Marketing is about growing your business. But there are different ways to expedite growth. When you’re weighing affiliate vs. influencer marketing, you need to understand your goals. If you want to increase brand awareness, drive some website traffic, and get more followers on social media, we’re talking about influencer marketing. If you primarily want to increase sales, affiliate marketing is the option for you.
Both influencer and affiliate are forms of partner marketing. They are a way for your business to communicate with new and current customers through a trusted voice.
Confusingly, both affiliate and influencer marketing can use social media influencers. But they are not one and the same just because they have the same delivery vehicle. Here are the definitions, distinctions, and goals you should know about.
What are the differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing?
Affiliate marketing is primarily about sales. Your company can find somebody with broad internet reach to sell your products for you. It’s a mainstream internet sales tactic. Even CNN is in on the business, with a section of its website dedicated to product reviews and recommendations.
If you want to reach a wider base of internet shoppers, affiliate marketing is a great way to reach beyond your borders. The price is typically in the form of a commission. Companies typically pay 5% to 10% to affiliates showcasing their products.
Affiliates can spread the word any way you agree upon. Options include emails to marketing lists, banner ads on a website, or links to products in a blog post.
Of course, a business can decide to use an influencer to sell a specific product. Amazon has done this for more than a decade. More than a few bloggers have made their name by sifting through Amazon’s vast offerings to find the best affordable fashion, or whatever their niche might be. While they are selling through social media channels, it’s still a form of affiliate marketing.
Hire a social media influencer to do a post about your brand or product
Offer a commission to a website or social media influencer in exchange for them promoting your product
Build brand awareness, increase following on social channels
Increased sales volume and average order size, site traffic
Who are they
Social media influencers, opinion leaders
Reputable websites, influencers
Depending on following size and niche, prices range from $100 to $10,000
Commissions, generally in the 5-10% range
Metrics to measure
Web traffic, social media follows and interactions, new leads
Tracking URLs from affiliates, sales volume, order sizes
Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing
It’s a low-cost marketing method. There’s little out-of-pocket cost, with commissions typically between 5% and 10%.
You’ll reach customers who are interested in buying your product, on the recommendation of somebody they trust.
Affiliate marketing used to be known for fraud. Tracking referrals are critical to gauging success.
You’ll have less creative control than with a traditional marketing campaign.
Like we’ll discuss below with influencer marketing, it’s important to also find a good brand fit with affiliate marketing. That’s partly because you want to reach a specific market and partly because you will not have as much creative control over their message. For example: CNN gets a commission on items it sells, but companies aren’t approving what CNN writes about their product, which carries a risk if they say something off-message. You might not want an outside pitchman defining your product for you.
You’ll want to find a network of trusted affiliates, to make sure a wide audience is taking a look at your product. As with anything in business, you’ll want to pay attention to the results. Who has the best success selling your product and why? If you build an in-house program, consider hiring an affiliate program manager to track efficacy. Otherwise, you can outsource to an agency.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing aims at building brand awareness and bringing customers directly to your business. It’s not necessarily about selling anything. Actor Nick Offerman famously drank whiskey in front of a fireplace for 45 minutes in an influencer video with no real sales pitch.
The top two goals in this space, according to a survey from Advertiser Perceptions, are reaching new target customers and increasing brand consideration. But it’s not the case that bigger followings are better for your business. Obviously, hiring Kim Kardashian doesn’t make a lot of sense for most companies. For the C-suite world, Pavilion Ambassadors are influencers who target business development through long-term relationships. Just as you think about targeting the right audience, consider finding the right influencer to reach that audience.
Pros and Cons of Influencer Marketing
If you have a great product and simply need help getting the word out to the right people, influencer marketing is a sure way to gain exposure.
For a broad approach, find an influencer with a large following to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
If your product has more niche appeal, you’ll want to look for an influencer who is already talking to people who might want to buy your product. A partnership can make sense for everyone.
Not every influencer is for you. Business leaders need to carefully vet social media personalities to make sure their following is real and they can deliver actual results.
Watch out for influencers with low engagement (likes, comments, shares). It’s easy to buy popularity on social media.
Curate a list of influencers that make sense for your business. The goal should be to develop long-term relationships with a few, authentic influencers who spread the word about your brand. How do you find somebody? You might see who your competitors are using and then find somebody similar. Or, social media being social media, dive into Instagram yourself and hunt for your favorite topics and hashtags. You’ll likely find an expert in short order (and maybe a funny cat video or three). Lastly, you can consider using a paid database like Tagger to hunt for the right people
This is important: The goal of brand exposure might sound soft, but there are tangible ways to measure success. How many new followers does your company gain in a typical week? And how many did they gain in the week of your paid promotion? Keep an eye on the metrics to gauge what works and what doesn’t.