Affiliate Marketing for Influencers in 2021
The boom of social media over the last 10 years has led to the rise of a powerful, new marketing tool…
Having large and engaged followings, influencers can leverage their social media presence to reach and connect with potential customers to your brand. This is an opportunity to build brand awareness, create more authentic ad content, and most importantly, generate high-quality leads.
Influencers can be a great addition to your affiliate marketing program.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about affiliate marketing for influencers. This includes…
- Differences between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing
- Why influencers can be key to growing your brand
- Steps for starting your own affiliate marketing program & finding top influencers
- Insider tips for optimizing your affiliate marketing strategy
Let’s get started with affiliate marketing for influencers.
Affiliate Marketing vs. Influencer Marketing
Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are very similar. Both marketing strategies involve using brand advocates to promote your products and services.
But there are some key differences that we’ll cover below.
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 you should include influencers in your affiliate marketing program
As we mentioned before, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing overlap in many ways. Given the similarities, influencers can easily be welcomed in to your affiliate marketing program and begin promoting your brand.
Here’s some of the top reasons why you should include influencers in your affiliate marketing program.
Unlock a new marketing channel
Influencers have taken their social media presence and turned it into a marketing machine. With built-in followings, influencers can directly put your brand in front of targeted audiences on specific platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and new-commer TikTok.
Add social proof to promotions
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.
Create engaging content
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.
Connect with audiences
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 when partnering with influencers
Before sending your affiliate pitch to influencers, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Here’s what you should consider when starting affiliate marketing for influencers.
What is your marketing strategy?
What is your brand’s marketing strategy? Do you want to build brand awareness? Or are you specifically focused on driving conversions?
Affiliate marketing focuses on driving conversions, with affiliates using referral links to directly lead audiences to your site to make a purchase.
Meanwhile, influencer marketing focuses more on brand exposure. And without referral links, there’s no way to directly see the result of an influencer’s post and a purchase on a website.
What will you pay influencers?
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.
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. Affiliates tend to have blogs or websites. Influencers stick to social media sites like Instagram and YouTube.
Using the example above, a travel affiliate would have a blog to detail their trip itinerary. A travel influencer would post pictures of the spots they visited on Instagram. Or a fitness affiliate would have a website with workout guides. While a fitness 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 works 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. Finding influencers on Instagram who can model and display your products in a way that is visually appealing can be highly effective promotional material.
SaaS brands can’t really be displayed in an image, but are great for video content. Partnering with a YouTuber to create video tutorials around how to use software is a great way to show your product in action.
How to find and partner with top influencers
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.
Seek out influencers that fit your niche
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 audiences.
Unless you are planning to partner with celebrity-level influencers, it is best to find influencers that fit with your brand and share the same target audience.
For example, Fern & Petal partners with influencers to promote their store’s wellness products. Along with being in the wellness niche, the influencers are also local to Vancouver, where Fern & Petal is based. The combination of large social media followings and a connection to the community makes these influencers the ideal affiliate to reach the store’s customer base and to promote their products.
Search social media to find top influencers
Since social media is where most influencers share their content on, this is a great starting point for your search.
Start by searching hashtags related to your brand’s niche. For example, if you are in the travel industry, find influencers search #travelgram or #wanderlust for anything tourism related.
Some tips for your hashtag search:
- Industry-centric hashtags: Begin with industry-centric hashtags like tech, beauty, fashion, fitness, cooking, travel, parenting, auto, photography, and so on. This will be a high-level search.
- Product hashtags: Try hashtags related to your products, like #eyeshadow for makeup brands.
- Branded hashtags: Search hashtags for your brand or branded products, for instance #nikon or #nikon750.
- Competitor hashtags: Look at the hashtags for your competitors, such as their branded name or any hashtags they promote, to see who is promoting their products.
- Location-based hashtags: For local businesses or ones looking to target a specific region, look up hashtags and locations of certain areas to see who is popular in the area. Even if they are not necessarily in your niche, they may have more influence just by being known in the local community.
You can also search affiliate marketing hashtags like #affiliate or #ad to see influencers who are already in the affiliate marketing network. However, we would suggest to have caution when taking this approach as you may find low-quality affiliates or spam accounts in the process.
Sites like Hastagify can also help you find the most popular hashtags for your particular niche.
What to look for when searching for influencers
There’s likely to be a ton of results from your hashtag search. Generally, social media platform’s algorithms will show popular content at the top. But popularity does not necessarily mean they are the right influencer to promote your brand.
With this in mind, there’s a few things to look for when you are searching. This includes:
- Which platforms they actively use
- The quality of their content
- How many followers they have
- How engaged their followers are
Make sure there is a “fit” with your brand
Beyond the number of followers and engagement, it’s important to look at how well they fit your brand.
Lifestyle influencer and blogger @maduhlyn_ explains that this is a two-way partnership for both affiliates and brands. Her advice to brands is to look for creators whose messaging really aligns with their own so that the partnership is a natural fit.
If I see that a brand is only looking for affiliates to shill products, I turn them down. Sadly, there are a lot of brands like this out there. I don’t think this is an effective marketing strategy for the brand or the affiliate. I think - or at least I hope - that most followers are clever enough to see when an affiliate does not have a genuine connection with the brand he/she is promoting.
One way to ensure this is by 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%.
Strategies for adding influencers to your affiliate marketing program
Provide a detailed brief
From the very beginning, it’s important that there is a clear understanding between the influencer and your brand about what is expected of both sides. You can do this by providing influencers a full brief with your expectations and guidelines.
Here’s what influencer marketing expert and CREAM Founder Lauren Brown says to include in your brief:
- Campaign overviews
- Set deadlines
- Product infomation
- Key promotional messages
- Visual references
- Branding do’s & don’ts
This way the influencer and brand are aligned and there is no ambiguity around what a brand is looking for, decreasing the chance of reshoots which are time wasting for both parties.
Work closely to create unique content
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. Work together on the creative process to provide worthwhile material to their audience and better promotions for your brand.
Lauren from CREAM says:
The most successful partnerships adopt a collaborative approach between the influencer and brand. The best way to work is usually to brief an influencer then hand over creative control to them, as they know what will perform best for their audience.
Popular influencer content includes:
- Product Placements
- Giveaways & Contests
- How To Guides
- Product Reviews & Rankings
- Favorites & Best Features
- Unboxing Videos
- Podcast Interviews
- Styling Sessions
An emerging trend in influencer marketing is content that is educational. Rather than just posting a picture of the product, influencers use their platform and expertise to provide in-depth content that teaches audiences about products or services.
A great example of influencer content comes from YouTuber Danksy. Danksy has created around 500 tutorials on how to use Adobe software. The content ranges from beginner level “How to use Adobe Photoshop” to advanced web designined like “Create A 3D text effect in Illustrator”.
The content isn’t simply a “Buy Now” message. Instead, it shows the capabilities of Adobe software and what users can do with it. Then each video has an affiliate referral link in the description section to buy Adobe software to take his audience directly to Adobe’s website.
With 60% of YouTube viewers saying they follow YouTuber’s advice for what to buy, this type of content is proven effective.
Provide influencers with marketing materials
Start off by providing influencers with all the essentials they need to promote. The more materials your equip influencers with, the more opportunities there are for them to create something that’s both unique and aligned with your brand.
You can help influencers be successful by providing:
- Branding kit
- Color scheme
- You brand’s ad copy
- Product descriptions
- Pricing lists
- Press mentions or awards
One very important marketing material to provide influencers is your branded hashtag. You’ll want to ensure that your hashtag is consistent across all channels, and your messaging is clear regardless of who is promoting it.
For example, Frank Body got the word out about their brand with the combination of hashtags, influencers, and user generated content. The brand actively encouraged their fans to use brand’s hashtags #letsbefrank and #thefrankeffect for Instagram. Now, over 100,000 images of customers happily covered in the brand’s signature coffee-scrub have been uploaded.
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.
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.
Consider giving samples and product previews
If possible, consider giving your affiliate previews of new products or services that are being launched.
Influencers can provide “insider” details about the launch, giving their audiences a sneak peak. This is a great way to generate excitement and create FOMO so customers are ready and waiting when your new products go live.
This is especially useful in the holiday season for content like wish lists or holiday guides. Influencers can give a sneak peak into holiday specials or must-have buys for the season.
Planning ahead is important for any marketing campaign. This is especially true for influencer marketing as you’ll want to make sure influencers have enough time to make worthwhile content.
Lauren from CREAM says:
Influencers are often working on multiple campaigns at once, so the longer they have to create the content the better. A long lead time allows the influencer enough time to get the best result possible and gives contingency for any delays with shipping or reshoots.
Allow influencers to trial products ahead of the collaboration to familiarize themselves with the brand and enhance their product knowledge as well as see whether they actually like the product.
Find more tips about influencer marketing manangement on @creamcreators Instagram page.
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.
Start your affiliate marketing program today with Tapfiliate. Get your 14-day free trial here.