With the expansion of social media, influencer marketing has also grown. People turn to their favorite Instagram and Tiktok content creators for recommendations on their next purchase.
Businesses have also noticed this shift. Today, many brands have influencer marketing campaigns that target different social media platforms, from Facebook to YouTube. According to a report released by Twitter, 49% of shoppers rely on influencers to get product recommendations. Of these people, 40% actually buy a product after an influencer’s recommendations.
Brands are not only using influencer marketing but they’re also combining it with the prowess of affiliate marketing for a dual campaign that delivers lucrative results. According to Backlinko, 40% of the merchants in the United States report affiliate programs to be their top channel for acquiring customers.
But if you plan to use both for your business, it’s essential to know the difference between influencers and affiliates. How should you use influencers vs. affiliates, and when should you use them to get the best results?
This guide discusses these questions and compares key differences between an influencer vs. affiliate.
What Is an Influencer?
An influencer is generally defined as someone who has the power to affect their audience’s purchasing decisions. They may get this power through their authority of a niche or their relationship with their audience.
Influencers are not just tools for marketing. They are also social relationship assets that brands can use to engage their customers.
The most common type of influencer today is social media influencers. Most of them have massive followings on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and other platforms. These people have built a reputation for themselves in a certain niche, such as fashion, lifestyle, sports, tech, etc. They regularly post about these topics and use different means, such as stories and live streams, to keep their audiences engaged.
What Is an Affiliate?
An affiliate is a blog or website owner who promotes a business’s products to their audience or readers.
The U.S. market has experienced an increase in affiliate spending of 10.1% every year for the past few years. Researchers expect affiliate spending to reach $8.2 billion by 2022.
Affiliates are typically a part of an affiliate marketing campaign. A brand provides affiliate links to these affiliates and tracks the number of customers and clicks coming from each click.
Meanwhile, the affiliate promotes the link leading to the brand’s product or service to their audience. The more clicks and sales conversions an affiliate brings to a brand, the more they earn through commissions.
Differences Between Influencers and Affiliates
Although they both have the same objectives, influencers and affiliates have some differences. The influencer vs. affiliate comparison below covers the differences in detail.
1. Method of Payment
The way affiliates and influencers are paid is different. Influencers are typically paid a flat fee to endorse a brand’s product. They may also receive free products or services from the brand. For instance, a beauty salon may offer a free blow-dry to a fashion influencer in exchange for a promotion. The influencer will post a video of them getting the blow-dry and promote the salon.
On the other hand, affiliates get a commission for each sale they bring for the brand. This is typically tracked through a personal code or link provided by the brand. The compensation structure differs depending on the affiliate program.
Affiliate programs are designed to acquire new customers and grow incremental revenue. Meanwhile, influencers are used to create brand awareness.
2. Federal Trade Commission Adherence
Another difference between influencers and affiliates is Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. The agency enforces Truth In Advertising laws in the U.S. Both influencers and affiliates are meant to speak truthfully and honestly about products and services, according to FTC guidance.
Influencers are given different FTC guidelines of disclosing that brands have paid them for a product’s promotion. The guidance indicates they should use clear, non-confusing language on all posts to show they were gifted products/services or paid to promote them.
Affiliates are also meant to put disclosures on their posts, but often with different language. When they include links to products or services from which they receive commissions, they should say something similar to: “I receive commissions for purchases made through the links in this article.”
Well-managed affiliate programs have program managers who ensure that affiliates disclose this information. Affiliates who fail to comply can be removed from the program. Alternatively, they may be penalized with a steep fine, bad PR, or prohibitions.
3. Measurement and Tracking
Both affiliates and influencers help a business by increasing its reach and getting potential leads. But the way a brand measures and tracks them is different.
In influencer marketing, brands use the social analytics of the influencer’s social media pages to determine their performance. Some of the metrics include:
- Social sharing on Instagram and other platforms
- Potential reach, such as the number of social following and page visits
- Social engagement, such as clicks, likes, comments, and video views
- New social media followers on the brand’s social media pages
Brands use tracking cookies and plugins to track an affiliate’s performance. They can use use the following metrics to determine how beneficial an affiliate is for their business, particularly based on the purchases made through that affiliate’s link:
- Conversion rate
- Sales and subscriptions
- Number of orders
- Email sign-ups and registrations
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Average order value (AOV)
Influencer vs. Affiliate: Which to Choose?
- Budget: How much are you willing to spend? If you have more budget, you can partner with influencers who have huge followings to give your brand as much exposure as possible. Influencer marketing is generally expensive. An alternative would be teaming with micro-influencers who have a smaller audience but higher engagement. But if you want to see results before you pay, affiliate marketing should be your pick. With affiliates, you only pay for the actual sales that convert — and not an agreed dollar amount upfront.
- Goals: As mentioned earlier, affiliates help generate revenue for your brand. If you want to acquire new customers, partner with affiliates. But if you’re going to garner brand awareness, work with influencers.
- Audience: Your audience should be on the same channels as the influencers or affiliates you plan to work with. For instance, if you have a younger audience, stick to influencers on TikTok and Instagram since teenagers and young adults take inspiration from their social media favorites. But if your audience is individuals who are more likely to read blogs or watch YouTube videos and look for product links, try affiliate marketing.
Consider these factors to decide whether an affiliate will be suitable for the job or if you require an influencer.
How to Use Affiliates?
If you’ve decided to use affiliates to market your products, here are some valuable tips:
- Set goals for your program. Your goals can be associated with the number of customers you want to attract or the conversion rate you wish to reach.
- Analyze your competitors. Go through competitors’ affiliate terms and conditions. If possible, check their application process and take inspiration from it.
- Choose a reasonable commission. When deciding how much to pay your affiliates, make sure you compensate them well without losing a significant portion of your profit. Make sure your commission is competitive and attractive.
How to Use Influencers?
Influencers are ideal for brands that want to raise awareness or get more followers for their social media pages. Here are some tips to get started:
- Define a target audience. Who do you want to attract? Choose influencers according to the target customer for your brand. If you have younger targets, select an influencer with a teenage or young adult following.
- Do your research. Make sure you’ve researched your influencers thoroughly. Many influencers buy fake followers that may fool you into thinking they have more influence than they actually do. Ask them to show you their reach and account’s social analytics to be sure that their followers are active.
- Choose quality. Instead of partnering with a large number of influencers, choose quality over quantity. An influencer with a highly engaged following will bring you more leads than many influencers with poor engagement and little affinity to your brand.
Knowing the difference between influencers and affiliates will help you decide which of the two you need for your brand. If you seek brand awareness and want to increase your following, work with influencers to get more exposure.
Meanwhile, a team of affiliates and a well-managed affiliate marketing campaign can do the trick if you want to generate more revenue.