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Influencer vs Affiliate Marketing: Who Wins?

Ding ding ding! The ref asks for a fair fight. Influencer steps out the red corner. Affiliate steps out the blue corner.

Affiliate stops to take a selfie. Influencer does a sponsorship announcement for BIG BILL'S ANTI-BOIL CREAM, EXTRA STRENGTH, MADE WITH CAR OIL, HORSE SHOES, AND PIG FAT. No-one lands a punch for three hours. 

Season 3 Sport GIF by The Simpsons

The thing is Influencer marketing and affiliate marketing aren't really enemies. We just put on the fight for that sweet, sweet sponsorship money from Big Bill. 

Both types have their own pros and cons, and can allow your brand to focus on connecting with important people in your industry, who can help spread the word. 

Affiliate marketing is used to bring leads to the business, and is based on lead generation and cost-effectiveness.  

Influencer marketing is about the collaboration between brands and internet key leaders with a mass audience. 

But you want more of an in-depth look than that, right? Well, then. Let's ask:

What is Influencer Marketing?

Like we've mentioned above, Influencer marketing involves sourcing specific, influential people who are able to use this presence to 'influence' their followers or subscribers to use a service, or purchase a product. 

Lots of industries have influencers; from B2B, to B2C. But either way, they need to have:

  • A large audience or reach 
  • A strong online presence
  • The ability to build credibility and trust
  • The reputation of being a 'thought leader'
  • The ability to convey strong brand affinity.

If you think of it this way, it makes it easier: Influencer marketing is just a modern version of word-of-mouth marketing. 

“From a PR perspective, Influencer Marketing is the shift in recognising there are new ways to reach your audience or publics.

"Traditionally, that used to be high net worth individuals or journalists. Now it can be anyone with their own network or media” says author Stephen Waddington, of Wadds Inc.

80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective | Smart Insights

A report from Mediakix has suggested that the industry's global spend was actually projected to reach $5-10B. And as the space becomes increasingly more prevalent and profitable, brands have shown interest. In fact, brands are now set to spend up to $15B on influencer marketing by 2022. 

As we all know, the spray-and-pray approach has not worked for a while. That's where influencer marketing comes in. It gives an element of targeted personalisation which is vital. So, the use of influencer marketing forces brands to figure out how to target the right audience, with the right figure-heads. 

Benefits of Influencer Marketing

  1. Can create excitement for a new product or campaign. Some brands may use influencer marketing to promote a new deal, a certain product, or to build excitement around a launch. Influencers are in the direct eye-line of your audience, and have their trust, so can generate a bunch of exposure to the exact audience you want to interact with. This works to eliminate the brand from the process - audiences are far more likely to trust an influencer, over a brand trying to flog their product.
  2. Long-term collaborations. Though you might use influencers for single product shout-outs, brands can also utilise a specific influencer over a longer period. Becoming this influencers go-to brand can build reinforced trust with the audience.
  3. Versatility. Not just in the type of influencer, but also in the way influencers can be paid. Some will accept credits and free products as payment for support. 

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing allows brands to promote their product on websites other than their own. 

So, your target audience will see your content on these sites, click them and buy something. The affiliate, i.e. the site involved, will then receive a small percentage of the sale.

Unlike influencer marketing, affiliate marketing requires you to build partnerships with other companies, blogs, and publishers. So, the goal is to grow revenue by offering special discounts and sales, and create awareness for these offers. 

Affiliate Marketing Statistics: Income Report, Social Media Usage | 2021

Basically, it's a performance-based marketing tactic, where your company will reward affiliates based directly on the results they provide. 

Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

  1. Cost-effectiveness and speed. So, this is the big one. Affiliate marketing is cost-effective. If you choose to use this form of marketing, you are paying only for the results. 

  2. Data privacy. Audiences may feel more comfortable with these un-intrusive ads, where they feel as if they’ve stumbled into the product themselves.
  3. Structure and management. With influencer marketing, it can often be more tricky to balance the monitoring of influencers to ensure they are properly disclosing their compensation. Although new rules have been put in place to make sure ads are declared, it can can be difficult. With affiliate marketing, there is a more structured management and oversight process to verify affiliates are including a disclosure at the top of their posts. There might even be an affiliate programme manager to make sure this happens. 

  4. Direct incentives. Affiliates are incentivised to promote the company, and do well in turn, as they receive a percentage of the sales revenue. This encourages them to increase their own marketing efforts to promote products and offer advertising space on their own website.

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Which One Should I Pick?

Well, first up you need to consider a few points. These being; your company's goals, your audience, and your budget. The big three. So, let's start with:

  • Goals. Maybe you want to move away from social media, and try out other platforms. This would be a good example of a time to use affiliate marketing. When you understand your customers needs and wants, you'll be able to speak to them directly, without the need for a tweet. By going to the websites they frequent, you'll be able to generate leads and grow your revenue. But if you want to promote specific products, or inspire excitement, use influencer marketing. Because they're directly in front of your audience, they have, well, influence over their followers and have already established, pre-packaged trust ready for you to cash in on. 

  • Audience. Next up, you need to consider who your audience is, and where they spend their time online. In order for your campaign to be successful, you need to reach as many people as possible. So, if your audience is younger, and spends a lot of time on TikTok, you might want to go to the influencers on there. But if you want to target a specific group, with specific needs, then use affiliate. If you're launching a new product that power users will be receptive to, you can target specific sites they favour. You can then speak to the people most likely to make a purchase. 

  • Budget. A larger budget will mean you can partner with big name influencers, and easily reach their huge audiences. Although, there are more budget-friendly influencer options, like micro-influencers or nano influencers. These individuals will have a small, but engaged audience.
    Influencer Marketing in 2021: Definition, Examples, and Tactics
    On the other hand, affiliate marketing is top for small budgets. This will allow you to see results before paying, or even the ability to end a campaign that isn't going well. You will only pay an affiliate after a lead makes a purchase, and can track your expenditure in real-time.  

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