Wait, what? Amazon will send me free products to review?
Selectively, yes. In 2007, Amazon launched Amazon Vine as an internal service allowing vendors to solicit honest reviews from consumers–and Amazon acts as the go-between so things don’t get all awkward.
Why would Amazon do that?
Basically, reading reviews has become the main deciding factor for online purchases. If a product lacks reviews on Amazon, most people will shy away from it.
So, to increase reviews, companies say, "Hey Amazon, I’ll give out 100 free products to 100 people who have a history of writing solid reviews." Then Amazon holds up those 100 free products and asks their Vine community (made up of seriously dedicated reviewers) to call dibs. Reviewers jump at the chance to review the product because they get to keep it.
So, here are answers to all your questions about Amazon Vine:
1. Where do I sign up?
It’s a little more complex than simply signing up, but I’ll explain how to give yourself the best chance of becoming an Amazon Vine Voice. If you want to start collecting freebies of your choosing straight from Amazon, you’ll have to do a bit of work and send good vibes out to the almighty Amazon Vine god because this program is by invitation only.
2. How do I get an invite?
In short, become a good reviewer!
Vine members are invited based on the quality (not necessarily quantity) of their Amazon reviews. Each review on Amazon receives a ranking based on how helpful it is to other buyers.
If you are consistently posting helpful, substantial, detailed reviews of Amazon products that are ranked as “highly helpful” by other shoppers, you could be chosen.
Set a goal to land on Amazon’s top 10,000 reviewer list. The list shows that many top reviewers have only posted 100-200 reviews (some have hundreds more), but those reviews have rendered thousands of "helpful review" votes. Again, quality over quantity here is key.
Expertise in a certain product category may render an invitation faster. For example, if you have better-than-average knowledge in photography equipment, and your reviews reflect that, you may receive a higher ranking for that particular category. If that category needs more Vine Voices, you may be invited faster.
Tip: To find out how your reviews are ranking and check on your Vine potential, visit www.amazon.com/profile. To kick your profile up a notch, add a professional-looking headshot and a short bio that entails your interests–companies will want to know!
3. I’m ready to review like a krazy person, but is there a catch?
Taxes! In 2015, Amazon Vine started collecting 1099 tax forms from any product reviewer that received over $600 in free products over the course of one year.
This means you’ll have to pay taxes on the retail value of any products you receive if the total combined retail value reaches over $600 that year. So, even if a gadget you receive is on sale for $500, but the retail value is $1,000, you’ll still owe taxes on $1,000.
Although there was a bit of pushback from the Vine community, plenty of ravenous reviewers held on and figured that paying taxes on items that would have otherwise cost them hundreds of dollars was well worth it.
Plus, you choose the items you’re sent, so you aren’t paying taxes on five microwaves and two vacuums you never needed in the first place.
4. Can I make money selling the items on eBay after I’m done reviewing them?
Nope, sorry. Items cannot be sold after receiving them in exchange for a review.
5. Realistically, what kinds of items will I be reviewing?
Before you have visions of free big screen TVs and luxury grills making their way to your humble abode, you should note that most of the reviewable products are small, as opposed to the big-ticket freebies we fantasize about.
Word on the street is that child and baby items are often readily available, as are many other typical household items. Also, it doesn’t matter whether reviews are positive or negative–honesty is what counts.
Review opportunities are also limited to what’s in your product queue. You have to get through your queued products by posting thoughtful reviews within 30 days–before you’re allowed to request more.
6. Do I need to have a blog or a social media following to become an Amazon Vine Member?
If you add social media and/or blog links to your Amazon profile page, it may help you be chosen based on the size of your following. Or possibly, you could stand out based on the niche demographic that’s already following you (e.g., you have a popular "mommy blog" and you’d like to review children’s products, or you’ve gained popularity as an avid book reviewer by posting all over Twitter, Instagram, and your blog).
So, while a strong social presence may help in a roundabout way, focusing your reviews on a product category that you have deep knowledge of is your best bet.
Tip: If you do have a strong social following, try posting your reviews to your followers who are interested in the product. They may click the link and naturally vote that your review was helpful, which would increase your reviewer ranking.
7. Can I review products on Amazon without becoming an Amazon Vine member?
There are quite a few product sites that will send you discounted or free products. However, Amazon recently updated their reviewer guidelines, so many of these sites claim you don’t have to leave a review anymore to get the discount! The sites are now helping companies gain more product exposure by offering steep discounts to get products into the hands of more consumers (obviously a review is helpful but isn’t required anymore). Here are three of our favorites:
- AMZ Review Trader: A potentially unmatched, nicely organized product selection with impressive discounts (and freebies) across all categories.
- Giveaway Service: If you love absolutely free items, this site is for you. Most items won’t cost a dime, or otherwise run under $2.
- SnagShout: A popular site for many die-hard Amazon shoppers–look for nice discounts across an array of categories like Clothing & Jewelry, Electronics, Sports & Outdoors, Home & Garden, Beauty & Health, and Under $5.
Once you agree to the site’s terms and select items, you’ll get discount codes for purchasing your selected items on Amazon. Don’t forget about potential shipping costs (unless you’re shopping with Amazon Prime).