Affiliate vs Influencer Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns are major components to companies’ marketing plans, especially with the rise and integration of social media into the mix this decade. While these concepts and methods are pretty similar, they also vary when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the two. 

Check out the differences and similarities below to help you to discover which option is best for you and your campaign goals and the best ways to combine both. 

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing is when an individual or publisher promotes a business or product through a unique link ID or specific code created directly for the creator to share online. Companies will provide the content creator with a payout percentage based on how many sales or leads come from their links and codes. 

Individuals do not always receive payment ahead of time or at the start of the brand relationship, but their revenue is based on how many people click or purchase through their link. This could be a rolling relationship from month to month or be set within a certain time period. 

How Does Influencer Marketing Work?

On the flip side, influencer marketing involves more direct partnership–whether through direct payment or through product partnership like in the case of Death Wish Coffee. A brand will connect with celebrities, influencers (could be on a micro or macro level), and brand ambassadors to post content on their own social media platforms or websites about their love for or experience with the brand. 

Brands usually make an effort to connect with people who are either already familiar with the brand or are existing fans or a good fit for the target audience the brand is looking for. 

What Do They Have in Common?

Both types of partnerships do involve a monetary investment or investment of other resources (like product) from the companies to the creators/influencers. Each partnership does include that level of trust between creator and brand. The brand has to trust the creator to represent the company well and share quality content to promote their product, service, etc. 

While the creator, or individual,  has to trust the company to put up their end of the contract with their payment. It is also pretty common for influencer marketing partnerships to transition into affiliate marketing partnerships and vice versa.  

Where Do They Deviate From One Another?

One of the main differences, that we kind of hinted at earlier, is the payment. Influencers are usually paid upfront while affiliates’ payments are based on commission or the level of website traffic brought in directly from the creator. 

Influencer marketing is typically used to increase brand awareness and affiliate marketing for driving sales. It is also worth noting that affiliate marketing is more of a direct quid pro quo, while influencer marketing casts a wider net. 

Both marketing routes also have different ways to track the success of the plan and partnership. Influencer marketing tends to focus on items like new followers gained or number of shares and engagement online. In comparison, affiliate marketing takes a more tangible approach to ROI calculations through sales, orders, conversion rates, new customers, etc. 

However, using a tool like Sideqik ensures you can measure your programs–regardless of which route your choose.

How Can Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Work Together?

Both options are great for increasing your brand’s business and upping your market share in the industry, so don’t rule out one over the other. Both can work well together for your marketing strategy. 

In terms of budget and planning, influencer marketing has the potential to have a higher cost for partnerships (especially if you’re choosing celebrity and macro-influencers), so think smart and strategically about who you work with for this type of marketing plan. Affiliate marketing can be great to connect with existing fans of the brand and give them the opportunity to earn a little back for singing your praises. 

Determine your campaign goals and think about the differences between affiliate and influencer marketing to help you select a strategy that will most likely get you those results. You are allowed to be flexible and test out each option to see what is best for you. You can also partner the two together for each campaign to extend your reach and revenue even more!

Learn about how Sideqik helps brands with both affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns by checking out our case studies.

Nancy Rothman

Nancy Rothman

Nancy is a passionate, results-driven marketing executive with more than a decade of experience in building robust integrated marketing programs for brands of all sizes, with specific expertise in the martech space. Prior to Sideqik, Nancy held roles at four successful martech startups, each of which received multiple series of fundraising and included two acquisitions. At CallRail, specifically, Nancy served as the director of marketing where she built the company’s brand and established it as a leader in its space. She also held roles at MeetEdgar, where she oversaw the entire sales and marketing practice, increasing the company's user base and annual recurring revenue, as well as PureCars, which was acquired by Raycom Media in 2015. As vice president of marketing for Sideqik, Nancy is responsible for developing and executing on the company's marketing strategy to drive overall business growth.

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