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Influencer vs Affiliate Marketing: Which Is Best For Your Brand?

Digitalization is a fact. More and more people are using social media and online platforms for their purchases or opinions about products and services. For businesses to stay competitive in the market, it has become imperative to find ways to increase their online reach.

Digital marketing is a powerful tool that can help you do that, grow your company, and take better advantage of the opportunities in your field. While this is not news, despite what you might think, digital marketing includes much more than placing an advertisement online.

With the rise of social media, digital marketing has also changed and evolved. Companies today can mainly choose to follow affiliate and influencer marketing strategies. While both might sound similar, the reality is that not all are suited for all companies.

Depending on the options and opportunities, one choice might be better than the other. With so much (misleading) information about influencer VS affiliate marketing, it might be challenging for companies to find out which one is best for the growth of your brand.

If you want to make an informed decision on your digital marketing strategy, keep reading this essential guide we’ve put together for you.

Influencers vs Affiliates: What Are They?

Before we go deeper into all the pros and cons of choosing one strategy over the other, we think it’s essential that you are very clear about the differences between the two.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing, like the word suggests, is a strategy involving the collaboration with authoritative and influential people to promote services or products. Influencer marketing dates back to before the rise of social media but initially only involved celebrities.

Today, there are several types of influencers with a strong online presence and with the power of stirring their followers or subscribers to purchase a particular product or service.

Essentially, influencer marketing is the evolution of the classic word-of-mouth strategy. Brands that partner with the right influencers, who have considerable “pull” on their followers, can boost their growth significantly.

For a complete list of highly effective influencers that are active affiliates as well, take a look at our IG influencer list. We have done the hard work for you in compiling a list of thousands of female influencers complete with their email addresses.

You can filter by follower count to make things even easier. No longer will you have to spend hours each day looking for influencers that produce great content, they’re right there for you in our list!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing, on the other hand, is a strategy that involves a different kind of partnership with so-called affiliates. Through this type of digital marketing, individuals will promote your brand for a commission paid when people end up signing up for the service or buying the product.

Affiliates can be anything from content creators, deal sites, bloggers, YouTubers, and can involve non-company individuals, businesses, and brands willing to market your products.

What Are The Differences Between Influencer vs Affiliate Marketing?

Influencer and affiliate marketing might sound similar under certain aspects, but in reality, they both have different goals and can help you in different ways. Affiliate marketing has been around for much longer than influencer marketing, but it can still be a relevant strategy for many companies.

Understanding both the similarities and differences of these two strategies will help you pick the most effective one for your brand. Let’s have a look at the main differences between influencer VS affiliate marketing.

The Goal

Influence marketing focuses on the collaboration with influencers of a specific online community and with a determined lifestyle or values. Companies make use of an influencer’s authority, knowledge and trust to promote their brands in ways they are more “authentic.” Indeed, influencer marketing has undergone a makeover, becoming more transparent, streamlined, and more effective.

Affiliate marketing, on the contrary, is not limited to an influencer-brand relationship but can involve everyone willing to promote your brand. Also, it involves a considerably lower risk than influencer marketing and can be more flexible. Working with affiliates can significantly expand your customer base

Cost Structure

For influencer marketing, the payment is usually upfront: the influencer is paid in advance for a post, a mention, a story, or a shout out. Depending on the influencer chosen, the flat-fee might vary. On top of that, you might also want to consider sending free products to the chosen influencers for a more realistic “endorsement.”

For the campaign to be successful, companies should prefer working with influencers that are current customers or that have the right audience suited to your brand.

On the other hand, affiliate marketing is a more cost-effective strategy that allows you to pay revenues to affiliates as a share of the sales they help generate.

Tracking & Measuring Success

Essentially, the goals of an influencer marketing campaign are brand exposure and awareness, which can be measured by the increase in followers in social media, engagement, email signups, or increased website traffic. Tracking methods influence the use of the publisher’s site and social analytics to look at reach, engagement, sharing, and new followers.

Contrary to influencer marketing, the ultimate goal of affiliate marketing is to grow the company’s revenue and to acquire new customers. You can measure the success of such campaigns through sales volume and site traffic. To track them, you’ll have to make use of cookies and pixels and focus on ROI, Cost Per Acquisition, and Conversion Rate.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Affiliate Marketing?

Now that you have a better understanding of what each strategy involves, it is time to analyze the pros and cons to weigh the opportunities and threats and decide which one works best for your brand.

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing doesn’t involve much risk and requires minimal investment, as you’ll only pay your affiliate for their sales. Also, it can help you considerably increase your audience and your reach, because there’s no limit to the number of affiliate networks or affiliates you can work with.

You only pay for the sales that are made by your affiliates, and oftentimes can bring you a lower customer acquisition cost than other paid media channels like Facebook ads or Google ads.

If you run a Shopify store, the best affiliate marketing software is hands down Refersion. Refersion allows you to easily manage all of your active affiliates, keep track of sales, clicks and payouts for a low monthly fee. If you have any questions about getting started with Refersion, send me an email and I can help with the onboarding and management of your affiliate program.

Drawbacks of Affiliate Marketing

Like with many things in life, not everything is perfect about affiliate marketing. First, results tend to be inconsistent: such a strategy might work very well for you, but it can also be a failure when applied inappropriately. The truth is that it all depends on your affiliates’ reach.

Also, despite being a relatively low-risk strategy, you should still monitor your affiliates’ activity to protect the reputation of your brand. Some affiliates use tactics that might harm your brand’s reputation. Avoid working with affiliates that use spamming, email list, false advertising, and that don’t comply with customer data privacy.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing allows you for more control in terms of the content shared on your company and the individuals endorsing your brand. But still, there are drawbacks to this tactic as well.

Benefits of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing allows you to reach audiences that are relevant to your brand. By collaborating with the right influencers, you’ll gain trust and credibility for your brand. You have control over the type of content and the type of audience you want to reach.

Also, influencer marketing campaigns can develop into successful long-term relationships with some influencers, which will be of great help when you will be looking to expand your business or introduce new products and services.

Drawbacks of Influencer Marketing

While the right influencer can have a positive impact on your brand’s image, working with the wrong ones can considerably hurt all the hard work you put into your company. You might have to spend a lot of time and energy into finding a successful partnership. Finding influencers can be more challenging than you imagine.

Additionally, you usually need to gain some visibility before you can do influencer marketing. Also, while affiliate marketing is cost-effective, an influencer marketing campaign can be rather expensive. Tracking results requires the appropriate tools and good knowledge about the relevant metrics for success.

The Bottom Line: Influencer vs Affiliate Marketing & Your Brand

When selecting a digital marketing strategy, you should first have a good idea of your audience and potential customers. Consider your brand, your goals, and your budget.

What are you looking to reach a new marketing program?

Do you need to build brand awareness or to boost sales?

Are you looking for a long-term relationship?

Ask yourself these relevant questions and balance out the pros and cons of each strategy.

As advice, consider gaining some experience with both methods, and use them in combination for even better results. As long as you choose your influencers and affiliate carefully, track results, and understand your customers, a combination of both can help you both increase sales volume and gain credibility and trust in your industry.

Still, at the initial stages, it would be best to pick only one strategy and reach success with that. As a rule of thumb, if you’re starting, it would be best to make use of affiliate marketing, as it is way cheaper than influencer marketing. Be patient and collaborate with affiliates or influencers with audiences relevant to your niche to target your campaigns with specific promotions.

But don’t expect that once you’ve found the right influencer or affiliate, you’ll have nothing to worry about. You’ll still have to think about the content, the image of your brand, and understand your customer’s evolving needs.

Lastly, don’t despair if you don’t get results straight away. Don’t be fooled: both affiliate and influencer marketing takes time and effort: be patient, do some research, and select the right strategy for your business!

Hopefully you now fully understand the differences between influencer vs affiliate marketing and know exactly which path to take with your brand.