Influencer vs Affiliate Marketing — Which does your brand need?

by Influencers, Social Media Marketing

Influencer and affiliate marketing are powerful ways to help grow your business. Both focus on connecting with important people in your industry that can help spread the word about your products. But do you need an influencer or an affiliate to promote your company? Then read on to find out the difference between influencer vs affiliate marketing and find out which one you need to promote your brand. 

How is Influencer Marketing different from Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing has been around for a long time. In fact, affiliate marketing has been around for as long as sales existed. Influencer marketing however, is a concept of recent years. However, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing have different goals. Therefore they have different ways to measure success. Next, let’s have a closer look and see how they are different. 

What is Influencer Marketing?

When a company pays a person with a large audience to promote their products and brand, it’s called influencer marketing. There is no strict rule to determine when somebody is an influencer. However, it’s fair to say that a minimum of 5000 followers on at least 1 social platform should be met.  

In these campaigns, usually the payment is upfront, and the influencer is paid for a post, shout out, or mention on predetermined social platforms. Companies who use influencer marketing, often prefer to work with influencers that like their products or are currently customers.  

The type of influencer marketing campaign, length and conditions can vary per industry and company. As a company, you can discuss the possibilities with the influencer. 

The goal of an influencer marketing campaign is brand exposure.

This can be measured by:

  • New followers on social media
  • Engagement on social media
  • Email signups
  • Website traffic

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing. A company pays the affiliate for each customer they bring in. In contrast to influencer marketing, companies with an affiliate program pay per referral instead of per promotion. So, bloggers, YouTubers, and social media marketers promote the products of often established companies and earn a commission on each purchase made.

Then, the affiliate shares an affiliate link or discount code to their audience. After somebody buys a product, a commission is assigned to the affiliate.

The goal of an affiliate marketing program is to grow the company’s revenue.

Some common metrics to measure the success of an affiliate program are:

  • Sales volume of different products included in the affiliate program
  • Site traffic after launching affiliate campaigns

Therefore the main difference between influencer vs affiliate marketing is the goal (either brand awareness or revenue).

Do I need an influencer or affiliate to promote my brand?

Both influencer and affiliate marketing can be combined in a successful strategy to help your business grow. Decide what goals you want to focus on. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Sign ups? New customers?

Brainstorm what kind of partnerships fit your budget and resources. Setting up an in-house affiliate program takes time and manpower. Are you able to locate a budget to hire an affiliate program manager? Or do you want to outsource your affiliate activities to an agency?

How to start an affiliate program and find affiliates

First, you need to set up the basics for your affiliate program. Among other things this includes: deciding on a commission structure, picking an affiliate software, connecting your payment flow with affiliate attribution and creating your initial program promotions and landing page.

Next, find affiliates when you:

  • Reach out to experts in your niche with appealing offers
  • Apply for listings on affiliate program directories
  • Use PPC and other paid campaigns
  • Find affiliates through your existing customer base
  • Browse backlinks of competing websites and find affiliates of your competitor

You can read more about setting up an affiliate program and determining its success in this article: How to Measure the Marketing Effectiveness of Your Affiliate Program

How to start influencer marketing and find influencers

Just like setting up an affiliate program, you need to set the scope of your influencer project first. For this, you’ll determine your budget and main goals of your influencer campaigns. Set a timeline for your first campaign and create a profile of the type of influencer you would like to work with. Where are your potential customers on social media?

To find influencers, you can:

  • Use Google search and enter specific search queries that include, for example, social platform and city.
  • Find social tags of your competitors to see who is promoting them and can be promoting your brand in the future. 
  • Identify existing customers with 5000+ followers on a social media platform.
  • Use mention tools to get notified when somebody is mentioning you on social media.
  • Get a tool that finds influencers for you. Carro offers a free tool to explore influencers in your niche.

To learn more, you can read this article on finding affiliates: How to Find Influencers as a New Brand

How Affiliate and Influencer marketing works together

Even though affiliate marketing and influencer marketing have different goals to measure, people that take on influencer gigs can also be affiliates.

The other way around also works; some affiliates have influencer deals on top of their affiliate partnership or they work on influencer campaigns for other brands. The same people might have both influencer and affiliate activities.

Although the main goal of an affiliate marketing program is driving revenue, affiliates also have an effect on brand exposure. So there is a clear overlap in the effect affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns have on your business.

Whether you choose influencer or affiliate marketing, the higher goal for both is the same: Increase your business success. If you happen to have the resources to set up an affiliate program, a combined strategy of targeted influencer promotions on social media and a small army of affiliates to bring in customers, can set you up for success. 

Author Bio:

Hetty Korsten is an Affiliate Program Manager at Supermetrics. She has worked for fast growing SaaS startups in Copenhagen and Helsinki. Currently she’s growing the in-house Affiliate Program at Supermetrics. Feel free to connect with her on Linkedin.

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