We’ve previously mentioned affiliate marketing in this blog post as a type of influencer marketing campaign, so here, we wanted take a step back and tell you exactly what affiliate marketing is and how influencers can make money using affiliate links. From understanding affiliate marketing to learning how to incorporate affiliate links naturally into blog and social media content, we've covered everything you need to know about affiliate marketing and why it is a popular strategy in influencer marketing.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a mutually beneficial arrangement where an influencer earns revenue on their influence. Usually, an affiliate marketing campaign is active between a brand and an influencer and is an additional incentive that supports influencer engagements. In an affiliate arrangement, the influencer receives a commission on all of the sales, or a reward for all leads, that are directly attributed to their content and tracked via a unique affiliate link. In most cases, brands seek out influencers and content creators who are a good fit with their vision and target market to negotiate an affiliate arrangement.
There are a few different types of affiliate programs that are often used by brands and all are performance-based structures, including the three most popular: Pay-per-sale, Pay-per-click and Pay-per-lead. Pay-per-sale arrangements see the influencer paid a percentage of all purchases that occur as a result of their influence. The KPI for Pay-per-click models is traffic via the affiliate link, and for Pay-per-lead arrangements, the influencer receives revenue when consumers enter their contact details and become a new lead as a result of the affiliate partnership.
Influencers and brands alike use platforms such as Commission Factory to connect with relevant affiliate partners and seek out potential opportunities to collaborate and drive revenue for both parties.
Why do influencers use affiliate marketing?
Influencers receive many products and services free of charge or heavily discounted in the hope of coverage across their platforms, however in most cases, there is no monetary compensation or incentive for their time and effort when it comes to creating content about a brand. Affiliate marketing bridges this gap because it gives influencers the opportunity to earn revenue from their collaborations and also gives them the power to support brands they generally love without missing out on compensation (influencers have bills to pay too!). As with any sales job position, affiliate marketing is a commission based strategy.
In addition, affiliate marketing is a great source of passive income, as being an affiliate is quick, easy and there is no ongoing work to manage and track affiliate links once they are used in the initial piece of content. Despite the limited output, affiliate momentum continues to build over time, as does the commission earned.
Finally, if an influencer is a trusted voice among their followers, is genuine in their partnerships and has great engagement with their community, affiliate marketing can work wonders for both the brand and the influencer. It's all about strategic marketing and advertising, and when influencers do it well, affiliate links have the potential to make up a big portion of their income.
How to use affiliate links
This one is for all of the influencers reading along, however, it's also a good insight for marketers and brands to consider when they are using affiliates in their influencer marketing strategy. So, as an influencer, how do you use affiliate links naturally in your content without taking advantage of your readers? Here are our top tips:
- Carefully consider the agreement and ensure you are on the same page as the brand and are not being taken advantage of (sadly, this does happen in the influencer marketing space, so be sure to understand the full affiliate relationship before signing on with a brand).
- Consider whether the brand and product/service aligns with your content, personal values and reader expectations. If you are a beauty influencer, don't even think about joining an affiliate program for a brand that sells household cleaners. Your readers will find it out of place, you will lose credibility and you won't make any commission from the affiliate partnership. Plus, it could potentially hinder your future opportunities.
- Understand the commission rates and all of the benefits you will receive. Research the payment structure and ensure you know the complete picture of how the end-to-end process will look. You wouldn't want to find out that you have driven revenue for a brand who plans to repay you with a gift voucher when you assumed you would be paid a percentage of all sales in cold, hard cash.
- Outline the term of the arrangement before you start promoting the brand to ensure you make the most of the opportunity and earn as much commission as naturally possible. On the flip side, you don't want to be stuck in an agreement that isn't mutually beneficial and is not converting, so make sure you know how long you will be working as an affiliate for the brand (the minimum term).
- Keep your affiliate links natural and ensure the content is in line with your usual, unsponsored content. Your affiliate partnerships should seem natural and blend in with your other content, rather than obvious advertisements that you actually receive an incentive from. If you would legitimately mention the brand even if you were not receiving an incentive, then you know it is a genuine partnership and your affiliate link will be natural.
- Share your honest opinions about the brands you are affiliated with to reassure and strengthen your trust and authority.
- Avoid language that screams "buy this" as it comes across as too much of a sales pitch, and your followers will start to realise that you are just trying to sell them a product. Believe it or not, consumers are savvy and they know the difference advertorial and editorial, so focus on communicating why you love the brand and why you think your followers will love it too. As your reader's values align with your own (that's why they follow you), they are more likely to purchase if the conversation is natural and informative, rather than a blatant sales push.
What is the benefit for brands?
We have discussed how and why influencers use affiliate marketing and the benefit they receive, however, you may be wondering what the brand gets out of an affiliate partnership and why it is an important piece of the influencer marketing puzzle. Affiliates want to drive their own revenue and earn commission from their efforts, so they will regularly include the brand in their content (where natural) and will generally push the affiliate link out through their social media platforms, which ultimately generates ongoing exposure for the brand.
In addition, affiliate partnerships are established to drive revenue for both the influencer and the brand, so there is potential for a high conversion rate if the brand, influencer and consumer audience are closely aligned. As the influencer wants to earn a commission, they will drive a portion of your sales and generate brand profit without creating additional work for your team and resources. Essentially, affiliate partnerships do part of the brands work for them and drive sales and leads that would not have been possible outside of the affiliate engagement.
The final benefit for brands is that affiliate partnerships are a mutually beneficial arrangement in an influencer marketing strategy and they are a great way to work with influencers on a fair and relatively inexpensive collaboration that does not take advantage of the relationship. Affiliate partnerships add value to an influencer collaboration, encourage a much higher conversion rate and ultimately generate a ROI that you can quickly and easily measure. At the end of the day, the influencer earns a commission on their influence, and the brand does not leave the relationship out of pocket, so it is a win-win situation.