Using Influencers for Affiliate Marketing
Having large and engaged followings, influencers can leverage their social media presence to reach and connect with potential customers for your brand. This is an opportunity to build brand awareness, create more authentic ad content, and most importantly, generate high-quality leads.
That said, how can influencers help your affiliate marketing program?
In this article, we’ll cover how affiliate marketing for influencers works, how you can get started, and insiders tips for optimizing your marketing strategy.
Affiliate Marketing vs. Influencer Marketing
Let’s start by looking at how both affiliate marketing and influencer marketing function.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that encourages individuals (affiliates) to promote your brand in exchange for a commission.
This is usually when people end up buying a product or signing up for a service.
Affiliates can be anyone who wants to promote your brand —from your existing customers, to bloggers, to other businesses in related industries.
What is influencer marketing?
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.
Why influencers make great affiliates
Influencers have taken their social media presence and turned it into a marketing machine.
Here’s some of the reasons influencer marketing is now a go-to strategy of many brands.
New Marketing Channels
With built-in followings, influencers can directly put your brand in front of targeted audiences on specific platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and new-commer Tik-Tok.
Added Social Proof
Audiences follow what influencers do. So much so, that eight out of every ten consumers have purchased something after having seen it as a recommendation by an influencer.
More Authentic Promotions
With fewer consumers trusting advertisements, influencers can promote your products or services in a way that is more valuable and authentic with content like how-to guides, product reviews and influencer commentary.
Influencers use social media as a way to share their life with others, and as a result audiences feel the same connection as they do with friends and family.
What To Consider
While both use a word-of-mouth approach, there are a few key differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing. Here are some things to consider as you get started.
What is your marketing strategy?
Is your goal to build brand awareness? Or are you specifically focused on conversions?
Affiliate marketing uses links to bring audiences directly to the brand’s site — making lead generation the focus.
Influencer marketing focuses more on brand exposure. Especially without referral links, there’s no way to directly see the result of an influencer’s post and a purchase on a website.
Your marketing goals will directly impact the compensation model, which we will cover below.
What will you pay influencers for?
Influencer marketing generally requires an up-front fee, as 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 your brand and the influencer.
In contrast, affiliate marketing takes a pay-for-performance model. You only pay for actual results — whether that be clicks, sign ups or purchases. This makes affiliate marketing a low-risk investment.
Deciding how you will pay influencers depends on your marketing goals.
Which social media platforms do you use?
Affiliates and influencers are quite similar, both use content to share thoughts, trends and advice within a given niche.
For example, if you are in the travel nichel you share where to take a trip to. If you are in the fitness niche, you share workout tips. If you are in the fashion niche, you share style trends.
The difference is in how influencers and affiliates promote.
Generally speaking, affiliates tend to have blogs or websites.
And influencers stick to social media sites like Instagram and YouTube.
Travel affiliates would have a blog to detail their trip itinerary, while an influencer would post pictures of the spots they visited on Instagram. Or fitness affiliates would have a website with workout guides, while an influencer would post workout videos on YouTube.
Now, of course this is not mutually exclusive. Affiliates can use social media, but it is likely to be an extension of their blog or website. But generally, influencers use social media as their main or only channel.
What type of ad work best for your brand?
Consider how your brand, and the types of ads you use, fits with social media platforms.
E-commerce brands are typically best shown in images. Partner with influencers on Instagram who can modal and display your products in a way that is visually appealing.
SaaS brands can’t really be displayed in an image, but are great for video content. So Partner with a YouTuber to create video tutorials around how to use the software.
Partnering with Influencers for Your Affiliate Program
This growing industry is providing a great opportunity for affiliate marketing, so there’s no better time to start finding influencers to partner with.
Here’s how you can get started.
As we said before, social media has made it possible for anyone to become an influencer.
Influencers can be social media personalities, industry experts, thought leaders, trendsetters, niche bloggers. They can range from large-scale celebrity influencers with millions of followers, to micro-influencers with niche-focused followings.
Unless you are planning to partner with celebrity-level influencers, it is best to find ones that fit with your brand and share the same target audience.
There are several agencies and databases that can help with this. But you can also do the search yourself.
Search social media hashtags related to your brand. For example, if you are in the travel industry, find influencers search #travelgram or #wanderlust for anything tourism related.
As you search, look for the following:
- Which platforms they actively use
- How well they fit your brand
- The quality of their content
- How many followers they have
- How engaged their followers are
Additionally, consider pitching your affiliate program to any influencer that has ever submitted user-generated content. If they are already mentioning social media, there’s a very likely chance they’d like to become an affiliate and begin earning commissions for what they are sharing.
Unlock the Power of Micro-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%.
Affiliate Promotional Material
One of the best parts about partnering with influencers for affiliate marketing is the opportunity for unique content that connects with audiences in an authentic way.
Popular influencer content includes:
- Product Placements
- Giveaways & Contests
- Tutorial & How To videos
- Product Reviews & Rankings
- Favorites & Best Features
- Unboxing Videos
- Podcast Interviews
- Styling Sessions
- Work together for content
Work together on the creative process to provide worthwhile material to their audience and better promotions for your brand. Aim to create promotional material that aligns both with your brand, as well as being well-suited for the influencer’s aesthetic.
Start off by providing influencers with all the essentials they need to promote, such as high-quality product images and branding materials.
Then as your relationship builds, work together to create unique content. Find ways to use colors, graphics and images that interest both parties.
Additionally, consider giving your affiliate previews of new products or services that are being launched, providing great “insider” content. This is especially useful in the holiday season for content like wish lists or holiday guides.
Use Coupon Codes for Influencer Promotions
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 by creating content that can be accompanied with coupon codes or links in bios.
For example, a YouTube video could be focused around how a product is used and is demonstrated in the video- and a link to that product would be in the video caption. You can learn more about using YouTube here.
An Instagram post could show your brand in their post, with a caption including a coupon code as a way to track referrals from that promotion. Make sure the coupon code is short, simple & easy to remember.
With likes, shares and influencers continuing to multiply, affiliate marketing programs have the opportunity for wider exposure, more leads and potentially higher conversion rates and sales.
And with influencers as part of 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 you get started, this list will help you assess whether influencer marketing is right for you and for your affiliate program.