What’s the Difference Between Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing?

13 mins read

If you’re a new website owner or blogger, the idea of marketing and strategies for it may be making you uncomfortable. This kind of thing happens to lots of people.

The purpose of today’s post is to separate a couple of these strategies, break them down, and go over some of the pros and cons of each.

Ready to learn about some of these powerful techniques and become an expert on the difference between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing? Let’s go.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is created by brands. They want to sell products. But their sales and marketing teams are limited. So what’s the play?

The company sets up an affiliate marketing program for content creators to sell the products for them.

The brand creates the program and opens it to the creators. The creators, provided they like the product, or simply want to review it for their audience, add these affiliate links to their content.

When someone from their audience clicks on the link and makes a purchase, the content creator receives a commission in either a percentage of the sale or a flat fee.

You will see affiliate links anywhere and everywhere. They’re created by some of the most profitable companies in the world. Amazon was one of the most well-known affiliate programs for nearly two decades. 

Anytime you’ve read a review of a product on a blog and then seen a Buy Now button that goes to an Amazon product page, congrats, you just clicked on an affiliate link.

Other companies make a fortune off of affiliate sales. A good example of this is NerdWallet. They’re now a publicly-traded company with almost the entirety of their revenue coming from credit card affiliate programs as well as affiliate links for other financial services.

Affiliate Marketing in Action

Affiliate marketing needs three parties to be successful. The most obvious is the customer. Without it, the brand and the influencer are irrelevant. So we’re going to assume your brand has a great product and there are lots of influencers that would love to promote it.

Creating an Affiliate Program

When you’re starting a business, you need revenue. Word of mouth referrals are still a great marketing tool and have better ROI than any other marketing effort.

To create your affiliate program, you first need to decide if you’re going to run the program yourself or if you’re going to use a network like ShareASale to run it for you. The upside of this is it will be a worry-free thing for your business. However, these networks will be taking a cut of the commissions for themselves.

If you decide to run the program yourself, the next step will be to find influencers to get the word out about your brand and why they should promote it. Get your marketing team to do some outreach to find the right influencers for your campaign.

Once influencers start to hear about your program, you won’t have to do as much outreach. If the products and commissions are great, your program will take off quickly.

Becoming an Affiliate

Being an affiliate for companies is how many people make a living. What’s the fun in being an influencer if you can’t get paid?

As a creator, you need content for your platforms. Doing reviews and promoting products you enjoy and believe in can help diversify your income streams and content.

You can join individual affiliate programs run by the companies. This strategy usually has a higher payout. However, you’ll also run the risk of the affiliate program shutting down or the brand going out of business entirely.

For this reason, it’s important to use a variety of programs to promote in case the rug gets swept out from underneath you.

The other option is to use networks like ShareASale and others similar to it. You join the networks and then browse all of the businesses that are partnered with the program. You can join and leave as you see fit. These networks have thousands of affiliate opportunities across a broad range of niches.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is different from affiliate marketing. There is no program. Using influencers as part of your marketing strategy is commonly known as brand deals or brand sponsorships.

If you’ve ever looked on Instagram or YouTube and seen an influencer taking a photo of them drinking a Coke or having a Coke strategically placed in the photo or video, there is a good chance they were paid for doing that.

Granted, Coke doesn’t need to do this often. Everyone knows and consumes their products. But smaller brands aren’t in the same class. 

This is often seen with health supplements. Health and wellness influencers make a killing by taking photos or videos with the newest and latest supplement or protein powder included in their content.

If a brand is reaching out to an influencer, there will usually be an offer and a specific set of criteria. This could be a number of posts, particular hashtags, content type, and more. The business offers the influencer a certain amount of money for their efforts and then the influencer will either agree or pass on the opportunity.

Influencer Marketing in Action

Influencer marketing is quite a bit different for the influencer and the brand. There is going to be a lot of give and take involved. The more followers you have and the better the reputation for having success, the more a brand is going to be willing to pay.

On the other side of this, all businesses have marketing budgets. If you’re relatively new and just getting starting, trying to get a Kardashian is going to be out of range for your budget.

Creating an Influencer Program

If you’re just getting into this type of marketing, start small. Look for nano and micro-influencers. Nano-influencers are creators with less than 10,000 followers and micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 50,000.

These content creators are going to be followed mostly by friends, family, and extended networks from their personal network. This makes them highly trusted and authoritative in their space.

Think about what you want to do with your campaign. If you’re a newer company, you’re probably most interested in brand awareness. This will be the foundation of future campaigns and sales. So it’s important to start off on the right path.

Look for influencers that share your brand’s ideals and fit into your message or mission. Reach out and tell them what you have to offer and why they are a good fit. While nano and micro-influencers will work for cheaper than someone with a million followers, don’t try to rip them off.

People talk and word travels fast on social platforms. You can’t prove the value of your brand if you can’t prove it to influencers first.

Becoming an Influencer

On the other side of the coin, how does one go about becoming an influencer?

The simplest answer is the easiest. You have to create amazing content that brings some sort of value to your audience.

Unlike with affiliate marketing, you can’t really go hunting for brand deals and sponsorships. You have to wait for them to come to you. As your audience grows, the number of offers you will receive will grow quickly.

It’s unfortunate, but the vast majority of these offers will be spam or outright scams trying to rip you off. Be patient and hold out for a product or service you already use or something you’ve had your eye on for a while.

There is a way around this, though. If you really like something, start talking about it without being paid. Just one or two pieces of content. Use hashtags and keywords to get the attention you want and maybe the brand will take notice.

What’s important is being polite and professional. If you’re mean to your audience, many brands will decide that you aren’t the kind of creator they want to use to represent their product or service.

Something else to keep in mind is you don’t want to overdo it. Channels, blogs, and social platforms that are filled with nothing but brand promotions can be a turn-off to your audience. 

Pick and choose wisely. Honesty and integrity in this game will do much more for you in the long run than a quick buck when you first start off.

Our Conclusion on What’s the Difference Between Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing?

As a brand, which one of these options should you choose? It depends on your business and what you want to accomplish but the most realistic answer is both. Do plenty of A/B testing to see which efforts are bringing in the most ROI and then spend the majority of your budget there.

Influencers should go for both options. Affiliate marketing will bring in early cash, along with other revenue options like ads. Brand deals and sponsorships are end-game opportunities for when you’re properly established.

Thanks for hanging out and reading the whole post. If you enjoyed it, check out this post on how to take advantage of AI in marketing.

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