The 2024 Guide to Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing

Pros & Cons of Influencer Marketing

The rising popularity and the recent trends in influencer marketing can make it seem like the best-suited promotional strategy for your brand. And it is, in some cases. However, there are also specific disadvantages you should be aware of before you jump on this bandwagon.

A. Advantages of Influencer Marketing

In the ‘affiliate marketing vs influencer marketing’ debate, there’s no doubt that promotional strategies that rely on social media personalities are far better at increasing brand awareness. And they do so naturally by aligning your brand identity/vision with the influencer’s audience.

influencer marketing statistics


A few other benefits influencer marketing can offer are: 

  • Better brand authority and credibility based on the influencer’s online reputation
  • Increased audience engagement when operating in the same niche
  • A targeted approach to capturing new markets without being overly promotional
  • Improved interaction with branded content through strategic mentions/social tags

Influencer marketing is also a highly effective tool for breaking into a younger audience demographic. For example, millennials and Gen Z often look to their favorite content creators for product recommendations.

B. Disadvantages of Influencer Marketing

As with any other social media marketing strategy, using influencers to promote your brand has its own drawbacks.

For one, it can be expensive to incorporate into your overall advertising plan, especially if you partner with high-profile figures.

The cons of influencer marketing include:

  • No definitive way to track or measure ROI aside from post impressions
  • Potential for PR liabilities due to the influencer’s personal actions
  • Inconsistent messaging and conflict in brand identity through misaligned content

Granted, you can use dedicated influencer marketing management tools to avoid some of this. But that still leaves you with considerable work, including conceptualizing content plans, enforcing post schedules, offering feedback and tips for content adjustment, etc.

C. What Goals Can an Influencer Marketing Campaign Help Businesses Achieve?

Typically, driving brand awareness and social media engagement is the primary goal for most influencer marketing campaigns. However, brands often rely on such figures to meet targeted business goals, including:

  • Boosting market awareness for a recent product launch
  • Directing online traffic to specific landing pages or product pages
  • Building social proof and driving positive customer reviews

In other words, an influencer marketing strategy can help you shape public opinion of your brand to achieve business-critical outcomes.

For example, by posting about eyeliners from Brand XYZ, an influencer can motivate their followers to buy the product.

D. Can an Influencer Be an Affiliate?

The short answer is ‘yes’. As digital marketing evolves, the lines between its subsets are beginning to blur, with elements from different strategies bleeding into each other. And it’s best to explain this with simple examples instead of writing an essay on where they overlap.

First up is Sean Garrette, an influencer who promotes cosmetics and skincare products. Take a look at his affiliate links in the image below. Some of them are for brands/products that he consistently creates content on.

Sean Garrette


There’s also Tina Lee, a travel influencer who is known to edit her videos with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Tina Lee


For one of her posts, she partnered with the software giant to talk about the new beta features and directed users to click on her affiliate link in the bio.

Affiliate Marketing vs Influencer Marketing: How Do They Compare with Each Other?

When deciding between affiliate and influencer marketing, it all boils down to two primary factors. The first is marketing effectiveness and audience reach. The second is cost and investment, which includes non-monetary aspects. Below is a breakdown of both elements.

A. Marketing Effectiveness & Audience Reach

An influencer marketing strategy involves social media figures promoting a brand/product to their sizable following. Due to this, such advertising tactics offer better campaign visibility and improved user penetration.

However, post impressions and views can also come from a broader audience segment, i.e., their followers may not necessarily fall under your target demographic. This can sometimes result in bloated metrics that don’t accurately reflect the ROI.

Affiliate programs have a much more defined approach to audience targeting. You’re posting links on relevant sites/channels to draw in qualified leads. 

So, say you’re a recruitment consultancy. You can export LinkedIn contacts for the top headhunters on the site, reach out to them, and request a partnership. Then, for every candidate they refer (and you fill a vacancy with), you give them a commission.

It’s convenient, fast, and, most importantly, a streamlined way of getting what you want.

B. Costs & Investments

If you’ve got a bigger budget and want as much exposure as possible, influencer marketing will be a better option. Be warned: the expenses can add up quickly. 

To avoid this, you could work with micro influencers with a smaller following but niche-specific engagement. Bring a couple of them together in the same campaign,  and you’ll experience a decent boost to your brand visibility.

If you prefer to wait before you see results or want the flexibility to end your campaign as you see fit, affiliate marketing is the safer bet. Since you only pay when a lead converts, this is less taxing on your resources. 

Also, marketing on social media requires a commitment in terms of time, supervision, management, and planning. Affiliate programs don’t have that. The responsibility of planning, creating, and publishing content is all on your partners.

Tips to Combine Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Strategies

As highlighted earlier, influencers can be affiliates as well. And if you leverage this effectively, you can experience the best of both—target audience reach and penetration with minimal effort.

Take a look at the post below. It’s from Adriana Lopez, a travel and lifestyle influencer affiliated with Daycation.

Adriana Lopez


It has a short description with her company-provided discount code. But the accompanying clip shows her making a quick reservation in the app, lounging in the pool, etc. It’s subliminal messaging, just with a more direct ending.

And that’s what you have to do when you blend these two advertising models. 

Here are some tips to help you combine your influencer and affiliate marketing efforts:

  • Prioritize expanding your affiliate network to relevant micro-influencers
  • Establish clear guidelines and content expectations to avoid constant supervision
  • Set up a contract with transparent but firm terms (similar to affiliate marketing)
  • Discuss commission fees before committing to an agreement

The most important thing here is that you treat this approach as an affiliate program rather than an influencer partnership. So, ditch the branding vision boards and prioritize picking the right influencers. 

Then, conduct a background check, find their email IDs, and mail them a copy of the program’s contract. This may sound contradictory, but your goal here isn’t to spend time micro-managing a campaign later on. It’s to meet your targets with little to no effort.

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