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Influencer marketing blog post

Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: What's the Difference?

Digital marketing is about reach. It’s about getting your brand message and your products to as many potential customers as possible. There’s no doubt that leveraging the power of social media and online content are powerful tools to put your brand in front of the masses and grow your sales and profile.

Mobile phones have revolutionized online marketing, shopping, and business itself; the rise of SMS for business is evidence of this. Mobile devices have meant that a brand can literally be in the pocket or hand of its customers in one form or another, 24 hours a day. But there’s a wide choice in methods available to leverage this direct contact with your customers and potential customers.

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are two channels for growing a business that are often talked about in the same breath, but they are actually very different. Both strategies have advantages and unique abilities to build trust, create a buzz and drive sales. But what’s the difference between them?

In basic terms, affiliate marketing means the marketer receives revenue on purchases made via another company’s website. On the other hand, Influencer marketing involves a company paying a social media influencer to boost the brand, gain followers, and increase website visits.

Both types of marketing have their advantages, but which is the right fit for your business? Let's look at both approaches to online marketing in detail.

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Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves compatible businesses or blogs working together to promote each other’s products or services in return for a percentage of sales. We say compatible, as it’s usually the case that, for example, a leisure venue business might work together with a company selling leisure equipment, as their products and services have a natural relationship.

A customer might make a booking for an activity and see a link for products sold by another company which they can then click on to make a purchase. Affiliate marketing is usually reciprocal, giving each partner an advantage in broadening their reach.

At a basic level, it’s about referrals. For some products, if a sale is made through a referral, the percentage of the cut the affiliate site or blogger can make for passing on to the customer can be in the high 70s. The advantages of this model make it one of the best small business marketing tips, but let us look at what influencer marketing has to offer.

Influencer Marketing

In a sense, influencer marketing has been around longer than you might think. After all, public figures and celebrities have endorsed products since at least the 18th century. But modern-day influencers are somewhat different; for a start, they aren’t all celebrities - at least they don’t all start as famous or in the public eye.

It’s often the platform they build on social media that creates their celebrity and therefore, their ability to influence and shape public opinion and shopping habits; which is of course why influencer marketing works and why it’s so valuable to brands. 

Influencer marketing is by its very nature, personal. The influencer is sharing something they like, use, recommend, or endorse, and their followers can react very quickly to this personal form of promotion. An influencer can drive an almost instant boost in visits to a brand’s website and purchases; it’s a very quick-paced form of marketing.


The Differences

There are clear differences between the two forms of online marketing; payment is one. Influencers are usually paid upfront for promoting a brand, and their effect on the brand’s profile is not only measured in sales, but in visits to the site, comments, followers, and shares on social media, leading to increased awareness and reputation.

Some of these results are more complex to measure than sales alone, but brand awareness is a valuable quantity in itself, and has a knock-on effect on revenue.

With affiliate marketing, the affiliate partner is paid, in a sense, on delivery. They generally get paid their cut when a click leads to a purchase. Although some affiliates also get a small fee for the number of clicks their content leads to on their partner’s site. It’s a more quantifiable form of marketing and more easily measurable.

Another difference is in the aim of each form. Affiliate marketing has a clear target to generate leads and drive revenue, whereas influencer marketing is about brand awareness and increasing followers.

There’s also a difference in where a company might source its affiliates and influencers. Affiliates will come from other businesses and blogs that have a natural relationship with your brand and products, they might even be rival companies.

Influencers, on the other hand, will need to be researched on social media itself. There are many different types of influencers and companies generally choose a suitable influencer based on the type of content they put out, the demographic of their audience, and the kind of reach they have in terms of followers. A business might also be attracted to influencers with a good track record for promoting similar businesses and brands.


The Right Choice?

Arguably both types of marketing can benefit a brand or business. It boils down to matching the type of business operation to what each form of marketing can offer. It also depends on the individual business goals of a company.

The two forms are also not mutually exclusive, it could be that both are suitable and can add value to a marketing strategy. It can also be the case that at different times, and for different situations, a business might need one form of marketing more than the other.

For example, if you are launching a brand-new product or have a special offer or competition coming up, the right influencer can make a real impact. The instant nature of an influencer post can drive the kind of attention a time-sensitive launch or event thrives on. But it is also crucial to ensure your influencer is not simultaneously promoting rival businesses and events.

However, if your products and business model mean that you aren’t necessarily targeting consumers through social media, an influencer might not be the best choice. In this case, affiliate marketing, working with other businesses, blogs, and publishers will help reach your consumer base through other channels.


To a large extent, it depends on your audience. In fact, thinking about your audience should be the starting point when making any choices about marketing and promotion. There’s little point in getting an influencer on board if the demographic of your consumer base rarely interact with Instagram. It could be far more valuable to set up some sound affiliate partnerships and reach your customers through websites and blogs.

Another important consideration is cost. An influencer will require a fee upfront, and this can be fairly costly depending on their profile and reach. Affiliate marketing also costs, and despite the fact that it’s based on sales and your company is also getting revenue while paying out, it’s vital to budget and decides exactly how much of your own profits you can afford to give away to generate sales. Get this wrong, and it may cost more than you can afford.

The Right Choice Is Up to You!

In short, it’s about making a good match between your marketing goals, your budget, your target audience, and what exactly your company needs in terms of marketing at any given time. With a firm grasp of these aspects, you can make an informed choice in opting for affiliate or influencer marketing, or even both.

Written by Collabstr

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