Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: Which One to Choose?

Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are two modern forms of marketing that have grown with the rise of the Internet. While they seem similar on the surface, both require a very different type of marketing strategy to reach the target audience and drive lead generation.

Deciding whether to allocate your budget to influencer marketing campaigns or affiliate content can be a complicated decision. In this article, I dive deep into affiliate marketing vs influencer marketing, outlining the details of each to simplify your decision.

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing comparisson table

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate marketing is the process by which an affiliate earns a small amount of commission in return for advertising a product, service, or company to their target audience. Traditionally, an affiliate marketer will discuss the service/product in question and provide a link for visitors to purchase it. If a person chooses to follow the affiliate link and purchase the item, the marketer will receive a small percentage of the sale. 

Many popular companies offer these affiliate programs and will pay affiliates for the products they advertise and sell. In some cases, potential affiliates may reach out to companies on their own and ask to advertise their product in return for a commission.

Affiliate Marketing Pros and Cons

The following list of pros and cons can help you to learn more about whether or not affiliate marketing is right for you.

Affiliate Marketing Pros and Cons

If you want to learn more on the topic, check out my affiliate marketing expert guide

How Influencer Marketing Works

Influencer marketing is a different type of marketing strategy in which brands partner with an individual with a strong social influence. In this agreement, social media influencers discuss and/or review a product or service in return for a fee. Sometimes, in addition to getting paid with money, a brand will simply allow an influencer to keep the product they are discussing. 

Whether the individual is an influencer on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, or another site, the only real requirement brands look for when choosing a partner is that the person has highly-engaged followers within the target market.

An influencer post can help to raise brand awareness, boost website traffic, and gain potential customers. 

Influencer Marketing Pros and Cons

As with an affiliate program, there are a number of pros and cons to consider before you decide to pay influencers:

Influencer Marketing Pros and Cons

What Are the Differences Between Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing?

An affiliate marketing campaign and an influencer marketing campaign may seem similar on the surface, but there are a number of key differences, including:

  • The compensation structure
  • The purpose of the advertisement 
  • The ideal target audience

Let’s break down each of these differences to better understand which digital marketing strategy, affiliate marketing vs influencer marketing, is the better fit for you and your brand.

Compensation Structure

Affiliate marketing has a commission-based compensation structure. To earn revenue, members of your audience need to click through the provided link and purchase the product or service. If they do not click the link, or click the link and don’t purchase the goods, you will not earn any commission.

With influencer marketing, no paying customer is required for the influencer to get paid. The revenue is in the form of a flat fee per post. There are some workarounds, however. Micro-influencers may not be paid, rather only allowed to keep the product. Between both compensation strategies, it’s important to choose a structure within your budget and what is most geared toward your goals.

Purpose of the Advertisement

A second major difference between influencer marketing and affiliate marketing is the actual purpose of the advertisement. Due to the fact that affiliate marketers are commission-based, the purpose of the advertisement is to drive as many sales as possible. So, affiliate marketing campaigns are typically more targeted toward a specific product or service sale as a result. 

On the other hand, influencer marketers don’t require a sale to make money. They want to drive as much exposure as possible and get their audience excited about the product/service. Therefore, influencer marketing advertisements may be less targeted toward product sales and more toward brand exposure as a whole. 

Ideal Target Audience

Affiliate marketing is usually geared towards a specific niche in an effort to convert someone from a visitor to a customer. Influencer marketing, however, places a greater emphasis on targeting larger groups of people in the hopes of increasing brand awareness.

What Are the Similarities Between Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing?

Despite the above differences, there are a number of similarities between the outlined marketing strategies

By looking deeper into these similarities, you can better determine which is better for your marketing efforts:

  1. Brand partners for the marketer 
  2. Platforms used for marketing

Let’s take a deeper look at these two categories and the similarities between these two marketing types.

Brand Partners for the Marketer

At the end of the day, both affiliate marketers and influencer marketers work with brands to promote either the brand itself or a product/service offered by the brand. The success of both affiliate and influencer marketers is centered around choosing the right brands to work with, ensuring that these brands are reliable and resonate with the viewers of their content. 

Platforms Used for Marketing

Of the many social media platforms in existence today, there is no single “must-use” platform for either affiliate or influencer marketing. While certain platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, are more geared toward influencers and blog posts are more geared toward affiliates, other platforms like YouTube overlap with both marketing efforts.

How to Choose Between Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing

Choosing between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing can be challenging, but three primary factors should be considered when making this decision:

  • What are your goals when starting in marketing? 
  • What type of budget have you set for yourself?
  • Who is your audience?

Let’s start with that first point.

Marketing campaigns always require a goal. Your goal will determine whether affiliate or influencer marketing is right for you. If you are looking to become business partners with specific brands and increase brand awareness by using social media engagement, influencer marketing is likely a better choice.

However, if your goal is to focus on more than one campaign and develop more of a subject matter expertise on specific products, affiliate marketing is likely a stronger match.

Secondly, your anticipated budget is a major factor when deciding which of these two marketing campaigns is right for you. Influencer marketing is notorious for being expensive. If you have a higher budget and have connections with large-scale influencers who can help you get your marketing business off the ground, influencer marketing could be a favorable choice. 

While affiliate marketing can still get expensive, there are lower start-up costs for campaigns compared to influencer marketing. Due to this, those on a tighter budget may be better suited for affiliate marketing.

Finally, your audience will play a major role in which strategy better suits you. If you have a niche that you wish to represent and a reliable group of people, say blog readers, who exist within that niche, affiliate marketing is an excellent choice. An influencer program is a numbers game, however, and takes a broader stroke to reach an audience. If you want to connect to a large audience in a broad space, consider influencer marketing.

How Can You Use Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Together? 

At the end of the day, why choose between influencer and affiliate marketing when you can participate in both? One excellent way to do this is to implement different marketing strategies for different platforms.

For example, you can opt for influencer campaigns on Instagram and YouTube to increase overall brand visibility, but also design an affiliate program to drive site traffic and increase sales. You’ll get new followers and new customers. It’s a win, win.


What Is the Difference Between an Affiliate and an Influencer? 

An affiliate works with a brand to help sell products or services. They receive a commission when somebody clicks on the affiliate link and makes a purchase. On the other hand, an influencer is someone with a large social media presence and an engaged following. They focus on promoting the brand as a whole. Influencers are typically paid a one-time fee, as opposed to a commission per sale.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work with Influencers? 

Influencers can also be affiliate marketers and vice versa. As an influencer, you can still partner with affiliate brands and provide readers, watchers, or other viewer types with specific links that allow you to gain commission when they use that link to purchase the item. 

Which One is More Effective – Affiliate Marketing or Influencer Marketing? 

There is no true answer to whether affiliate marketing or influencer marketing is better. It depends entirely on what your marketing goals are and who your audience is.

Influencers are more effective at reaching a wide-ranging audience and driving brand exposure/excitement. Affiliate marketing is more effective if you want to connect with a smaller, more active, and reliable audience. Overall, the most effective solution is to use both affiliate and influencer marketing together. 

Bottom Line 

Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are two similar subsets within the modern digital marketing field. While these marketing types share similarities and have stark differences, they can both offer success to anyone that wants to grow a brand or business. They will simply provide growth in different ways.

If your goal is to focus broadly on brand partnerships while developing a name for yourself on major social media platforms, influencer marketing is an excellent avenue to consider pursuing. Should you prefer to focus on selling niche products and services, while developing a strong relationship in a more one-on-one setting with your audience, affiliate marketing may be a stronger choice.

Either way, focus on building a strong reputation so that your audience knows you are a reliable and trustworthy brand.