usage. Choose a segment of your market that will conceivably embrace and use your name. Numbers of registrations mean nothing to the real world (people outside of the ICANN community) – usage is the single measure of adoption.

3. Create a suite of social profiles for your string

Use the ‘how will this string be used’ as your single and sole voice as you define your profiles. There is no need to ever talk about boring things like the ICANN process, when you’ve signed your contract, or when you are launching. Those things mean nothing to real Internet users. Talk about application of the name. Illustrate the value of a namespace to help bring the community together, empower its members, and outline how a more relevant webname will be good for their business. Always focus on the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor for your readers.

4. Create a social content calendar and use automated tools

Use tools like Hootsuite or Hubspot to maintain and grow your social profile. Social media is the one medium as yet UNTAPPED by domain name sales – and the only way to really reach your audience when they are in a ‘qualified buyer’ mode – online and interested with fingers poised to enter their paypal details. Go for it. No one is doing this well yet so do not be intimidated by the awkwardness of social promotion. Just remember, to be a valuable member of that community you must bring something of value to the table – your namespace.

5. Select the influencers from that segment

Do a little googling/binging/bonging on who are the loudest voices online in that community. The resulting data will be primarily social – top Twitter trends, Facebook groups, etc. Those are your first Brand Ambassadors and this is where you want to build your following. It’s great to get a big name using your string, but you´ll find the time and resources you invest to get them to potentially use your name in the future or as a redirect can be better spent on getting your name used by a member of the online community. A blogger or highly active social player in your space has considerably more visibility and credibility to your actual buyer than a brand with their often contrived social voice. Your actual buyer is someone who is a) online when they see your name, b) receptive to influence, c) can respond to a ‘call to action’ and register your name then and there. ‘Willing and able to purchase’ is the definition of a qualified buyer. Which brings me to my next point:

6. Create an Affiliate program

Identify those influencers in your space, the hubs of the network, those with an active voice and make direct contact with a view to enabling them to sell your names (for a healthy margin). If you have the budget – pay them a one off ‘getting started’ fee. It will give them a sense of partnership and obligation to make things work for you. Using and selling your name are the highest forms of endorsement.

7. Manage and grow that Affiliate network

Don’t stop recruiting. Ever. But manage the newfound affiliates like remote employees. Keep in touch regularly, send them tips on how best to attract registrants. Show them the success of other affiliates (even when all you have to show are registrar numbers). Pick up the phone once a month or more. The squeaky wheel gets the oil (I hate that you eventually learn all of life’s clichés are true). Use a CRM system to keep track of your affiliates and manage them like a fully functioning channel. Bundle those contacts into your registrar and reseller network to keep everyone motivated to sell your names.

8. Invest MORE time in growing your social network

Every month you need to dedicate a few days to focusing the top minds in your organization on your social presence and how to grow it further. They are the ones who conceived of the string and its potential. Go back to the drawing board and research which are the top groups in your niche, the bloggers, the events, the Twitter trends, etc. Take the time to send personal notes to the influencers on your string, ask for a phone call (what?? actually talk to people?? The lost art of live conversation still warms the heart) post on group pages, follow all of the Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram profiles related to your niche. You will have approximately 10% who follow you back. You will also learn a lot when you look through their followers.

9. Focus on producing content

Its a big hassle and disrupts from what you tend to perceive as your ‘real’ to do list – but this is how you create presence and profile for your string. This is how you make your name relevant and recognizable. You need to be a part of the conversation that is taking place in your niche and you need to bring value to the table by illustrating ways in which your name can ehance online identities for the community members. Images are the easiest and quickest way to produce pleasant and digestible content. My personal favorite is taking pictures of existing ads and crossing out their web address and writing over with a new gTLD address.

10. Scan social sites for active players and follow them all

These are the brands that embrace the social space in your niche and make friends with everyone. It’s not that new players will constantly emerge (they will) it’s that everyone comes online with social activities at their own pace and most are periodic and irregular about it. You must return to the trough regularly and continue recruiting. The goal is to fully penetrate your space so that your name is ubiquitous and all community members have seen it used, advertised, mentioned at least once.

Ask yourself the following to identify potential affiliate partners:

  1. Do they have the right traffic – do they get those eyeballs when they are willing and able to purchase?
  2. Can they effectively present your offer and manage the click-through buying process in order to properly convert towards registrations of your names?
  3. Can they keep it up so the volume is worth the time you took to recruit them. This needs to be a self perpetuating cycle of constant registrations for you?

The affiliate channel is the most under-explored strategy in the domain space. However, the nature of the new TLDs does nothing short of DEMAND that you give it your best shot. The game of selling domains has changed. Gone are the days names will sell themselves based on very un-sexy value propositions such as ‘it’s cheap! it’s short!’. It’s high time our industry give them meaning while demonstrating value and usage. You can only do this by engaging their existing target audience.