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Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing: A Comparision

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are two popular strategies for online businesses. But they are different.


Key takeaways 

Affiliate MarketingInfluencer Marketing
DefinitionA performance-based marketing strategy where individuals (affiliates) earn a commission for driving sales or leads to a company. Collaboration between brands and individuals who have a significant following and influence in a specific niche or industry.

Brand desired resultMeasurable conversions, such as sales or leads. Brand awareness
EarningAffiliates earn commissions based on sales or leads generated through their unique affiliate links. Influencers earn through various avenues, including flare fees, sponsored products, and sponsored content, and may not always be tied to sales.  

About Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing become a part of the digital marketing game since the 1990s when eCommerce was just thriving. 

Why does affiliate marketing stand out? Well, simply because it is performance-based, which means it is all about getting paid for actual results, mainly sales. 

That’s a relief for everyone’s wallets!

Affiliate marketing appeals to businesses because it is super effective in terms of investment.  

Stat does not lie: 80% of companies deploy affiliate marketing and the Return on Investment (ROI) rate is 1,200% for US businesses in 2021.

Affiliate marketing is still the trend. Global spending on it is expected to hit $15.7 billion in 2024, according to Marketing Hub.

How does it work? 

In affiliate marketing, there are three main actors involved: the affiliate, the merchant, and the customer. Here is a simple explanation of how it works. 

  1. The brand, seeking sales, provides affiliates with a link called an affiliate link.  
  2. Affiliate embeds the link on their promotional efforts, such as a blog post. 
  3. The customer discovers a product and clicks on their unique tracking link. 
  4. When the customer purchases through the link, the affiliate earns a commission. 

This model benefits all parties—the customer finds products through trusted recommendations, the brand gains sales, and the affiliate earns commissions for successful conversions. Everybody loves affiliate marketing because it is a mutually beneficial strategy in the e-commerce industry. 

Who are affiliates? 

  • Unattached Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates don’t have a personal connection with the products. They simply apply some marketing techniques, such as using ads on Google, Facebook, or other websites to get people to click on links and buy things. 
  • Related Affiliate Marketing: Others, like a fitness blogger, talk about health and fitness. They put links to fitness stuff in their posts. Even if they don’t use the products, these products are related to what they talk about and what their audience likes.
  • Involved Affiliate Marketing: Then, there are affiliates who really use and know the products. For instance, a beauty vlogger uses a makeup brand every day. Because she genuinely saw improvement with it, people trusted her recommendations more. Simply like sharing a personal experience with your friends.

Side information: Affiliates, who are bloggers drive a massive 65% of affiliate sales, even with all the new content trends like TikTok videos and Instagram reels booming. 

Example of Affiliate Marketing 

TikTok has a special thing called the TikTok For Business Affiliate Program. 

If you join, and you bring in new people to use TikTok For Business, you can earn some money. Digital marketing experts and TikTok users with a lot of followers who can talk to TikTok users can join. The program gives you chances to make sponsored posts, use affiliate programs, and get free stuff.

To reach out to people and promote products, you can make cool videos or even use ads to reach more audiences. You can also share your special links on your website or social media to get more people interested. It’s a way to earn something extra by simply promoting TikTok Business.  

See more: Affiliate Marketing vs Referral Marketing – The differences


About Influencer Marketing 

Influencer marketing has been around even before the Internet. 

But now, with social media boomings of platforms such as TikTok or Facebook, it’s become a big deal. 

How does influencer marketing work? 

It’s when companies collab with people with a lot of followers (influencers) to talk about their products. These influencers are like messengers for the brands. They can do all sorts of things to get the word out, like shoutouts, giveaways, taking over social media accounts, or making sponsored posts. Sometimes, influencers also use special links and get money when people buy something through those links.

About 61% of audiences seriously thinking about buying products depends on what an influencer recommends. The cool thing is that influencers are usually experts in what they talk about, so people trust them. 

Types of influencers 

Plus, when brands team up with smaller influencers, like nano and micro-influencers, they do even better at selling stuff because they can connect with specific groups of people more effectively.

Mega-Influencers (Over 1 million followers): A-level stars (like Kanye West), major industry figures, and widely recognized personalities. 

Macro-Influencers: (Between 100,000 and 1 million): Well-known experts in their field, established bloggers, or personalities with a significant online presence.

Micro-Influencers (Between 10,000 and 100,000): individuals with a more niche focus, often with a highly engaged and dedicated audience.

Nano-Influencers (Fewer than 10,000 followers): Individuals with a small but tight-knit community, often having a strong influence on a specific local or niche audience. Collaboration with Nano-Influencers is sometimes called KOL marketing. 

Technically, an influencer can be an affiliate at the same time if the agreement with the brand allows them to earn commission from successful orders placed via special links or coupons. 

See more: Digital Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing: A Comparision

Examples of Influencer Marketing  

SKIMS, a brand specializing in shapewear founded by Kim Kardashian, has reached a $4 billion valuation since its 2019 establishment.

Skims has an influencer program that allows social media influencers to promote the brand’s products to their followers. The benefits of joining the Skims influencer program include sponsored posts, affiliate programs, and free goodies. 

SKIMS strategically leverages micro and macro influencers on Instagram, focusing on authentic, high-quality content. The brand’s emphasis on Instagram is evident from its 5.3 million followers.

Micro/Macro Influencers: SKIMS collaborates with a variety of influencers, emphasizing a diverse range of follower counts.

At this point, SKIMS has generated an estimated media value of €5.1 million through posts and €9.4 million through Instagram stories, showcasing the efficacy of the story format.


07 key differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing: 

Influencer MarketingAffiliate Marketing
Personal endorsementRelies on influencers who promote a product or service to their audience (typically on their own experiences and preferences) Involves affiliates promoting products or services via unique affiliate links (typically) without a personal endorsement. 
Content creation Focuses on the influencers creating unique and engaging content to showcase the promoted product or service in a more personalized manner.Typically relies on affiliates using pre-made promotional materials provided by the brand or merchant.
Relationship with audienceLeverages the trust and relationship influencers have built with their audience over time, creating a more genuine connection.This may not necessarily involve a direct relationship between the affiliate and the audience 
Payment structure Influencers get paid a flat fee in advance, receive free products, and can negotiate payout with the brand.Affiliates earn a fixed commission based on the sales or actions generated through their unique affiliate links.
Brand ControlBrands have full control over the content created by influencers. However, the content still needs to align with their creativity and style to promote the product.Brands have little control over how affiliate promote their products. However, they still have strict terms and conditions regarding the promotional materials and messaging used by affiliates. 
Brand partnersInfluencers of various audience sizes, including nano, micro, macro, and mega influencers.Typically involves an affiliate network from which the brand can find individuals, bloggers, websites, and other types of affiliates. 
Brand relationship with partners Often focuses on building long-term relationships between the influencer and the brand, with campaigns extending over an extended period.It is not necessarily for a brand to build a long-term relationship with an affiliate. 

In summary, the main difference between influencer marketing and affiliate marketing is that influencer marketing focuses on increasing brand awareness and reaching a wider audience, while affiliate marketing is focused on driving sales and increasing revenue for the business.  

Conclusion: What to choose? 

In short, the choice need not be binary. Simultaneously deploying affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns can amplify the impact, creating a synergistic marketing approach.

BixGrow, an affiliate management platform, exemplifies this dual-strategy success, connecting over 6,000 global Shopify brands with adept content creators and influencers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Affiliate Marketing the Same as Influencer Marketing?

No, these are distinct strategies with different goals. In affiliate marketing, affiliates get paid by driving sales for the products. In influencer marketing, influencers get paid with a fixed payment in advance by raising brand awareness (such as posting sponsored posts). However, in many cases, an influencer CAN ALSO BE an affiliate as long as the brand allows them to earn commission from orders made through their affiliate link or coupons. 

Which is better, Affiliate Marketing or Influencer Marketing?

Both are profitable. Often, a combination of both proves highly effective, as witnessed in the popularity of Instagram affiliate marketing.

Do you need to be an influencer to be an affiliate marketer?

No, you don’t need to be an influencer to be an affiliate marketer. Anyone who can promote products can become an affiliate marketer. They have the flexibility to use platforms, including blogs, websites, and social media accounts. However, people having marketing expertise, such as proficiency in running ads, can also to perform effectively as affiliates.

I have been working in marketing for four years, passionate about creative writing and copy writing. Love to be alone at watersides, sip coffee, play games or read anything that is thought provoking.


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