Referrals are some of the most powerful forms of promotion a business can receive. In today’s digital space, two proven ways to create these types of recommendations for brands are through influencer marketing vs. affiliate marketing.
Here, we’ll break down the differences between influencer marketing vs. affiliate marketing, how they work and compare their efficacy.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a promotional strategy geared toward driving traffic, leads and acquisitions for businesses. Affiliate programs supply digital users (known as “affiliates”) with unique URL IDs (known as “affiliate links”) or promotional codes that reward affiliates when they bring in new customers or sales.
Many businesses offer affiliates a percentage of the revenue their links generate or a fixed fee per KPI (e.g. click, referral, sale, sign-up). Almost anyone can apply to be an affiliate (some affiliate programs have preliminary requirements), but individuals with large and engaged online followings generally benefit the most from affiliate-type programs.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is when a social media personality, like a YouTuber, Instagrammer, or blogger, creates content for a brand and promotes the brand, product, and/or service to their fans and followers. The sponsorship content functions largely as word-of-mouth promotion and is designed to promote a message, product, or service in an organic, authentic way most receptive to an influencer’s audience.
Influencers sometimes include affiliate marketing links within their content, amid their bios, and/or offer their followers promotional codes — but, as a fully-integrated, customizable advertising campaign, influencer marketing offers a much wider array of messaging and branding possibilities that affiliate marketing alone does not provide.
Below, we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both influencer and affiliate marketing to find out which one makes the most sense for brands and advertisers.
Influencer marketing is a strategic approach that allows brands to select influencers, build relationships, and most importantly, creatively shape how their brand is being promoted and portrayed to consumers. With proper planning, a well-executed influencer marketing campaign can offer this kind of control, creativity and customization to both a business’s direct-response and branding efforts.
Influencer marketing drives some of the best proven results for all types of brands by connecting them with engaged users across the most popular social media channels and platforms.
Influencer marketing’s effectiveness is owed largely to strategic planning and influencers’ powerful, long-standing relationships with their fans.
Because of this, the process of executing a successful influencer marketing campaign requires proper strategy, planning, management of influencers, and execution.
Brands looking to make an impact in today’s digital and social landscape must be prepared to find and vet influencers, collaborate on content and messaging, as well as manage schedules and launches. However, by partnering with a well-established influencer marketing agency, brands can transfer these steps to experts in the industry.
While affiliate marketing costs can be minimal to start, so can the return on investment (ROI).
On the other hand, executing a successful influencer marketing campaign often drives bigger results but also requires a larger investment of both time and money.
With the right strategy and team, brands can create influencer campaigns that meet and exceed desired key performance indicators (KPI). However, brands must be willing to invest time and resources in order to capitalize on the enormous ROI opportunities influencer marketing presents.
Businesses adopting an affiliate marketing approach don’t have to invest a lot of time or money. Creating a program with unique URL ID(s) or promo codes to track traffic, KPIs and reward affiliates is a relatively straightforward technical process.
While nearly 90% of marketers agree that influencer marketing ROI is comparable or better than other forms of advertising, a recent study predicts that the affiliate marketing industry will pass the $8 billion mark by 2022, illustrating growing implementation of the strategy.
It should be noted, however, that setting up a basic affiliate program does not guarantee results. Many businesses use some form of influencer marketing as a means of driving affiliate traffic.
Affiliate marketing isn’t designed as a cohesive message or campaign, so affiliate promotions often lack direction or compelling calls to action (CTAs).
As a result, there is no assurance that an affiliate program will properly target or reach relevant consumers. Additionally, affiliate links can sometimes be buried in captions, descriptions, or at the bottom of posts, which readers or viewers likely ignore or will not see.
Lack of control
Virtually anyone can apply to become an affiliate, and typically there’s not an in-depth screening process used to vet affiliate applicants.
Although affiliate marketing may seem autonomous and fairly easy to implement with the right affiliate software and coding prowess, affiliate advertising programs often sacrifice “turkey” simplicity for lack of control in both ad placement, proper brand messaging, and sufficient audience exposure.
Due to this, brands may have little or no control over who is promoting their goods or aligning themselves with their brand. This incohesive approach can also result in a complete absence of messaging or, in some cases, the wrong kind of messaging by affiliates.
Affiliate and influencer marketing are both beneficial tools by themselves, but they’re even more powerful when used together.
If affiliate marketing alone isn’t generating the revenue a brand is looking to attain, consider working with a qualified influencer marketing agency to help create a synergistic affiliate and influencer marketing campaign that can drive positive results.