Affiliate Marketing vs. Influencer Marketing: What's the Difference?

Jul 28, 2023

Understanding Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a digital marketing strategy where businesses partner with affiliates to promote their products or services. The affiliate, often a blogger or content creator, earns a commission for every sale or lead they generate through their unique referral link. This strategy is performance-based, meaning affiliates only get paid when their promotional efforts yield results.

affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is particularly attractive to businesses because it mitigates risk. Instead of investing heavily in advertising campaigns with no guaranteed returns, businesses only pay when a sale is made. For affiliates, it provides an opportunity to earn passive income from their online platforms, such as blogs or social media channels.

Understanding Influencer Marketing

On the other hand, influencer marketing involves partnering with influencers—individuals who have a substantial and engaged following on social media platforms. The influencer promotes a product or service to their audience, usually in exchange for a fee, free products, or services.

influencer marketing

Unlike affiliate marketing, influencer marketing is not necessarily performance-based. Instead, it's about leveraging the influencer's credibility and relationship with their audience to boost brand awareness and perception. The return on investment (ROI) for influencer marketing can be harder to measure directly, as it often focuses on long-term brand building rather than immediate sales.

Key Differences Between Affiliate and Influencer Marketing

Payment Structure

The first key difference lies in the payment structure. In affiliate marketing, the affiliate earns a commission only when their referral leads to a sale. In contrast, influencers usually receive upfront payment or freebies, regardless of the number of sales generated.


The second difference is in the main objective. Affiliate marketing is primarily sales-driven, focusing on generating immediate revenue. On the other hand, influencer marketing is about building brand awareness and credibility, which can lead to sales in the long run.

Marketing objectives

Relationship with Audience

Lastly, the relationship with the audience also differs. Affiliates may not necessarily have a strong personal connection with their audience. They often rely on SEO and other digital marketing strategies to drive traffic to their links. Conversely, influencers have a strong personal bond with their followers, which they leverage to promote products or services.

Choosing Between Affiliate and Influencer Marketing

Choosing between affiliate and influencer marketing depends on your business goals. If you're looking for immediate sales and measurable ROI, affiliate marketing may be the better option. However, if you're aiming for long-term brand building and improved brand perception, influencer marketing could be the way to go.

business goals

Remember, these strategies are not mutually exclusive. Many businesses find success in using a combination of both. By understanding the differences, you can make an informed decision on which strategy, or mix of strategies, is best for your brand.