Word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new, but the exponential growth of online influencers, who have established impressively large and loyal followings within their niches, has changed the game. And savvy business owners are taking notice.

Across the board, business owners are partnering with this community of online influencers to connect to their expanding follower bases, and many are tapping into popular, yet less-traditional, referral channels such as YouTube and Pinterest.

Check out how businesses are using these unconventional methods to promote referral links:


With over one billion users and over six billion hours of video viewed each month, YouTube has one of the largest reaches of any media platform in the world. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2019, 80% of all online content will be video, so if you can dominate your niche using video now, your views — which determine your potential referral revenue — will increase over time. You’ll also establish a consistent audience that will fluctuate less than other marketing platforms such as Facebook, as YouTube’s algorithm is less likely to change.

Product Demonstration/Tutorial Videos

Product demonstrations, tutorials and “how-to” videos are some of the most searched types of content on YouTube. Ask any millennial: They operate under the assumption that there will be a video tutorial for any question or problem that they have — and they’re not that far off. “How-to” searches on YouTube are growing 70% each year.

Take fashion and beauty vlogger Tess Christine for example. She shows her over two million subscribers how to achieve “Natural Glam & Loose Waves” using a styling tool for which she is a referral partner. Within the actual video, she includes her partner code that viewers can use to receive a discount on their purchase of the product she is using. She also includes a referral link to where viewers can directly purchase the hairstyling product.When an influencer creates a video demonstration of your product, your credibility as a partnered organization naturally goes up.

Comparison Videos

Comparison videos are relatively straightforward: They compare two competing products and give honest analysis, features and benefits on both to help viewers decide which one is right for them.

They can be a great way for lesser-known products and brands to gain attention by piggybacking on more well-known competitor’s popularity. To assure the benefits, though, you need to be certain that your referral partner will present a genuine and honest appraisal of both options without being largely biased toward either side. Take Ride Share Tips’ video “Uber vs Lyft: Why You Should Be Driving for Both” as an example.

Unboxing Videos

It’s surprising that people love watching other people unbox products, but they undeniably do. According to Pamela Rutledge of the Media Psychology Research Center, unboxing videos play into our primal curiosity and desire to reduce uncertainty. Unboxing videos are just that: a recording of an influencer’s genuine “first reaction” to a product, showing a viewer what to expect if they were to purchase the product themselves.

In his video “It Finally Came,” YouTuber Casey Neistat walks his viewers through an unveiling of the DJI Phantom 4 and records his initial excitement and thoughts about it.


While significantly less popular than YouTube, Pinterest is also a goldmine for referral opportunities. The platform currently has over 110 million monthly users, with more than two billion searches per month. In May, 2016 Pinterest began allowing users to embed partner links directly into pins, rather than linking to third-party sites that contain partner links. That makes Pinterest a widely untapped resource.

Partner Pins

While the ability to include links makes it exponentially easier for partners to promote on a wider scale, the platform can also accidentally categorize these pins as spam. Make sure your referral partners are using the platform correctly by following these guidelines:

  • To shorten referral links, use Pretty Links (a common referral link cloaker); avoid using link shorteners such as Bitly.
  • Be sure to keep pins consistent with the “beautiful” aesthetic of the platform. Your audience will notice the difference if you don’t.
  • Don’t expect referral pins to generate more attention than regular pins. Pinterest’s algorithm treats them the same. To increase a referral pin’s visibility, it can be promoted.
  • Make sure that your referrers are following FTC guidelines.

Introducing these new channels into your playbook and reaching out to online influencers in these spheres could completely transform your partner programs. Let us know what you think in the comments below.  

About Tatiana Doscher
Campaign Strategist Tatiana Doscher is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a dual B.A. in Communication and Global Studies. After working with several small and local businesses, Tatiana joined Ontraport’s Marketing team. She loves running, hiking and enjoying Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches.