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The Difference Between Influencer Marketing & Affiliate Marketing

Both influencer & affiliate marketing can have a place in your marketing plan. Here, we’ll explore some key differences that can add value to your campaign

Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo

Eric is Chief Growth Officer and President of Meticulosity.

An effective influencer marketing strategy can be a powerful way to accomplish your company’s objectives in a short time. Influencer marketing allows you to gain credibility and brand awareness by connecting you with important people in your industry.

Affiliate marketing works a bit differently. A mainstay in the digital marketing world, this type of marketing has been utilized ever since e-commerce became popular. With this type of marketing, you can invest in marketing products that more established organizations have already created while receiving some of the profits.

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Both strategies can have a place in your web marketing plan. Here, we’ll explore some key differences between affiliate and influencer marketing and show you some techniques for making the most out of these strategies.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a modern method of sharing audiences and platforms with other experts in the industry. In the past, many influencers reached out to online audiences by writing guest blog posts for businesses. Unfortunately, this method didn’t always create high web traffic.

Two digital analysts reviewing their affiliate marketing data

Today, popular influencers can shape the purchasing decisions that their followers make. They share helpful content that gives value to their audience, essentially curating the web for their followers. Social media has made connecting with influencers much easier. In fact, sometimes it may only take a few minutes to persuade them to share content with their online following.

Influencer Marketing Process

The influencer marketing process involves finding these influencers and creating relationships beneficial for your business and the influencer. When done correctly, you can drive thousands of views to your product or service in as little as a day. Influencers typically don't have competing products or services; however, they speak to the same audience that your business does.

Influencers don’t have to be esteemed experts on a subject; rather, they should be people your audience trusts to give advice on a certain topic. For instance, a beloved local figure or popular blogger can be just as effective as a “thought leader” in your industry if he or she has a large following.

Affiliates and merchants typically maintain a close relationship, with the merchant providing support and training materials for the affiliate.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

When modern e-commerce became popular during the late 1990s, using affiliates became an effective online marketing strategy. Using an affiliate program was one of the first ways that early online marketers partnered with other businesses to increase profits.

With affiliate marketing, a marketing professional (affiliate) makes an investment into promoting a service or product sold by another company (the advertiser or merchant). The marketer would typically make a profit on every sale generated by the advertiser.

Today, some marketers use a cost-per-action affiliate program, where they receive payment if a lead signs up for a mailing list or fills out a contact form.

CMO shaking hands with a market influencer that runs a popular blog

Two ways that affiliates promote their offers are running ads and building websites. This allows the merchant to externalize the cost of finding an audience and promoting products, while the affiliate can make money quickly without having to develop new products. This can produce significant savings for both parties.

Manage Affiliate Relationships

Affiliates and merchants typically maintain a close relationship, with the merchant providing support and training materials for the affiliate. However, learning to market effectively as an affiliate has a steep learning curve, and many new affiliate marketers fail. Using excellent digital marketing fundamentals can help affiliates avoid failure and ultimately produce profits and additional offers to their portfolio.

Merchants should be well-established in their industry and have organized operations to support an affiliate. Unfortunately, many merchants don’t have the practices in place, and some may even try to use unethical practices when working with affiliates. Because of this, many people have been wary of marketing with affiliates. It’s important to remember that this is just another specialized business model.

Working with a local celebrity or popular blogger to promote your brand can be a smart influencer marketing strategy.

Affiliate & Influencer Marketing Can Be a Great Combination

Now we’ve outlined the key differences between affiliate and influencer marketing. While marketing with affiliates is a business model with a goal of creating revenue, influencer marketing is a technique that focuses on social media relationships and curating content.

However, some affiliate marketers become influencers by focusing on a specific niche they’re familiar with. Likewise, affiliates can reach out to influencers to find more potential customers.


Although the two online marketing concepts sound similar, they are quite different. When you use these two web marketing strategies as part of an inbound marketing plan, you may find that they’re a great way to grow your business and profits. 

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