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Dec 29, 2017 · 6 min read

Influencer vs. Affiliate Marketing - What is the difference?

Influencer and affiliate marketers might look and sound like the same thing, particularly because sometimes influencer use a hybrid version of affiliate marketing to earn money. This can make it really confusing to figure out what the difference between the two really is, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it can be hard to figure out.

Traditionally, influencers and affiliates serve two very different purposes. With the introduction of affiliate marketing, the lines can be blurry, particularly because you will often see influencers posting links to products and coupon codes for their favourite shops. However, it’s important to remember that most affiliates are influencers, but not all of the influencers out there work in affiliate marketing. So, to break it down for you, these are the biggest differences between the two.

Looking at affiliate marketers


Affiliate marketers help to convert their followers into sales - an affiliate’s main goal is to refer sales to an advertiser’s website and get them to spend money - they know their audience is engaged and ready to buy.

This is because an affiliate gets paid a commission for each sale they refer to an advertiser’s website (which is tracked by the affiliate network). Sometimes affiliates will get an increased commission for better placement, some free product, or a cash payment on top of the commission they earn.

Because everything is tracked by an affiliate network using a unique link it is easier to see what the results are and measure the return on investment using the stats provided to you by a third party.

You get more choice in who you work with because even though traditionally it was bloggers who worked in the affiliate marketing sphere, there are more and more instagrammers, facebookers and social media influencers who are using affiliate marketing to make extra money.

As an advertiser, this means you will have less creative control over the process, but so many influencers create their own great content, and will sometimes share it with you before it goes live.

It also creates an opportunity for the affiliate to earn a passive income on older posts that people click on. This is great because as an advertiser you will also be earning money from their posts.

Looking at influencers 


Influencers help to increase brand awareness, so they are focused on introducing you to their followers, rather than converting their followers into a sale.

They would get paid on a per project basis, with no extra incentive to try and get their followers to buy. Usually payment takes place upfront, or when the project has been posted onto social media. Sometimes free product is provided so they can do their own photo shoot.

This means it’s quite difficult to measure the return on investment for your company, as it depends on exactly what you are looking for, and results might not be as clear cut.

There is more choice over who you can work with, because not all influencers work as affiliate marketers. For many influencers, they haven’t thought about working on an affiliate basis, so it is always possible to ask an influencer to join your chosen affiliate network and work with you that way and reward them for sales they refer.

The advertiser would have more creative control over what the influencer is posting, which may stifle the creativity of the influencer in the long run, and maybe feel less authentic to their followers. 

Influencer affiliate hybrid model

An influencer-affiliate hybrid relationship can be another great way of getting the benefits of both an influencer and an affiliate marketer. Sometimes they will work for a reduced upfront fee in return for receiving a commission on any sales they make. It all depends on the affiliate.

This way you are getting sales and increased brand awareness all in one because the influencer does both.

You pay a reduced fee for the sponsored post and exposure, and they get commission on any sales they refer to you as a result.

Measuring the return on investment is easy because it is all tracked by a third party.

You will have a bit more creative control as the affiliate would be more open to discussing what they are going to post and how it will look because of the reduced fee you paid. Of course, this is not always the case, but it is something you should discuss with them upfront before anything is agreed. 

So, which should you use for your campaign?

Of course there is a correct time and place for each, and sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which you should use for your campaign. It is important to look at three things - the demographics of your target audience, your budget, and whether you could utilise both for your campaign.

Demographics of your target audience

Affiliates are great for targeting specific demographics who fit your brand and because they are giving these people a link to go straight to your store and buy, it can really help with increasing sales. If you are targeting a broad audience, to raise brand awareness, personalised marketing from an influencer can be incredibly effective.


Looking at your marketing budget is incredibly important so you can figure out whether an influencer or affiliate, or a hybrid affiliate-influencer campaign is possible. With affiliate marketing you a paying a commission on each sale referred, while this can eat more of your marketing budget, it can also be much more profitable for the company. An influencer will take an upfront fee with no commissions on sales, so it will take up less of your immediate budget, but influencers with a huge following will require a lot more budget, so you should be looking for mid-sized influencers to work with.

Can you do both?

It’s important to maximise the opportunity that you have with each campaign and it might be that an affiliate campaign would be more effective for one section of your audience and an influencer campaign might work with another. Either way, it’s important that you make sure that both sides are happy with the arrangement, so that if the partnership is successful and creates more sales, then you can continue the relationship into the future.

If you understand your brand’s audience and can work out the best campaigns for each of these, it will enable your company and revenue to grow exponentially and it’s something you should include in your marketing budget.

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