Affiliate marketing vs. influencer marketing: Which strategy will boost your brand?

Affiliate marketing vs. influencer marketing: Which strategy will boost your brand?

Understanding the difference between affiliate marketing vs. influencer marketing is key to maximizing your success. After all, every brand only has a limited amount of resources. Using those resources effectively is crucial to reaching your target audience and improving your return on your investment.

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are similar and highly effective marketing strategies. But depending on your brand and your goals, one might be better for your needs than the other. Let’s break down affiliate marketing and influencer marketing in detail. By the end, you’ll know which is the best choice for your business and its goals.


How to become an influencer

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is when one party promotes another’s product or service in exchange for a commission or for marketing. Think of it as cooperative marketing between two sellers or brands.

For example, affiliate marketing might include writing a blog post that highlights the benefits of a partner’s product. In exchange, that partner might also write a blog post outlining the benefits and advantages of your products. In doing this, both brands’ audiences are exposed to the other brand. This is a great way to promote audience growth.

You’ve probably seen posts on social media where someone says they are sharing an affiliate link. That affiliate link is how the brand determines how many new people came to their brand or made a purchase thanks to someone posting about it. This is common with influencers who agree to shout out certain products on social or in “best of” lists on their blog or in their newsletter. In exchange, they either get a flat payment rate or a commission for each sale their affiliate marketing results in.

Affiliate marketing can also happen on a broader scale. Many bloggers and entrepreneurs practice affiliate marketing by marketing products they don’t own, then making a profit on each purchase they cause. As an example, a customer may read a blog post about the best running shoes. If that customer clicks on the affiliate marketer’s link and makes a purchase, the affiliate marketer gets a cut of the profits.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is exactly what it sounds like: marketing with the assistance of influencers in your niche or industry. Influencers are essentially social media marketers and brand ambassadors. They advertise products to their followers and cultivate social media images that inspire followers to purchase the same products and adopt the same lifestyle habits.

For example, clothing influencers often buy and highlight products from different brands. They make videos or take photos, then show those social media materials to their followers on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms. In exchange for advertising for those brands, the clothing brands give the influencers a commission or some other type of fee. Most influencers will charge $0.03 for a YouTube to Instagram view and $0.01 for a TikTok view.

Influencer marketing is highly effective and very popular. Millions of people use social media platforms every day and that number is expected to rise in the future. However, brands have to be careful in choosing and partnering with influencers who match their:

  • Brand identities
  • Brand invoices
  • Target audiences

In most cases, influencer marketing is most effective if your target audience is heavily online and spends a lot of time-consuming social media content. If your target audience isn’t on social media platforms influencer marketing won’t be very effective.

entrepreneur on phone working

The benefits of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing has several distinct benefits that make it a stellar marketing strategy. This is particularly true for heavily online brands or ecommerce companies.

Easy to start

Affiliate marketing is easy to start and implement. You don’t need a lot of resources to get affiliate programs going.

In addition, the raw material requirements for affiliate marketing are low. All you have to do is use plug-ins or widgets to make unique URLs for the affiliate links on your site. Then you’ll track conversions from each sale. In essence, this is a stellar and quick way to boost traffic to your website through a network of affiliate marketers.


In keeping with the above, affiliate marketing is highly cost-effective. Since you only pay when an affiliate marketer brings a customer to your store and that customer makes a sale, you only pay for successful marketing.

You don’t pay for impressions, clicks, or any other results. Therefore, if you want to spend your marketing cash on something that leads to direct sales or more revenue in your business bank account, affiliate marketing could be just the ticket.

Fast way to boost traffic to a website

Perhaps most importantly, affiliate marketing is phenomenal for boosting traffic to your website. That’s its primary purpose. More than anything else, affiliate marketing brings newcomers to your website. They’ll browse your products, check out your content, and more.

However, affiliate marketing is much better at converting people from brands that are in the same field as yours. In this way, you can curate a larger audience base over time.

The benefits of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing also has various key benefits and advantages to keep in mind.

Enhances trust and increases brand awareness

Influencer marketing is highly useful for boosting trust and credibility in your brand. If you partner with the right influencer, and that influencer’s audience trusts their recommendations and opinions, you can get that same audience to trust your brand by extension.

This is an invaluable marketing benefit in the earliest days of your business. And it can be a big help when you are trying to boost brand awareness and get people to trust you.

Focuses marketing on a target audience

In addition, influencer marketing can be effective if you want to focus your marketing cash on a target audience. Rather than marketing to the general public or anyone who happens to visit your site from Google, you can market specifically to the people most likely to buy from your brand in the first place.

This targeted marketing is oftentimes better in terms of ROI. It means every marketing dollar you spend will theoretically have a higher chance of generating revenue.

Highly controlled

Influencer marketing is highly controllable because you get to decide which influencers you partner with. That’s invaluable if you wish to avoid accidentally tarnishing your brand’s reputation or identity. Since you get to pick out your influencer partners, you can vet them and make sure that they suit your overall goals, your brand voice, your aesthetic, etc. This step can form an important part of your go-to-market strategy for a new product or brand initiative.

Potential for big results

In the long run, influencer marketing can lead to big marketing results, including higher revenue, many more customers, and more. The more you use influencer marketing, the better the results often become. That’s because influencer marketing is a positive feedback loop. It causes more and more people to become aware of your brand.

Furthermore, if your initial influencer marketing is successful, you can graduate to pricier and more worthwhile influencers who have even bigger audiences. So the more money you put into influencer marketing the more money you eventually make.

What are the key differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing?

The most important differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are:

  • Affiliate marketing only requires you to pay each time you get a sale from the marketing effort. For instance, if you partner with an affiliate marketer, you’ll only pay that marketer a commission or fee each time their advertising causes someone to buy from your brand. In contrast, influencer marketing usually involves paying the influencers upfront.
  • Affiliate marketing is about driving traffic to your website. The purpose is to complete transactions. In contrast, influencer marketing can be about multiple different things, including driving transactions. You can pursue influencer marketing to boost brand awareness, build up an audience, increase trust, and establish long-term key performance indicators.

Because of these differences, influencer and affiliate marketing should be used for different goals or marketing purposes.

affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing vs. influencer marketing: Which is right for you?

Overall, affiliate marketing is best if you wish to drive traffic to your site. It’s also great if you want to maximize the bang for your buck with a limited marketing budget. Through affiliate marketing, you’ll passively boost brand awareness, but more importantly, you’ll bring new customers to your site.

If your site is well-designed and your products are attractive by themselves, this could result in a boost in your revenue. Remember, with affiliate marketing, you don’t have to pay for any marketing that doesn’t result in a sale.

However, an influencer marketing campaign might be better if you wish to focus on things other than revenue. For brand awareness or audience loyalty, this might be the way to go instead. Through influencer marketing, you can build up a longer-term loyal audience.

Furthermore, influencer marketing has a greater potential for long-term profit thanks to these effects. Influencer marketing could be ideal as your brand starts to scale and you have a bit bigger marketing budget to attract worthwhile influencers. It can be ideal for long-term lead generation, too.

Wrap up

As you can see, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are both great marketing strategies. However, you should decide which marketing strategy to focus on. The odds are you’ll only have enough resources to plan and enact a complete campaign for one or the other.

Keep the above tips in mind and you’ll make the best decision for your business going forward.


Do you have to be an influencer to do affiliate marketing?

You don’t need to be an influencer to do affiliate marketing. But, you do need an audience to leverage for affiliate marketing, though. You can purchase affiliate marketing services from other brands, partners, and influencers to start building your audience.

That said, it’s oftentimes easier to be successful with affiliate marketing if you are also already an influencer. That’s because you’ll have a built-in audience ready to read and absorb your content, which you can use to plug products and services from other brands.

Can an influencer be an affiliate?

An influencer can be an affiliate marketer. Many influencers practice affiliate marketing in conjunction with influencer marketing. For example, an influencer might highlight products and brands on their primary social media profiles and pages. They may additionally have several different agreements with multiple brands to maximize their income.

However, that same influencer may also have a blog or personal website. On that blog, they could practice affiliate marketing by highlighting and shouting out products that they love or have personally used. This then helps those brands make more money and acquire more customers.

How much do influencers make from affiliate marketing?

Influencer earnings from affiliate marketing can vary significantly. Influencers with big audiences and time-tested marketing strategies generally earn more than new influencers. Influencer earnings can range from as little as $50 per month to well over $20,000 per month, according to certain sources.

Remember, most influencers don’t “make it big.” They might earn enough to make a living as an influencer, but they don’t become rich. Therefore, most influencers earn several hundred to several thousand dollars per month from their affiliate marketing efforts.


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Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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