Influencer Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing | Difference & Usage

Influencer marketing and affiliate marketing are two powerful strategies utilized by marketers that employ similar techniques to accomplish different goals. 

Influencer marketing is the collaboration of online creators and brands to produce content that establishes trust with consumers and positively influences their purchase journey. Affiliate marketing is used to generate new leads for the brand and acts as a supplementary sales arm to drive conversions online through creators and “publishers”. 

This article will explore the differences between the two by detailing how affiliate marketing and influencer marketing work, examples of influencer versus affiliate marketing, and how they can work together. Read more to gain a better understanding of their differences and what strategies are best to leverage for your brand.

People posing in white shirts

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate marketing works by utilizing people outside the organization called “affiliates” or “publishers” to refer a product or service by sharing it on social media, blogs, podcasts, or websites. An affiliate earns a commission every time a consumer makes a purchase through the unique link connected to the referral they shared. 

Think of affiliates as an extension of a brand’s sales team used to generate new leads and drive conversions. Oftentimes, affiliates have discounts or promotions associated with their unique link to incentivize consumers to purchase and to buy it through that specific link or using their code.

There are five steps involved in creating an affiliate marketing program: 

1. Selecting Products To Promote 

In selecting products or services to promote, you can choose any of them but our recommendation would be to focus on high average order value products or AOV. The rationale for this a 15% discount on a $100 product is more enticing to consumers than a 15% discount on a $10 product. 

2. Affiliate Commission And Pricing 

When choosing a commission and pricing strategy you can choose either a percentage commission (a percentage of each affiliate sale) which is most common or a flat-rate commission (a set dollar amount for each sale). The average commission rate for affiliates is between 5-30% depending on your product and industry. 

3. Supporting Technology 

A technology partner to support your affiliate program is necessary for affiliate marketing as activating and tracking affiliates requires unique links and high levels of automation for scale. There are many choices out there, but  Mavrck has partnered with Awin to support brands in building and managing their affiliate and influencer programs. 

4. Recruit 

Affiliates can be recruited to join via email, social media, brand websites, or affiliate sites. Influencers can be high-performing affiliates as they have a substantial following and their audience is accustomed to brand collaboration. That being said, the personas of ideal affiliates do not always need to have substantial social followings to be successful.  

5. Managing Affiliates

 When managing affiliates it is important to maintain regular communication to ensure they understand the guidelines of the program and your brand values. Identifying your top-performing affiliates will inform future strategies on what methods have been successful and can apply to other aspects of your program. Key metrics to track in measuring the impact of your affiliate program are average order value (AOV), sales volume, site traffic, payout-to-sales ratio, sales per affiliate, number of new affiliates, affiliate churn, and gross margin.

How Influencer Marketing Works

Influencer marketing is when brands collaborate with influencers to create and share authentic content that establishes trust with consumers and positively impacts the consumer purchase journey. Brands use influencer marketing to accomplish a variety of goals but some of the most common are increased brand awareness, increased channel traffic, sales and lead generation, driving conversions, and increased positive brand reputation. 

Brands struggle to create authentic content that engages with their consumers in a world of advertisements. They find value in influencer marketing as a strategy to rise above the competing noise online and tap into trusted networks like the followings built by creators on social media. 

To build an influencer marketing campaign there are 5 steps: identify, manage, communicate, incentivize, and measure.

1. Identify 

Firstly, you must identify which influencers you would like to collaborate with based on how they align with your brand values and style. Mavrck provides a database of influencers and ways to segment them based on their characteristics, but you can also identify creators manually given large amounts of time and analysis. 

2. Manage

To manage influencers start by briefing them with guidelines on the content frequency, style, timing, and any FTC rules they must adhere to. 

3. Communicate

In communicating with influencers be sure they have the products necessary to create content and the messaging that aligns with the brand’s voice, tone, and values. Additionally, communicate with your influencers to see if they have followed the requirements of the brief and have the necessary support should any problems arise. Alternatively, the communication process can be automated with a partner like Mavrck.

4. Incentivize 

Incentivize influencers via, cash, product, discounts, or a variety of other means and confirm that all collaborators have been properly compensated. 

5. Measure 

Finally, measure and track the success of your programs based on the goals you established.

For many marketers, the process outlined above is difficult, time-consuming, and prone to errors. Mavrck exists to help brands streamline this tedious process to save time and money, increase performance, and scale your influencer programs to the next level.


Examples of the Difference Between Affiliate and Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing

One of the main differences between influencer and affiliate marketing is the type of output used to drive toward goals. Influencer marketing can take a variety of forms to accomplish different goals for brands like content creation, ratings and reviews, referrals, and research. 

While influencers often make good affiliates, good affiliates do not always make good influencers because they are less focused on quality content creation. Think of affiliate marketing as a tool like a hammer that helps marketers accomplish a single goal (conversions), while influencer marketing is a swiss army knife with more flexibility in the value it can provide (brand awareness, consideration, conversions, etc.). 

An example that highlights the flexibility of influencer marketing is Mavrck’s work with Clif Bar & Company, an energy food and drinks company focused on active lifestyles. Clif Bar combined multiple different facets of influencer marketing like content creation, reviews, and ambassador programs to accomplish its goals of building brand awareness and love for its brand, product, and values. 

Through content creation, Clif Bar was able to distribute content that connected with its target audience and increase average impressions and engagements by 137% YoY and 167% YoY respectively. By leveraging reviews, Clif Bar established more consumer trust online with 800+ reviews and a 4.8-star average rating that lead to improved performance across e-commerce channels. In the creation of their first-ever ambassador program, Clif Bar was able to create a community of passionate creators that now act as a source of new content and provide insights that inform future content strategies.

Some more examples that show the versatility of influencer marketing are this blog which demonstrates how to drive ROI on influencer programs and our Building an Influencer Marketing Strategy for the Full Marketing Funnel resource.


Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing should act as a related but separately managed program from your influencer marketing activities. For affiliate marketing to be most effective brands should be focused on key metrics like average order value, sales volume, and site traffic. 

Affiliate key metrics differ from common key influencer marketing metrics like impressions, engagement rate, and cost per engagement. Influencer marketing content can be created to increase top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel traffic, whereas affiliate marketing content focuses more on the bottom of the funnel and driving conversions. Awin and Shopify are two examples of companies that support brands and affiliates in their affiliate programs. 


Is Affiliate Marketing Different From Influencer Marketing? Can They Work Together?

Affiliate marketing is different from influencer marketing, but both strategies can help you get your product or service in front of interested audiences. Affiliate marketing allows brands to identify and work with affiliates and publishers who are best moving the bottom line for brands, where sales and conversions are most critical and the quality of content is less important. 

Influencer marketing is more commonly utilized to spread brand awareness and establish trust with consumers. Influencer marketing uses high-quality authentic content and creator collaborations to connect with consumers. While this influencer marketing can often lead to conversions, it has the capability to impact the entire marketing funnel through a variety of content and distribution strategies. Affiliate marketing is less versatile in influencing a customer journey but can have more tangible proof of ROI. 

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing should work together but brands should remember that they are two different tools used to accomplish different goals. Brands make the mistake of leveraging influencer marketing to accomplish goals that adhere more to affiliate marketing and vice versa. One of the best ways we see influencer and affiliate marketing work together is through brands managing a separate affiliate program and providing affiliate links to the influencers they partner with. By doing this, brands can use influencer marketing to spread awareness and bolster their affiliate programs in tandem. Check out our Affiliate & Influencer Marketing Webinar on how affiliate marketing and influencer marketing can work together for more detail.

Mavrck has helped many brands manage both their influencer marketing and affiliate marketing programs. We would be happy to provide you with more information on how we can help your brand in this resource or by scheduling a demo and speaking with our team!