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Affiliate vs Influencer Marketing: Which Strategy Is Best For Your Business?

The rise of the eCommerce and social shopping industry has seen both affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns help businesses earn millions in sales. 

By leveraging the audiences of content creators and bloggers, businesses have generated more conversions with affiliate and influencer marketing than they were ever able to with traditional advertising like radio and television. 

However, which strategy to use depends on your business goals, audience, and budget. Let’s dive into what affiliate and influencer marketing is, the differences between the two, and which is better for your business.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a strategy in which publishers, bloggers, or content creators receive a commission for each desired conversion they generate for a business. 

Businesses pay affiliates per sale or sometimes per other conversions such as clicks or impressions. The commission fee incentivizes affiliates to promote the business’s products or services.

Here are some advantages of affiliate marketing for businesses:

  • Affiliate marketers can generate traffic without any social media following if their blog posts are visible due to search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Affiliate marketing comes with a unique trackable link so businesses can monitor analytics to know which affiliates are bringing in sales and how many of them.
  • Businesses see a high return on investment (ROI) as they only pay affiliates for traffic converted to sales
  • Affiliate marketing programs are simple to set up. Businesses give their affiliates a unique link, which they add to their content.
  • If you choose affiliates who align with your niche, affiliate marketing content targets your ideal customer base. 

Here are some disadvantages of affiliate marketing for businesses:

  • Affiliates rely heavily on their content being visible through high search engine rankings. 
  • Many people want to be affiliate marketers, so ensure you go through a rigid process of choosing the right person who can benefit your business.
  • Affiliates don’t build trust and loyalty with their readers. They provide the links and encourage consumers to make purchases through advertisement content.

Amazon has one of the world’s most extensive affiliate marketing programs, Amazon Associates. It dominates the affiliate marketing space with a 47.3% market share.

Creators, publishers, and bloggers sign up for the program and then recommend Amazon products and services on their personal social media pages, blogs, websites, or apps. Each qualified sale they generate can earn them up to 12% commission.

Affiliate Marketing

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a paid collaboration between influencers and a business, also known as a brand deal. Influencers have a large, trustworthy social media following and can influence their followers’ buying behaviors.

The influencer will use their platform to promote the business’s products or services in return for a flat rate per post. 

Here are some advantages of influencer marketing for businesses:

  • Influencer marketing is one of the most effective strategies for increasing customer loyalty, brand awareness, and brand reputation.
  • Influencer marketing can impact both on and off-site SEO.
  • Influencers have many dedicated followers who trust them and their product or service recommendations. 88% of consumers say they’ve decided to purchase a product based on what they saw from an influencer.
  • Influencers are experts at creating content and visual marketing, which are captivating ways to attract audiences.

Here are some disadvantages of influencer marketing for businesses:

  • You can’t directly track which influencer posts of campaigns led to which sales. You can only track their post engagement – the number of likes, shares, views, and comments.
  • If you’re on a limited budget, influencers with millions of followers may not be the best fit for your business. There is an option to try micro-influencers. 
  • If an influencer you are partnered with does anything to damage their reputation, your business may also be affected. 
  • Influencers may post content that doesn’t align with your business values, style, or identity. Unless you create a defined approval process.

Dove is a brilliant example of a brand that uses influencer marketing at all levels. In 2022, the personal care brand won a Shorty Award for its micro-influencer strategy in multiple campaigns. It includes #PassTheCrown, #DetoxYourFeed, #ReusableIsBeautiful, and #OneRealPressure.

These influencer marketing campaigns earned Dove over one billion impressions and increased their engagement rate by 28% year-on-year (YOY).

influencer marketing campaign

What Is The Difference Between Affiliate Marketing & Influencer Marketing?

The key differences between these marketing strategies are:

  • Purpose. Affiliate marketing is used for lead generation and revenue growth, whilst influencer marketing increases brand awareness.
  • Cost. Affiliates are paid when a consumer completes the desired conversion, whilst influencers are paid a flat rate per post featuring your business or campaign.
  • Partnership. Affiliate marketers are blogging companies and online publishers, whilst influencers are content creators, bloggers, and social media celebrities.
  • Where your business will be visible. Affiliate marketing will see links to your business offerings on blogs and websites relevant to your niche, whilst influencer marketing links will be on social media platforms.
  • Performance measurements. Affiliate marketing success is measured by increased sales volume and site traffic, while influencer marketing success is measured by new followers and increased social media engagement.

Which Strategy Is Better for Business?

Three factors will help you choose which strategy is better for your business needs:

Your Goals

Influencers are in front of your target audience and have established trust with them. Use influencer marketing to promote specific products or excite your audience about an upcoming launch or campaign. 

Meanwhile, if your goal is to advertise your offerings and get people to make purchases on your website, then use affiliate marketing.

In both cases, target affiliates or influencers with content that complements or relates to your brand’s niche. For example, if you sell protein shake mix, partner with fitness bloggers or influencers. 

Your Audience

Who is your target audience, and where do they spend the most time online? This is important for businesses to consider when deciding which marketing strategy will be most effective.

Younger generations are known to spend more time on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, so consider influencer marketing campaigns if your target audience is Millennials or Generation Z.

Meanwhile, affiliate marketing can target specific websites and blogs your target audience spends time on. The advertisement article can be shared on Facebook and seen more widely by older generations.

Social Media Platform Millennials Use

Your Budget

Both strategies come with very different costs, so choosing one depends on how much you’re willing to spend. 

Influencer marketing is known to be expensive, as influencers are paid a flat rate per post or campaign. A large budget allows you to partner with influencers who can get you as much exposure as possible in front of millions of followers.

However, a slightly cheaper option is to partner with micro-influencers in your niche who don’t have millions of followers but have thousands of engaged followers who will be interested in your products or services.

If you’d rather see results before paying, use an affiliate marketing strategy. You only pay affiliates after a consumer buys something through their link or makes your desired conversion, ensuring a great ROI.

Conclusion 

You don’t have to stick to one marketing strategy; you can instead switch between the two as your goals, audience, and budget evolve.

The most effective approach for both influencer and affiliate marketing is to partner with those whose audience is the best fit for your business niche.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do influencer marketing and affiliate marketing differ?

Influencer marketing focuses on leveraging the social influence of individuals to promote products, while affiliate marketing rewards affiliates for driving sales or leads through their marketing efforts.

Can influencer marketing work for any type of business?

Yes, influencer marketing can be effective for various businesses, especially those with visually appealing products or services that can be showcased on social media platforms.

What are the key benefits of affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing offers cost-effective promotion, performance-based rewards, and access to a broader audience through affiliates' networks.

How do you measure the success of influencer marketing campaigns?

Success is measured through engagement rates, reach, conversions, and return on investment (ROI) metrics like sales or lead generation.

What are the best practices for choosing affiliates?

Choose affiliates with a relevant audience, strong engagement, and a track record of promoting products effectively and ethically.

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