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Affiliate marketing is out. And influencer marketing is in.
Or at least that’s what you’d think if you stay up with the trades. As the latest craze in the marketing world, influencer marketing is having a moment right now. Everyone is writing about it, from tips to developing a healthy brand partnership to whether influencer marketing is corrupting the youth to whether or not influencer marketing is overrated.
(You know, the kinds of things you’d expect.)
But one thing you won’t be reading as much about these days is influencer marketing’s much older sibling—or maybe cousin—affiliate marketing.
And that makes sense, because at the moment, influencers are absolutely whopping affiliates, with an estimated value of potentially $10 billion to $6.8 billion.
Influencers certainly haven’t been around as long as affiliate marketing, so do these numbers suggest a long-term trend that your brand should be aware of? Does influencer marketing bring more potential value than affiliate marketing? And is affiliate marketing still relevant in 2020?
We think so. And we’re here to explain why.
At its core, affiliate marketing is about referrals. Somebody with an audience recommends a product or service, people buy that product or service, and the company which offers that product or service pays the recommender for the extra sales.
You’ll see this type of marketing all over websites that write about personal finance, debt consolidation loans, or credit cards. They’ll often have affiliate marketing agreements set up with various websites to include their card in their monthly or annual roundup that might be titled “Best Credit Cards for Travelers in 2020.”
A travel-minded person is searching for a new credit card with airline mile rewards, finds the article, and clicks on whatever XYZ Credit Card Company (a definitely real name) is offering. Both companies have the ability to track clicks and signups, so if that travel-minded person ends up opening a credit card account, XYZ will send whatever agreed upon total to that affiliate.
Affiliate marketing has been around for decades, but it really isn’t all that different from influencer marketing. In many ways, influencer marketing is just a much more social media driven iteration of affiliate marketing.
So, in what ways does influencer marketing differ, and why is it so hot right now?
Influencer marketing works off the same basic principle as affiliate marketing: the act of referral.
Much like affiliate marketers, influencers have an audience that follows them for whatever reason. Maybe they make jokes, maybe they’re all about fitness, or maybe they dance—you get the idea. Many influencers didn’t start out as influencers, they started out as social media personalities.
A social media star becomes an influencer when they monetize their audience.
Similarly, most affiliate marketers had to build up a blog or offer some piece of worthwhile content free for an extended period of time before they could begin monetizing it. That’s partly why you see so many ads for free marketing courses or eBooks. What many people are hoping for is to build up an audience with the long-term goal of monetizing all those eyeballs. Maybe someday they will write a book or release a paid course, but in many cases, they will ultimately seek out affiliate partnerships.
Influencer partnerships definitely have some advantages. Depending on your brand goals, target market, budget, and the relationship you’re looking to have with your brand partners, influencer marketing may be the right choice for you in 2020.
For example, XYZ Credit Card Company might want to partner with an influencer who has a lot of followers between 18-25 years old. These followers may be considering their first credit card. An influencer partner may be pricey, but often times their audience comes at a flat rate, which is easy to budget for.
Affiliate marketing may not be as hip these days, but it’s sure to maintain relevance long into the future. Depending on your brand goals, budget, and target market, affiliate marketing might be the right move for your brand in 2020.
For example, XYZ Credit Card Company would serve itself well by utilizing an affiliate like the ones we mentioned earlier. The affiliate is using good old fashioned SEO and brand goodwill, and it will capture the eyes of thousands of people actively searching for credit card reviews and comparisons. Since XYZ is paying for each new customer, it may be easier to measure ROI and get in front of warm leads, not just everyone who has clicked follow.
Influencer marketing may be the new kid on campus, but it’s certainly not the only one.
You don’t have to swear affiliate marketing to partner with an influencer! If anything, be glad that affiliate partnerships continue to evolve and provide opportunities for marketers, even in 2020. Whichever combination is right for your company, it can diversify your direct response campaigns and brand partnerships—and benefit your bottom line for years to come.