I oftentimes get asked the question, "Lydia, what even IS affiliate marketing? Sure, 'affiliates' are paid commission to help sell a product, but do affiliates have to be websites or can they be individual people too?"
Do you have these same questions? Affiliate marketing is strange because a lot of industry professionals make it seem A LOT more complicated than it truly is. They use jargon to explain the ins and outs of successful affiliate marketing campaigns, only to confuse everyone (read: me included).
But not to worry, through the definitions and examples in this blog, you’ll find that affiliate marketing is actually incredibly simple and might be a tactic you choose to implement within your own organization.
How has affiliate marketing changed?
Old Definition:“Affiliate Marketing: a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays a commission to an external websitefor traffic or sales generated from its referrals.” - Google Dictionary
New Definition:“Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people's (or company's) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.” -Neil Patel
There’s an important distinction between the old view of affiliate marketing and the evolved new definition by digital marketing’s finest, Neil Patel. Can you find it? The old belief is that there was a clear distinction between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing. Affiliate marketing worked specifically through external websites such as publisher’s writing articles (the affiliate), being paid commission to drive traffic and conversions to the main business’ website that hired them. Influencer marketing was seen as a completely different ballgame.
Influencer marketing was always viewed as a type of advertisement. Influencers would be paid bulk sums in a partnership with the agreement that they would post a certain amount of images and content of a product. This is really no different than more traditional forms of advertisement such as print, TV, and radio besides the personal online platform. Now, however, this has transitioned into influencers posting blogs, pictures and stories with coupon codes and product links, in hopes that their followers will purchase a product and they will receive a commission on the sale. This content can read, “Swipe up to buy these boots I’m wearing at 10% off! Be sure to use my code!” As social media platforms become more retail friendly and sales shift from desktop to mobile, these influencers are essentially doing the same job that past affiliate partner websites would do.
Affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are basically one in the same now, as long as the tactic is built on the foundation of promoting with an end goal of receiving a commission on the conversion. Some more traditional marketers may think I’m “off the wall” when I say this, but they’re clearly not keeping up with the ever-changing world of digital marketing.
Examples of successful affiliates
Below, I’ve included more traditional examples of affiliate marketing via websites and publications. While I haven’t included any examples of the new fad… influencer affiliate marketing… it’s not because I don’t see it as useful, it’s simply because pretty much every single social media influencer is currently also an affiliate marketer. Pull up Instagram tonight and find the influencers you follow who specialize in a niche market, and check out the products they are promoting with a personalized “discount code.” Bingo! You’ve found affiliate marketing right in your own feed.
For each company, the preference between partnering with websites or influencers for their affiliate marketing campaign depends on the needs of their brand and the target audience they are trying to reach. While the traditional website version of affiliate marketing could offer more educational value to the consumers of the content, influencer affiliate marketing has the potential to reach a higher population of people specifically in your target audience. However, remember that this is always on a case-by-case basis.
In conclusion, what do all of these affiliates, both websites and influencers, have in common? What makes a company want to partner with them?
Influencers have lots of followers watching for specific niche tips and tricks. Popular affiliate websites have a reputation for educational content. Without traffic, an affiliate cannot succeed let alone exist. When your company is searching for its next affiliate partner, pay attention to the most important aspect… quality traffic.