Why Influencer Marketing Is Taking Over Affiliate Marketing
While affiliate marketing has long been driven by a need to gain website clicks, this channel is now quickly evolving into a strategy that cultivates leads from social channels like Instagram and Facebook. Instrumental in this evolution are influencers: as social leaders with the ability to inspire conversions from their loyal followers, they are now forming an integral component of successful affiliate campaigns.
Bridging the gap between web traffic conversion and social traffic conversion, influencer marketing takes the traditional role of affiliate marketing – relying on referral promotion to drive traffic and sales – and introduces this strategy to new, social-first and content-driven audiences.
Influencer Marketing is not a strategy that’s going to go away anytime soon. Companies and brands had to switch gears to see what works best, as they have realized the challenging reality of marketing to young demographics, it’s become clearer that traditional advertising just doesn’t cut it.
Image Courtesy- entrsckr
Many brands are now tapping into the people that these younger demographics trust: influencers. Influencers are changing the face of marketing as we know it – including affiliate marketing. But does it mean affiliate marketing is no longer relevant with the rise of social media influencers, who seem to operate on a “pay me, get a shoutout” model?
Let’s take a look at exactly how influencers can actually give your affiliate marketing strategy the boost it needs. Let’s also walk through a few steps to keep in mind when you want to work with influencers as affiliates for your brand.
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. 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.
Old vs New: The evolution of Affiliate Marketing
In the beginning, the tracking capabilities of affiliate marketing felt revolutionary: marketers were giving trackable links to publishers, with the publisher earning a commission every time a reader made a click or a purchase. Leveraging this newfound transparency opened up an opportunity for publishers to monetize their content without having to sell banner ads and pop-ups, while brands could now have a trackable, results-driven strategy for their marketing spend.
As time goes on, brands are increasingly looking beyond clicks to get to the heart of understanding consumer behavior: instead of focusing on one-off purchases, brands are now looking to develop long-term relationships that turn customers into brand loyalists.
Influencers have now become important intermediaries in facilitating these authentic relationships between a brand and their customers, by leveraging the loyal following they’ve built from sharing product recommendations, reviews and lifestyle tips.
The shift from desktop to mobile is another reason why influencers will continue to carve out an important role in the future of marketing: as shoppers switch from clicking to swiping, influencers occupy prime space on the frontlines of this social-first wave.
Features like Instagram’s ‘Swipe Up’ functionality mean shoppers are no longer exiting their favorite apps to visit eCommerce stores, instead looking for a more seamless shopping experience that integrates both browsing and purchasing.
Transparent and Effective: The New Influencer Marketing
Affiliate marketing isn’t the only strategy to have evolved recently. Influencer marketing has undergone a makeover of its own, becoming more transparent, more streamlined and more effective.
Managers now have access to powerful metrics that can help them identify the best influencers for their brand. They can analyze audience demographics, determine whether influencers are likely to help them rank more highly on search engines and even track sales through affiliate links or directly using pixel tracking.
Most affiliates were traditional bloggers or publishers
Before social media became a huge force in our lives, many brand affiliates were traditional bloggers or media publishers who had their own websites to promote or review a brand. You could only find product demonstrations, walk-throughs, or reviews from these kinds of publishers.
Many affiliates wouldn’t champion one specific brand
Because a lot of these bloggers and media publishers were trying to monetize their own content, they often focused on broadening their membership to multiple affiliate programs in order to increase their chances of getting referral fees from a broader set of readers with varying preferences.
So these content producers often joined all the popular affiliate programs – often for competing brands – and didn’t champion one specific brand over others. This makes it harder for a brand to be seen as a “top choice.”
Influencer-Driven Way of Affiliate Marketing
The “old” way of doing affiliate marketing is still alive and well. And many publishers make a significant income by being part of multiple affiliate programs. But the problem is this: the old way of doing affiliate marketing doesn’t always highlight the unique strengths that influencers bring to the table, especially for brands.
So how are influencers changing the affiliate marketing game – and how is that actually a good thing? Let’s take a look at the two major shifts.
Built on trust between influencer, brand, and followers
Reports say 92% of people trust influencers more than they trust traditional celebrity endorsements or ads. And that’s because, if you tap the right influencer, you’ll know they’ve fostered an engaged community based on trust.
Real, high-quality influencers don’t recommend products they don’t use or trust themselves, and their vast audiences are often aware of that. So this makes influencers one of the best ambassadors you can have for your brand. As true fans of your brand, they’ll champion your products and recommend you more times than the average consumer or traditional publisher.
Influencers give testimonials, demonstrations, and calls-to-action all at once
Relating to the previous point, one reason influencers can make such compelling affiliates is because of the way they actually promote your brand.
Influencers are content creators, so they focus on delivering quality content for their followers. You’ll find that many influencers use a combination of giving a personal testimonial, demonstration, and call-to-action to talk about your brand.
Followers of these influencers can see how products are used, how it might benefit them, and what the influencer – already seen as a trusted individual in the industry – thinks about the product overall.
What this indicates is that influencers are helping their audiences go through the typical sales funnel, from awareness down to consideration and even purchase. But the difference is that they do this in a very personal, authentic way that their followers trust.
How To Use Influencers for Affiliate Marketing
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?
Here’s a few ways you can incorporate influencers into your affiliate marketing strategy:
1. Make sure they aren’t already promoting your competitor
First of all, make sure these potential influencer-affiliates aren’t already big promoters of your competitor. While some brands in certain industries can work with the same influencer – such as beauty and fashion brands, for example – you’ll generally want your influencer-affiliate to solely champion your brand.
If you find that your potential influencer might already be talking about your competitor, you can offer either a free trial or sample of your product, just to see if they’d make the switch.
Also be sure to take note of how your influencer talks about any competition. Do they have a referral code or affiliate link to those brands? If not, you might be in a great position to offer them their first affiliate opportunity that’s exclusive to your brand.
Moving on from this tip, be sure to keep a lookout for fake influencers, who usually have plenty of “ghost” followers or promote brands as if they were partnered with them.
2. 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.
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.
3. Partner with Influencers for Unique Brand Content
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.
Think about how your brand’s assets are both appealing and well-suited for the influencer’s aesthetic. Partner with the influencer to find colors, graphics and images that interest both parties.
Also 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.
Content like “how to” or “product reviews” are very popular for YouTube videos or Instagram stories.
4. Create collateral the influencer can use in their accounts
Do a thorough content audit of these potential influencer-affiliates to see what kind of media they post on their accounts. Some influencers have a variety of channels, such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
If you see an opportunity to supply any relevant content types – flatlays, short screen recordings of an app demo – send these to your influencers. They will most likely appreciate having a few done-for-you posts, so long as it fits their feed or content style and isn’t overly branded.
And of course, give your influencers room to inject their own brand when talking about your product. But having pre-made material that suits their style, just gives them an easier option.
5. 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%. High engagement rates can mean high conversion rates.
6. Offer to launch co-branded landing pages with the influencer
One way to really personalize your experience with your influencer-affiliates is giving them a dedicated landing page just for their followers. You can create a co-branded page that mentions the influencer or their brand to give it an exclusive feel.
Depending on your agreement with the influencer, you can host the landing page on your website, or on their own site if they have one.
What’s next? Gain New Leads & Grow Your Brand
Both influencer marketing and affiliate marketing can promote your brand 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 multiply, affiliate marketing programs have the opportunity for wider exposure, more leads and potentially higher conversion rates and sales.