Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: How to Pick Correctly [+Free Campaign Tools]

Alexandra Kazakova

By Alexandra Kazakova
16 min READ | May 1 2024

Table of contents

If you’re on this page looking to decide between affiliate marketing vs. influencer marketing, we’ll make it easy for you.

Here’s a quick comparison table based on three most important features: goals, audience, and budget:

However, if you want more in-depth information, keep reading below.

We’ll discuss:

  • Influencer and affiliate marketing benefits based on real statistics and our in-house experience
  • Main differences based on goals, channels, messages, and more
  • Main differences based on campaign management, plus free tools you can use
  • How to use influencers for affiliate marketing

We’ll also analyze plenty of real case studies with real results along the way.

Let’s get started.


Influencer Marketing:

  • Focuses on building brand awareness and loyalty through social media influencers.
  • Benefits include high ROI, cost efficiency, trust building, and high engagement.
  • Effective for reaching broader, younger audiences on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
  • Compensation often includes fixed fees, free products, or revenue sharing, not strictly tied to sales performance.

Affiliate Marketing:

  • Drives direct sales or specific actions using a performance-based strategy where affiliates promote products via embedded links.
  • Benefits include increased sales, high ROI, SEO enhancement, and flexibility in implementation.
  • Target audience includes those closer to the purchase decision, often via blogs or dedicated affiliate sites.
  • Payment is performance-based, typically through commissions on sales.

Key Differences:

  • Affiliate marketing is more transactional with a focus on conversions, while influencer marketing emphasizes brand narrative and audience engagement.
  • Influencers often use social media, whereas affiliates might use a variety of digital platforms including blogs and emails.

Integration of Both Strategies:

  • Combining both strategies can be effective, leveraging influencers' reach and the performance tracking of affiliate marketing.

Tools and Management:

  • Various tools and platforms are suggested for campaign management, discovery, and recruitment of influencers and affiliates.

Decision Making:

  • The choice between influencer and affiliate marketing should be based on specific marketing goals, target audience, and budget constraints. You can set specific digital marketing metrics and value the performance of both strategies based on them and which is more suitable for reaching them.
  • A combined approach may offer the best results for maximizing marketing effectiveness.

Influencer Marketing: How Does It Work?

Let’s try a concise definition.

Influencer marketing means working with social media influencers who use their social media presence to amplify your brand’s message on various social network platforms.

Insider tip: Create content that resonates with your shared audience during your influencer marketing campaign.

Influencer marketing involves more than leveraging influencers’ follower count and social media engagement.

It’s about presenting your products to potential customers in a genuine, relatable way.

Obviously, this strategy depends on your influencers' ability to produce engaging content that aligns with their built-in audience’s interests.

Case Study Break: Native

inBeat Agency worked with the beauty brand Native to promote its product release.

They already knew their audience craved stylish, posh content, so we leveraged our influencer discovery tool to find the right creators.

Insider tip: You can also try this influencer discovery software for free.

These influencers’ content exuded timeless elegance and fit the brand’s style, but also their audience’s needs. Here’s an example:


As a result, Native can create lots of content quickly, building brand awareness in an affordable way.

And that’s what they do for most of their collection releases.

In the case study above, our 10 influencers produced over 200 content assets, which Native can repurpose FOREVER.

That brings us to the next point.

Influencer Marketing Benefits

Influencer marketing has significant benefits, which is why so many marketers include this approach in their digital marketing strategies.

Here are some key advantages we have also noticed at inBeat

1. Influencer Marketing Has a High Return on Investment (ROI)

Influencer marketing can produce lucrative returns if you choose the right influencers and plan your campaign correctly.

The numbers are on our side.

25% of marketers leveraging this strategy report it as having the second-highest ROI among various marketing trends​​. In fact, businesses, on average, see a return of $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing​​.

2. Influencer Marketing Is Cost Efficient

We have long noticed that influencer marketing can be more budget-friendly than traditional advertising channels.

Partnering with micro-influencers, for example, can make it less expensive while still effectively reaching relevant audiences.

And it’s not just our clients who believe this; 44% of marketers ​agree.

3. Influencer Marketing Builds Trust and Credibility

Influencers have cultivated trust with their followers through years of rigorous posting and interactions on their social media accounts.

As a result, their endorsements are highly credible.

In fact, about 50% of Millennials trust product recommendations from influencers.

And that can significantly enhance the perceived credibility of your products and even your whole company.

4. Influencer Marketing Has a High Engagement and Reach

Influencers, especially those operating within specific niches, can generate high engagement rates.

Insider tip: Nano influencers see a 5% content engagement rate, substantially higher than the industry average​​.

Choosing wisely can help you extend your reach and connect with new audience segments effectively.

That’s why we recommend using our influencer discovery engine, where you can easily set important filters, including a high engagement rate:

You can also use our free engagement rate calculator to check how connected these creators are with their target audiences.

Insider tip: If you like an influencer with a low engagement rate, you can also use the “Find Similar Creators” button to find more engaged influencers with the same interests that address the same target audience.

5. Influencer Marketing is Versatile

Influencer marketing can adapt to both large corporations and small businesses.

Basically, you get a scalable approach to reaching potential customers regardless of company size​​.

That’s why Shopify notes a projected increase in influencer marketing budgets to $7.14 billion in 2024​.

Side note: We even used Instagram and LinkedIn influencers for the digital collaboration platform Miro within a larger B2B influencer marketing campaign.

We found influencers like product designer and full-stack blockchain developer Nazariy Dumanskyy to promote Miro templates on different social media platforms.

Here’s one example:


Affiliate Marketing: How Does It Work?

Affiliate marketing is different than influencer marketing because you partner with affiliate marketers who promote your products through affiliate links embedded in their digital content.

Basically, you have a performance-based marketing strategy, which tracks links to monitor referrals and sales.

Besides, your affiliates earn a commission on sales they generate.

Affiliate marketing is also something we’ve done and we appreciate that it’s a more seamless integration within our clients’ content strategies.

In this case, affiliates leverage their online presence on blogs or social media accounts to drive sales

For example, the juicer brand Nama has developed a massive affiliate program, which it also promotes on TikTok:


Affiliate Marketing Benefits

Affiliate marketing offers many benefits, and we consider it an attractive option for businesses that want to expand their online presence and sales.

Let’s look at some of these advantages:

1. Affiliate Marketing Leads to Increased Sales and High ROI

The brands we’ve worked with that use affiliate marketing have skyrocketed their sales and ROI.

The statistics we saw prove this point.

For example, affiliate marketing accounts for 16% of all eCommerce transactions in America and Canada.

We can also notice the affiliate partnerships’ power in driving sales when looking at ROI-related stats.

In fact, businesses enjoy an impressive return on investment from affiliate marketing, with an average ROI of $15 for every dollar spent.

That’s because you only pay for actual results, whether a lead, a sale, or a specific action, so your marketing budget is used efficiently​​.

2. Affiliate Marketing Has Important SEO Benefits

Affiliate marketing can also bolster your SEO efforts.

Content created by affiliates typically includes backlinks to your site.

And according to Backlinko, this can enhance your site's visibility and ranking in search engine results​​.

3. Affiliate Marketing is Easy to Implement

Setting up an affiliate marketing program can be relatively straightforward.

Our clients use tools like OptinMonster to display their affiliate offers effectively.

As such, it’s much easier for users to see and engage with their affiliates’ referral links​​.

Affiliate marketing is also accessible to both large and small brands, as well as publishers of different scales.

We’ve worked with affiliates across various niches, from lifestyle and fashion to software and retail, each offering unique growth and revenue potential​.

4. Affiliate Marketing Has Flexible Payment Models

Affiliate marketing allows content creators to diversify their income sources.

However, various niches offer diverse commission rates.

For example, SaaS products offer 20% to 70% commissions, so affiliates in this sector can get very lucrative earnings.

Besides, we know that the predominant commission model in affiliate marketing is Cost Per Action (CPA).

Still, you have a lot of flexibility to employ a mix of models to suit different business goals and partnerships​.

Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: The Main Differences

We already discussed the different characteristics and benefits of affiliate and influencer marketing.

Now, let’s summarize how these approaches can fit different marketing goals, strategies, and outcomes.

Getting this will help you make a more informed decision between the two:

Goals and Performance Metrics

Affiliate Marketing: Your primary goal here is to drive sales or specific actions, focusing on measurable outcomes like commission on sales, conversion rates, and overall return on investment (ROI).

Affiliate marketing campaigns use a performance-based marketing strategy, where success is quantifiable.

Influencer Marketing: The goals revolve around brand awareness, audience growth, and social media engagement.

Influencer marketing campaigns aim to leverage the influencer's social media presence and follower count to enhance your brand's visibility and credibility.

Your success is measured by metrics like engagement rates, content reach, and brand mentions.

Case Study Break: Soylent and Deux par Deux Kids

inBeat Agency’s campaign for Soylent, for example, worked with influencers across different niches.

They created 35+ content assets, which brought Soylent over 5 million impressions.


inBeat Agency also worked with the kids' clothing retailer Deux par Deux.

The influencers we found produced over 200 content assets that materialized in 500+ unique clients; however, these influencers worked as affiliates with trackable discount links and a sales-oriented goal.


Side note: We’ll explain more about how you can use influencers as affiliates in one of the sections below.

Target Audience and Interests

Affiliate Marketing: The target audience is usually people already in the marketing funnel and closer to the decision-making stage, looking for detailed information or incentives (like a discount code) to make a purchase.

Your audience's interests are most likely product or service-specific, guided by the content creators' expertise in a particular niche.

Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing targets a broader audience that shares the influencer's interests or lifestyle. This audience values the influencer's recommendations thanks to the trust and relationship they built over time.

As such, these people are more receptive to product endorsements that fit within the influencer's content themes.

Message and Content Strategy

Affiliate Marketing: Your message should be product-focused, emphasizing product features, benefits, and promotional offers.

Affiliates use a variety of content strategies, including blog posts, product reviews, and discount codes, to persuade potential customers to purchase through their affiliate links.

Influencer Marketing: Influencers create messages that align with their personal brand and resonate with their followers, focusing on storytelling and authentic experiences.

The content strategy in influencer campaigns involves creative social media posts, user-generated content, and engaging content that subtly integrates product placements without disrupting the natural flow of the influencer's content.

For example, inBeat Agency worked with influencers that promoted Genomelink, an ancestry app that addresses people who previously did genetic testing.

So it’s only natural that they leveraged our discovery process to find influencers who discuss their ancestry consistently on various social media channels.

Take this example below to see how relatably our influencer discusses the Genomelink app:


Channels and Platforms

Affiliate Marketing: It predominantly operates through online platforms like blogs, email marketing campaigns, and dedicated affiliate websites.

We also worked with plenty of YouTube affiliates.

These channels are best for affiliate marketing because they can host detailed content, such as in-depth product reviews, comparison articles, and instructional content incorporating referral links.

Influencer Marketing: This strategy heavily relies on social media platforms where influencers have a strong social network and online presence.

Thanks to their visual and interactive nature, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are popular choices for influencer campaigns.

Here’s a neat YouTube affiliate marketing example:

Notice the purchase links included in the video description:


Form of Compensation

Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates are compensated based on a commission structure.

They earn a commission rate for each sale or action completed through their unique tracking links.

This performance-based model ensures that affiliates are paid for the direct results they bring.

Influencer Marketing: Influencer payment can vary widely and might include fixed fees for sponsored content, free products, or even revenue-sharing agreements.

The compensation model is not strictly tied to sales performance, so influencers have more creative freedom in how they integrate your brand messages into their content.

Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: Campaign Management and Tools

Managing campaigns in affiliate marketing and influencer marketing requires different approaches, too.

You should also take these aspects into account when deciding what type of creator-based campaign is best for your company:

Discovery and Recruitment

Affiliate Marketing

You'll need to find affiliate marketers whose audiences align with your product or service.

Tools like AffiliateWP or networks like ShareASale and CJ Affiliate can help you connect with potential affiliates.

These platforms have filters to help identify affiliates by niche, meaning you can ensure a match with your campaign goals.

Or, you can join an established affiliate network, which can simplify the discovery process by giving you access to a pool of affiliates interested in products like yours.

For example, if you have an e-commerce store, you can find Amazon influencer storefronts of affiliates in your niche.

Insider tip: Look for bloggers and digital content creators with a strong SEO presence because they can drive traffic through evergreen content.

Influencer Marketing

Platforms like inBeat help you discover influencers across social media platforms tailored to your target audience and campaign goals.

However, unlike affiliates, the focus here is more on the influencer's persona and engagement rates on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

You're looking for influencers whose content generates high social media engagement, indicating a strong connection with their audience.

Relationship Management

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing uses a performance-based model, so motivation is often tied to performance metrics, with tools to track and manage affiliate commissions and sales.

Clear communication about commission rates and payment schedules is key to maintaining a good relationship with affiliates.

Pro tip: Affiliate network platforms can streamline communication and resource distribution.

Influencer Marketing

Fostering relationships with influencers means giving them creative freedom and asking for their feedback.

However, you still need to clearly communicate your campaign objectives and brand messaging with regular check-ins to align on content creation and timelines.

We also advise you to use a formalized contract outlining campaign expectations, deliverables, and compensation.

Pro tip: Grab our free influencer contract template and adjust it to your needs.

Reporting and Analytics

Affiliate Marketing

To monitor affiliate marketing, you should use affiliate links and discount codes to understand the exact traffic and conversions for each affiliate.

Insider tip: Custom codes also incentivize purchases.

Many affiliate networks offer dashboards where both you and your affiliates can view real-time performance data.

You need detailed analytics on link clicks, conversion rates, and commission earned to optimize your campaign performance

Of course, your reporting focuses on sales, conversion rates, and ROI from each affiliate.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing reporting focuses on qualitative insights into brand awareness, sentiment, and audience feedback beyond numerical data.

You can use social media analytics to get insights into post reach, engagement rates, and audience growth.

Analyze likes, comments, shares, and overall engagement with influencer posts to measure campaign impact.

We also advise our clients to monitor the frequency and sentiment of brand mentions.

Can You Use Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Simultaneously?

Absolutely, you can harness the power of both affiliate and influencer marketing simultaneously, even blending the two strategies for a more comprehensive approach.

That’s what we did for Deux Par Deux kids.

As a result, the brand got 500+ unique clients and a 10,000 follower growth on Instagram.

So, turning influencers into affiliates allows you to capitalize on their broad reach and engagement rates and increase your sales performance.

Here’s how we advise our inBeat clients to integrate these strategies effectively:

1. Identify Suitable Influencers

Start by finding influencers who align with your brand values and have a social media presence that resonates with your ideal target audience.

Platforms like inBeat can help you pinpoint influencers who cater to your audience's interests and can authentically represent your products.

2. Establish Clear Campaign Goals

Define your goals for this hybrid strategy.

Whether you're driving sales, enhancing brand awareness, or both, your objectives will shape the collaboration structure.

Communicate these goals clearly to your influencers and integrate them within your marketing funnel.

3. Offer an Attractive Commission Structure

Incentivize influencers with competitive commission rates on sales generated through their unique affiliate links or discount codes.

This performance-based marketing strategy motivates influencers to promote your products actively because it gives them a tangible benefit tied to their efforts.

4. Equip Influencers with the Right Tools

Provide influencers with all necessary materials and tools to succeed as affiliates.

This includes trackable links, promotional codes, and even engaging digital content affiliates can use in their content strategy.

Educate them on best practices for incorporating these elements into their social media posts, blogs, or other content forms.

5. Leverage a Blend of Content Formats

Encourage influencers to use a mix of content formats, from engaging social media posts and stories to in-depth blog posts or video reviews.

This diversity caters to different audience preferences, maximizing your campaign's potential reach and impact across different platforms.

6. Monitor Performance and Optimize

Use analytics tools to track the performance of your influencer affiliates, focusing on metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates from affiliate links, and conversion rates.

Use these insights to refine your approach, offering feedback and support to influencers to optimize campaign outcomes.

How to Choose Between Influencer and Affiliate Marketing?

Choosing between influencer and affiliate marketing hinges on your goals, target audience, and budget constraints.

We already gave you an infographic at the beginning of this article to help you compare the two approaches fast.

Now, here’s a more detailed breakdown to help you make an informed decision:

Influencer Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing Goals

  • Influencer marketing might be the better route if your primary aim is to boost brand awareness and reach new audiences. Influencer marketing can also be particularly effective for building brand loyalty and increasing sales sustainably in the long run.
  • If your goal is more focused on driving direct sales or leads, affiliate marketing could be more aligned with your objectives.

Influencer Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing Audience

Consider where your target audience spends their time and how they prefer to engage with content.

  • Influencer marketing is most effective for businesses targeting younger demographics active on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube​.
  • Affiliate marketing may appeal to a more niche audience, particularly if your product requires a more detailed explanation or is in a specialized market​.

Influencer Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing Budget

  • Influencer marketing involves upfront costs, paying influencers for their time and access to their audience. Depending on the influencer's reach and reputation, this can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars for a campaign​.
  • Affiliate marketing entails paying commissions based on actual sales or leads generated. This cost-effective option is especially great for businesses with tighter marketing budgets

Remember: In many cases, a combined approach might yield the best results because you can leverage the strengths of both strategies to maximize your marketing effectiveness, like in the case of Deux Par Deux Kids

Remember to use the discovery platform to find the perfect influencers or affiliates.

Alternatively, schedule a free discovery call with our agency to help you build an entire campaign based on your goals.

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