With the increasing popularity of social media and sponsored content, affiliate and influencer marketing have become key elements to a strong digital marketing strategy. Although there are some clear similarities between the two concepts, it’s important to understand their unique differences before deciding where you fit as a blogger.
Both marketing strategies are effective ways to not only give a brand or product a platform, but also to ensure it connects with an established audience. Bloggers can support companies and their brand messaging via their followers as an influencer or their blog’s existing audience as an affiliate marketer. Whichever avenue you choose, your support as a third-party is vital to educating and winning potential customers.
Find out more on similarities and the fundamental differences between affiliate and influencer marketing. You’ll then be in a great position to choose how to leverage your blogging work into even more opportunities.
What is influencer marketing?
Let’s get a better idea of what influencer marketing really is and what it should look like in practice.
A company or brand finds a popular personality, usually with a big social media following. This person will use the brand’s product and endorse it to their followers.
As a blogger, ensuring you have a social media presence is highly important. Creating a social media following makes you more accessible to your audience and a prized collaborator in the influencer market.
Much like the celebrity spokespeople for fashion labels, an influencer will put their name to a product. Unlike celebrity spokespeople though, influencers will often lead by example. This is where the main advantages of working with an influencer become clear for a brand:
- The everyday connection of social media means that audiences are along for the ride when an influencer is using a product or service. Rather than just telling people a product is good, most effective influencers will showcase the item in action.
- While most influencer shout-outs are for single products, some brands work with an influencer over a longer period. Becoming the go-to brand for an influencer can add trust and respect to a brand, as well as a chance to reinforce brand messaging.
- Although many followers were first surprised when new social media regulations highlighted posts as “sponsored” or paid content, this practice has become the norm. Content labeled sponsored or paid content hasn’t cost many influencers credibility, so they have continued to effectively recommend products.
- An additional benefit is the versatility of influencers. Businesses aren’t limited to cash to fund the partnership. Many influencers accept credits and free products as payment for their support.
What is affiliate marketing?
In contrast to influencer marketing, companies and brands working with affiliates use referral commission incomes as compensation.
Bloggers and social media personalities are popular choices as affiliates as they often have an established sense of trust with their audience and can integrate product recommendations easily into their content.
As a blogger, affiliate marketing is a great opportunity when you are writing and creating content around a niche topic.
For example, fitness and wellness personalities often earn a substantial passive income by recommending vitamins or similar products. Additionally, there are a few other key strengths to working with affiliate strategies:
- Long-term content is a huge advantage of working with bloggers. While social media platforms are refreshed every day, brands can see there is more potential for blog posts to be home to evergreen topics. Newcomers to a blog may find an older, archived post from months before and still happily click through to the recommended product or service.
- More autonomy in partnerships is another benefit of affiliate marketing, as potential affiliates can set themselves up directly with dedicated affiliate programs. While the relationship may be less hands on, companies and brands value working with bloggers and affiliates. There is less need to spend time researching and identifying potential collaborators.
- A strong level of independence in the partnership is also encouraged. Built-in tools and resources help partners create their own content around the recommended products. Rather than recite a pre-written script as an influencer, bloggers who opt to work as an affiliate can easily integrate preset banners and html code into their own online platform.
While there is often overlap in who works as an influencer or affiliate, the payment structure and strategy behind these relationships are fundamentally different.
How do brands choose whether to work with you as an affiliate or influencer?
During the initial planning for a campaign, choosing to work with affiliates or influencers can be a tough decision. However, there are two deciding factors that make the choice clearer for most companies:
2. Who is the audience?
It’s one of the most obvious questions when pulling together a marketing strategy, but it bears repeating. Brands analyse their audience and how they consume content before deciding between an affiliate program or influencer marketing.
To get their message in front of as many eyes as possible, brands will work with an influencer who can share a message online quickly and effectively. However, when a product appeals to a more limited audience, brands will identify a relevant blogger or content creator and communicate through them.
Essentially brands need to choose between mass awareness or speaking directly to the exact audience that will convert into sales. The good news is that you can fill both of these roles, just by making sure your social media presence is as strong as your blog’s.
Don’t be afraid to adjust and adapt
Of course, it’s also possible that a project’s goals and details may change through its lifecycle. This is where the big advantage of digital marketing really shines – its flexibility. Brands can sometimes reassess and want to try the alternative option. But just as digital marketing prioritises flexibility, so should you.
By curating your audience and diversifying across platforms, you also have the chance to remain an in-demand collaborator – no matter a brand’s overall strategy. In fact, many brands include both affiliate and influencer marketing in their game plan from the start, so it makes sense to make yourself seem versatile and adaptable.
Let’s look at affiliate and influencer marketing examples
Now that you have the general theory of both concepts in place, let’s see how each functions in the real world with some examples on the most common platforms:
Influencers on Instagram
When influencers are promoting a product or service to their audiences, there is usually a clear call to action (CTA) provided. The most common methods include offering a swipe up link in an Instagram story or offering a promo code. Converted sales can easily be tracked.
Other common methods include asking followers to use a specific hashtag or tagging a friend. No matter how the message is communicated, the general goal is to direct users to buy a product or at least find out more information.
In contrast to the direct push for sales that is often found in influencer strategies, it’s much more likely that you will find affiliate marketing a bit more subtle. An example is a display ad that links to products related to a post, like make-up brushes linked to a post about beauty routines.
While this is less direct than a CTA or post dedicated to the recommendation, this also means that the audience feels like the decision to click or spend money is entirely their own. This bodes well for future transactions, as the audience remembers the blog as a source of unbiased and useful information.
In contrast to the direct push for sales that is often found in influencer strategies, affiliate marketing is a bit more subtle. An example is a display ad that links to products related to a post, like make-up brushes linked to a post about beauty routines.
While this is less direct than a CTA or post dedicated to the recommendation, this also means that the audience feels like the decision to click or spend money is entirely their own.
This is also a positive for you as a blogger: You aren’t being too pushy or assertive with your readers. Plus, bloggers often enjoy recurring transactions, as the audience remembers your blog as a source of unbiased and useful information and are happy to revisit it.