In this article we look at affiliate marketing vs influencer marketing in 2020; what they are, how they differ and which is the best online business model. No article of this type could start without defining both of these online business models, so, here goes..
What is Affiliate Marketing?
This Blog is devoted to talking all about Affiliate marketing, so I won’t go into too much depth here. Basically it’s where you sell someone else’s product and receive an Affiliate commission for the sale. In an online sense, it works as follows: a visitor to your site clicks on a link to another site and buys something. Because that link was tracked by a cookie or other means, the sale is attributed to you and you receive an Affiliate Commission.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer Marketing is known by a number of terms such as Personal Branding, Social Media Marketing and the like. It’s typically form of Social Media Marketing where as an individual or group you create an audience based around a specific interest or field, and because of the value you have added to this audience you are able to market to them through methods such as product placement or endorsement. If you are an influencer, it’s generally considered that you have a certain expertise in the field you are associated with.
Influencer Marketing normally occurs on Social Media though it is also possible through say a website or blog, and can be genuinely Omni-Channel. Video is often used, there is no shortage of both genuine influencers on Youtube, Instagram, Linked In and just about any other platform. Because it requires genuine engagement to build an audience, video is an excellent medium for this form of marketing- it’s generally considered the most engaging form of digital media.
As discussed in other parts of this post, if you build your audience to the point of becoming an influencer, there’s absolutely no reason not to also affiliate market to your audience. In fact this is how many successful affiliate marketers operate – often through building an email list to an engaged audience.
Which is most profitable?
Definitely both Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing can be extremely profitable when done well. The success of Affiliate Marketing largely depends on your ability to get traffic, conversion rate and the often neglected retention rate (see my article on email affiliate marketing for more information on retention). As such Affiliate Marketing returns are quite easy to quantify and to some extent predictably estimate.
Influencer Marketing can be monetised in many different ways – one of them is Affiliate Marketing itself so there is a heavy crossover between the application of Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing. Ways that Influencer Marketing can be monetised are through promoting products directly – most large companies know spend part of their Marketing budget on influencers for things like product placement and promotion. Another is through paid subscription – making influencer content ‘gated’ and asking your audience to pay for it is a common monetization method. Really, the limits on monetization of Influencer Marketing are only bounded by imagination, not stuck to a simple static method.
Which is easier?
Affiliate Marketing takes time and effort to learn but can be turned into a genuine passive income play – for example, once you have a website up and running, it’s possible to earn ongoing income over a long period of time for no or little extra work. Definitely there is a strong learning curve involved; I would recommend you check out a course in order to short circuit some of your learning. I made a list of what I regard as the most accessible beginner affiliate marketing courses on this page (beginner affiliate courses).
Influencer Marketing requires you to be able to present yourself as an expert in your field, and this in itself requires some effort (though it may be that you are already at this point and just beginning the marketing of it). To build an audience also requires significant effort, and I would recommend that you should feel comfortable in front of a camera – definitely, the easiest way to build rapport with your audience is through video.
Some of the skills involved in becoming an influencer on social media include:
Optimising your Social Media Profiles
You need to have a presence on Social Media that stands out – it’s generally accepted that you should start with one or two channels, ie Instagram and Youtube, and really master your profile on these channels. You can create a Business account on many social media platforms, and having a catchy bio and cover picture is an absolute must as this is the first thing that your potential audience will see.
Knowing your audience
There’s no point marketing yourself to the world as a whole – it’s just too broad and will not build any rapport with anyone. Just slapping any old post out there is unlikely to raise any attention. You need to specifically target an audience, and post content that is relevant to that niche in order to build a following. Some platforms have analytics tools that can help you identify potential audiences and their interests.
It’s important to remember that not everyone is your target audience. In fact, there are times that less is more when it comes to follower numbers. You are far better off with a following of say, 1,000 that has a high engagement rate, than an audience of 10,000 with a minimal engagement rate that maybe you’ve attracted through clickbait or artificial means.
Creating and posting relevant content
This is obvious and imperative. You need to engage your audience as much as possible, and posting is the best way to do it. You’ll find the more people engage with your content, the more you will be able to influence them with opinions and recommendations. It’s worth being strategic about your content, there’s a ton of information out there about ways to strategically post content of various types. It’s up to you whether you want to mix niche posts with personal posts, but it’s probably not smart to mix posts about different niches as it’s difficult to segment your audience into completely different areas as an influencer.
Consistently posting this content
A lot of Social Media Platforms have algorithms that reward posts from users who are posting regularly. For this reason alone it’s worth having a consistent posting routine, as well as the obvious reason that you can reach out to your audience on a regular basis if you post frequently.
It depends on the platform that you choose as well as your audience as to how often you post. For example twitter typically rewards people who post several times in a day, whereas Insta or Facebook will be fine in most cases with once or twice a week.
Also, there is plenty of evidence around the best time of day to post. Knowing what time zone the majority of your audience is situated in matters – and posting late morning or early afternoon towards the middle of the week is a good rule of thumb.
Engaging with your audience
People will naturally like and comment on your posts. This is a fantastic opportunity to directly engage with your audience, and is too good an opportunity to be missed. If someone comments on a post, like or reply as soon as you can with a constructive and value adding comment.
Reaching out to relevant brands for promotion
Ok, so all this work needs to be rewarded somehow. There are several ways you can contact relevant brands in your niche for promotion or collaboration. Easy, more passive ways to advertise your openness to brand championing is simply writing this in your bio with contact information, or tagging brands in your posts about similar products.
There are more active ways of reaching out to brands to spruik your reach as an influencer – the most obvious being inboxing brands with a pitch on what you can offer them. There are tools available for this type of reach out, and you can contact a number of suitable brands at once with this method.
This is by no means an overnight process but in modern social media it is a tried and tested method that works if you are prepared to put in the time and effort.
Influencer Marketing can also known as Personal Branding, which is kind of like a superset of Influencer Marketing. Personal Branding doesn’t necessarily have to involve product promotion, for example it may be someone like Elon Musk tweeting about his plans for domination of Mars (then the solar system, and the universe..). Personal Branding is a great way to connect with an audience as never before, and when you build that brand, it has many benefits for you.
Think, for example, of Gary Vaynerchuck of VaynerMedia – he’s built a huge personal brand and social following based around documenting his daily and business life. This has huge benefit for him and his business, for example
- Building Trust and Authority
- Being featured in Media (effectively free advertising)
- Building your network
- Attracting more clients thanks to publicity
- Allowing you to charge top dollar
- Creating a legacy
These are all things you can create by upping your personal brand, and for that matter becoming an influencer on social media.
What makes for a good marketing influencer?
One thing you must know about influencer marketing is that you need to know what you are about as an influencer, effectively you brand or mission statement. Grant Cardone puts it well when he says that you must be able to describe your brand in 5 words or less.
In saying this, there are brands that it is probably smart not to associate with. For example, it would not be clever for a health-focused brand to start associating with Coca-Cola. As an up and coming influencer it may be difficult to say no to deals that may put some money in the bank but may not resonate with your audience. If you want to move on beyond small scale however keeping respect for your audience is of massive importance.
Which is the best online business model?
As usual, this is largely in the eye of the beholder when it comes to Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing. It really depends where you are at, and there is no reason why they can’t be used in conjunction. If you are comfortable making video and visual content, have some expertise in any given field, and feel you have something to say online, then influencer marketing may suit you best. Budding Affiliate Marketers also need to be able to create content, analyse what works best for conversions and how to engage their customers through retention.
Both Business Models can be highly lucrative if done well.
Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing – both are great online business models with the potential to be very profitable. There’s no reason Affiliate Marketing can’t be done with Influencer Marketing, and there is some skillset crossover between the two. As this blog is all about Affiliate Marketing I happily reveal that I lean heavily towards it as a business model. This is because:
- I like writing content rather than making video or visual content
- Consistent posting of interesting stuff on Social Media is not my style
- I like the idea of genuinely passive ongoing income.
This is not in order to dissuade you from influencer marketing; it’s just that my skills and natural bend is far more towards the affiliate marketing world.
I invite you to try either – there are a number of helpful posts on starting Affiliate Marketing on this blog. I’d love you to comment on or share this post on Social Media.
Affiliate Disclaimer: In case you were in any sort of doubt, yes, I’m an Affiliate in some manner for some of these programs and products. I like to practice what I preach. If you are intending to utilise any of these offers I’d love if you went through one of these links to support my site.