6 Key Differences Between Affiliate Marketing & Influencer Marketing

Let’s explore the two popular digital marketing phenomena that have taken the online world by storm. One of the top questions we get asked is “What is the difference between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing?” and so, if you’re considering using affiliate marketing to promote your business, it’s important to understand the key differences between them. While both strategies can be effective in helping your business grow, provide traffic to assist in driving sales and increasing brand awareness, both of these marketing channels operate in distinct ways.

First, let’s look at Affiliate Marketing:

What is it, who is it for and why is it so popular? 

Affiliate Marketing is a type of performance-based marketing on a global scale which is incentivised on a commission basis. Affiliates (also known as ‘Publishers’) will promote your business or products on their website with a mutual desired outcome in mind. The publisher will earn commission when the desired outcome is accomplished, allowing a business to grow and increase revenue. For example, a business would like to promote a product, the affiliate (or publisher) will promote this product on their website. If the product is purchased by a customer, the affiliate will earn commission and the business will earn a sale. Affiliate marketing is also often used by merchants to drive traffic to their business and due to the low cost risk associated with it – it quickly gained popularity over the years. 

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer Marketing involves a collaboration between a brand or business and an influencer (also known as a creator). This relationship is based on the Creator’s audience and the influence they may have with their followers on the likes of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok. Brands would typically ‘gift’ an item for the creator to push to their followers or offer an exclusive voucher code in order to increase sales for the brand. 

Now that we have a general idea, let’s break it down and discuss the differences between them to give us a clear understanding. 

1. Promotional Strategies:

Affiliate Marketing: They have various verticals of which they form part of. Their websites can range between blogs, voucher code sites, comparison sites, review sites, cashback sites and can also include social media pages and groups. Promotional strategies can vary upon the goals of a business, which is advantageous for different promotional campaigns a business would like to run.

Influencer Marketing: This is based on the influencers following on their personal social media pages. Generally, brands choose to work with particular influencers based on their audience and size of following to increase brand awareness and to influence a hike in sales for their business. Brands are attracted to the authenticity aspect that surrounds influencers – their followers are more likely to trust their recommendations which incentivises both the influencer and the brand collaborating with them.

2. Content Creation:

Affiliate Marketing: Publishers will typically work with merchants through recognised affiliate networks. Here, they’ll have access to promotional offers that are made available by the merchant, creative banners that affiliates may use on their sites and tracking links. The tracking links are an important aspect of affiliate marketing as it is the software that will track the links used by the affiliate in order for commission to be credited to them upon a sale. 

Influencer Marketing: Content creation in influencer marketing may depend on a number of factors. Often, the influencer would have the ability to produce and create their own content centred around the brand they are working with. However, in some instances, the brand may request certain aspects to be included in the collaboration. In this case, the influencer and brand would agree to such terms and upfront costs ahead of the promotional campaign.

3. Audience Dynamics:

Affiliate Marketing: The traffic and audience dynamics are an integral part of why affiliate marketing is as successful as it is because affiliates can showcase their content in multiple regions. This is a remarkable advantage to utilise as a business, especially if the needs of your business are to grow on a global scale. Affiliate’s can tap into different sectors, and markets world-wide, giving your business a boost at the click of a button. 

Influencer Marketing: Similarly, influencers can also reach audiences world-wide but the key difference here is that it is dependent on who their following is or who happens to see their content. Other factors include, the size of the influencers audience, making sure the influencer is the right fit for the brand and where the influencer is located. Whereas, Affiliates could be selected by a merchant depending on their audience locations and use that to drive business in that particular region or country.

4. Cost Structure:

Affiliate Marketing: Your business only pays for performance. Affiliates will only receive their commission when they successfully drive a sale or a specific action (such as a sign-up or a lead) for your business. This performance-based model can be cost-effective, especially for businesses with smaller marketing budgets as you are in control of the amount of commission you offer to affiliates per sale.

Influencer Marketing: Typically, Influencer marketing involves upfront costs, and although you may negotiate fees with influencers for their services, your business would still have to pay the upfront cost regardless of the outcomes of the promotional efforts and the possibility of poor performance. Although influencers can help increase brand visibility and engagement, the upfront investment can be higher compared to affiliate marketing.

5. Control and Management:

Affiliate Marketing: Within the affiliate marketing realm, you have control over the daily runnings of your program. This includes promotional content, commission structures offered to affiliates, creative assets and which affiliates you would prefer to work with. Whether that’s based on region and location or exclusivity. This gives your business vital promotional opportunities but in a cost-controlled manner.

Influencer Marketing: While you can provide guidelines for influencers to follow, they have creative freedom to develop content that aligns with their personal brand, their style and compliments their authenticity. This can result in more authentic and relatable endorsements but will require a level of trust in the influencer’s judgement.

6. Measuring Successful Campaigns: 

Affiliate Marketing:  Because they work through affiliate networks and use tracking links when promoting a product for a business, the affiliate network allows for accurate measurement when looking at the user journey and traffic. This provides valuable insights into promotional strategies for both affiliates and the business. 

Influencer Marketing: Although they are known to often bring in new customers for brands and businesses, measuring the success of an influencer marketing campaign can be difficult as it’s not always easy to quantify. However, some influencers choose to use affiliate links through an affiliate network – which allows for the customer’s journey to be tracked. Other ways can include, analysing the engagement rate, the use of a unique voucher code given to said influencer for their audience, adding a UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameter to any links they share or by sharing analytics and insights with the brand and business. 

Including affiliate marketing into your promotional strategy can help you leverage the advantages of both influencer marketing and affiliate marketing. By recruiting affiliates who have influence within your target audience, you can expand your reach, drive sales, and increase brand visibility in a cost-effective manner. Additionally, you can compliment your affiliate program with influencer partnerships to tap into specific audiences and enhance your brand’s credibility and authenticity through affiliate networks.

More To Explore