Using Influencers As Part of Your Affiliate Marketing Strategy
“Social media has blurred the lines” - the cliche said time and time again.
Despite this phrase being overused, there is the undeniable reality that social media has become consistently present in the development and execution of marketing strategies. And with this social media boom came the emergence of a new marketing device - influencers.
With the power to reach large audiences, social media influencers have become a new, powerful channel for brands to reach and engage potential customers. That being said, how can influencers help your affiliate marketing program?
Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing
Let’s start by looking at how both affiliate marketing and influencer marketing function.
Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that encourages individuals (affiliates) to promote your brand in exchange for a commission; this usually happens when people end up buying a product or signing up for a service.
Influencer marketing is the strategy of having influential people promote products or services. The basic concept of influencer marketing isn’t new as brands have long since used celebrities for marketing; Britney Spears drinking Pepsi, George Clooney sipping Nespresso or basically anything Oprah touched in the 2000s. However, social media apps like Instagram and YouTube have made it possible for almost anyone to achieve some form of celebrity, and consequently, the power to influence consumers.
While both strategies use a word-of-mouth approach, there are a few key differences in how they are executed.
First, there are differences in the focus of each strategy.
In affiliate marketing, affiliates use links to bring audiences directly to the brand’s site - making lead generation the focus.
Comparatively, influencer marketing focuses more on brand exposure. While there is the ability to see traffic through sites like Google Analytics, there is not an explicit connection between an influencer’s post and a purchase on a website.
That being said, affiliate marketing still provides some brand exposure in the same manner that influencer marketing is able to generate some leads. But as you’ll read below, these differences play a significant role for how each strategy approaches compensation.
Next, there are differences in compensation.
Affiliate marketing takes a pay-for-performance model. This means brands only pay for actual results - whether that be clicks, sign ups or purchases. This makes affiliate marketing a low-risk investment.
Influencer marketing tends to require an up-front fee. In a survey from PowerSpike, 2/3rds of influencers said they preferred to be paid up front for their sponsorship. This requires a considerable amount of research into the ROI and negotiating between brands and the influencer.
Finally, there are differences in the what channels affiliates and influencers use.
At their core, affiliates and influencers are quite similar - both have interests or expertise they want to share. The difference comes in how they chose to share their message.
Generally speaking, affiliates tend to have blogs or websites. Influencers stick to social media sites like Instagram and YouTube. Affiliates can use social media, but it is likely to be an extension of their blog or website, whereas influncers use social media as their main or only channel.
Despite there being differences, the rapid growing influx of influencers is actually providing a great opportunity for affiliate marketing.
Why can’t these two strategies coexist, or even better, work in favor for your affiliate program?
Think Beyond the Link
One way you can incorporate influencers in your affiliate marketing strategy is creating affiliate links that are designed specifically for influencers. Generally, affiliates will use links in their blog posts that will take customers to your site. But, most social media posts aren’t designed to share links. So, one way to make this work with influencers is by creating image and video assets that are compatible with these platform whether it be Instagram, YouTube or Facebook - these images and videos can include tracking links or coupon codes.
Additionally, think about how your brand’s assets be both appealing and well-suited for the influencer’s aesthetic. Partner with the influencer to find colors, graphics and images that interest both parties. Working together on the creative process can foster strong relationships with your affiliate (influencer), as well as provide worthwhile material to their audience - meaning more engagement and leads to your site.
Finding Affiliates in Influencers
While most large scale influencers are not likely to take part in a pay-for-performance model, micro-influencers are more open to this type of compensation; making them an ideal affiliate for your program.
Micro-influencers are social media influencers on a smaller scale, with somewhere between 1,000 to 100,000 followers. They tend to be less celebrity and more niche focused with expertise in interests like cooking, traveling, gaming, makeup etc.
An added bonus of micro-influencers is the level of engagement they generate. Impact found that an increase in followers results in a decrease in engagement; and influencers with 1,000 followers had engagement as high as 85%. High engagement rates can mean high conversion rates.
Leads Beyond a Blog
Both influencer marketing and affiliate marketing take place online - making your brand accessible to affiliates and potential customers from around the world.
While affiliates may have a strong presence among blogs and websites, influencers have specific channels that affiliates may not. By using influencers in your affiliate marketing strategy, you are positioning your brand to gain more exposure and your site to be clicked on by a new, engaged audience.
As likes, shares and influencers continue to multiple, affiliate marketing programs have the opportunity for wider exposure, more leads and potentially higher conversion rates and sales.