Hotels.com, in partnership with Columbus Internet, recently launched the first in-Facebook affiliate program through their joint app “Hotels WithMe.” Facebook page owners can install the app and earn revenue when bookings are made through it. At this time the app is only available in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Sweden and Germany.

How “Hotels WithMe” Works

The “Hotels WithMe” app, which first launched on the UK Hotels.com Facebook page in September 2010, allows groups of friends, colleagues or families to search all hotels among the 140,000 establishments listed on the site Hotels.com.

Selected friends can be invited to join a “trip,” from where they can search for hotels together. Members of the trip can perform a hotel search and show all the results to other trip members who can pick any hotel they like and add them to a shortlist of potential hotels that everyone can vote on. All trip members can discuss the hotels they’re looking at by using the integrated chat.

The app automatically keeps track of prices and the availability of all the hotels on the shortlist. If a room-type becomes unavailable or the price changes, the updated information is shown immediately. Once all members of the trip agree on the hotel, a click on the “book” button links through to the Hotels.com booking page.

With this new version, the app can be installed by the owners of Facebook pages who receive a 4% commission for every booking made ​​through the affiliate program, which is managed by the AffiliatePerformance GmbH.

What This Means for Brands

Affiliate marketing programs have been around almost as long as the internet has been in existence. (The first such program was launched by in 1989 through the Prodigy Network.) It’s a tried-and-proven marketing approach that gives brands the opportunity to generate leads and sales through a network of websites that run banner and text ads on their behalf. Individual affiliates receive a percentage of any transaction that results as a click from their site.

With this new socially-inspired version, however, two questions come to mind: “why?” and “why not?”

The “why” is answered in this respect – the app puts friends sharing with friends as the priority, not unlike Travelocity’s “Ask a Friend” app or Delta’s “Away We Go” app, each of which facilitates social sharing among friends. In that sense, it is inherently social and a good fit for Facebook.

As to the “why not” question, well, why not. Brands are attempting to harness the platform in a variety of ways, from Facebook pop-up stores to social games to full catalog implementation. In this age of experimentation almost anything goes, so why not add affiliate marketing to the mix?

Having both managed affiliate programs and been an affiliate marketer myself, I would assume affiliate marketers who target the travel industry will be excited about this opportunity. For brands that use affiliate programs as part of their marketing mix, it opens the door to discovery by new customers, and enables them to take a long-established marketing practice and infuse it with new life.

With affiliate marketing done Facebook-style, like the song says, “everything old is new again.”

Hotels WithMe app

Hotels WithMe affiliate program

Hotels WithMe app allows friends to shop and book hotels with friends