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1/3/2007
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Like A Product? USuggest Will Pay For Your Recommendation

Bloggers and members of social networks can get a cut of the sales for recommending products.

Startup USuggest is adding an unusual twist to online recommendations, offering to pay bloggers, shoppers, and members of social networks each time someone buys a product they like.

The shopping site, which offers 2 million products from the catalogs of more than 600 vendors, launched this week in beta, seeking partnerships with people with influence in the blogging community, or who have large social networks in sites like MySpace or Friendster.

USuggest is hoping to drive sales, in part, through people willing to place a buy link next to any of their online writing related to products they're willing to recommend. Clicking on the link would send a visitor to the USuggest site. If the person buys the product, then the writer gets half of the money USuggest makes on the sale. If the shopper buys a different product, then the writer would get a quarter of the sale commission.

Obtaining the "buy" link requires a person to register with USuggest, and copy the snippet of code that can be pasted in their site on most blogging services or social networks. People can also recommend products directly on the USuggest site.

"Essentially, what we're providing is a very easy way for bloggers and others to participate in affiliate marketing," Hasan Davulcu, chief executive of the Phoenix-based company, said in an interview. "In effect, you'll be monetizing the traffic from your opinions."

USuggest doesn't expect to attract professional product reviewers, since receiving payments for positive reviews would pose sticky ethical issues, and taint the writer's credibility. Instead, Davulcu is aiming his money at everyone else. "Any user of Websites where there are discussions going on about shopping is fair game for us," he said.

In the near future, USuggest plans to offer a downloadable application that places a button on a Web browser that a shopper could click to become a "suggestor" of a product they find online. People often use the Web for researching products, visiting multiple sites for feature and price comparisons. In Davulcu's view, that makes them qualified to suggest the product they finally decide to buy.

People who suggest products are ranked on USuggest according to the number of shoppers who bought products based on their recommendations. The site features "Hot Suggestors" on its homepage, as well as "Hot Suggestions."

To receive a check from USuggest, a person must earn at least $15. Checks are sent once a month. If a person earns more than $400 in a year, they will have to fill out a tax form from USuggest, Davulcu said.

Social-shopping sites like USuggest, Kaboodle, and ThisNext are tapping into the growing influence the Internet is having on retailers. By 2010, nearly half of the projected $144 billion in U.S. retail sales will be influenced by research on the Web, according to JupiterResearch.

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