Influencer Marketing and the Affiliate Model

influencer marketer

Originally published in the Adello Magazine

The Rise of the Influencer

Influencer networks seem to have been popping up like mushrooms from the mid 2010s onwards on the back of the ‘influencer’ trend. It seemed that all of a sudden there was an entirely new industry from nowhere!

This was driven in part by the ability to monetise social media with payment for posting by players with large engaged audiences. Much of that of course was built on the work of some of the big name ‘celeb’ bloggers.

That has more recently cascaded down to mid ranging and now micro-influencers, each of which have engaged and often loyal audiences. Brands have seen the power of social referral and have increasingly looked to leverage those relationships to tap into new markets.

Influencers of course need to be paid for their work – and for the access to those audiences. For many of the better known influencers, these fees have grown to be pretty large and well beyond the budgets of smaller brands. 

A fee per post has been the usual payment model for influencers, and ‘engagement’ has been the main metric used for gauging influencer marketing success. However, long-term partnerships often require a different approach and we are increasingly seeing a move to ‘value’ which as well as engagement includes revenues attributable – even if only in a partial attribution.

Instagram affiliate

Many of these influencers historically would not have entertained the idea of a pure CPA monetisation model. Traditionally brands have also had issues with the affiliate model in managing influencer relationships. However, recent shifts over the past few years have changed this attitude. Affiliate monetization has become a mainstay for many in what has become the ‘influencer sector’. 

The Curvy Fashionista blog

In my interview with Marie Denee, she outlined how she along with other bloggers and influencers have been increasing their use of affiliate links across their websites. Many are now developing a significant income streams. These are both through live links and from some of the earlier articles and posts with good SERPS and traffic.

You can read the full interview with Marie on the Publisher Discovery blog >

Impact of the Pandemic

The global COVID pandemic from early 2020 caused some huge shifts across all our lives. From the point of view of the online advertising industry, with consumers moving so much of their lives online many marketers cut normal ad and influencer budgets sometimes almost completely. 

That meant that for many publishers, both mainstream and influencers, the revenue stream dried up almost overnight. Those of us in the affiliate industry saw the effect of this. Record numbers of affiliate applications were received by networks and partnership SaaS providers, such as Awin and Partnerize, from bloggers and influencers. 

Traditionally, many marketers’ and C-Suite views of affiliate were dominated by a fixation on Coupon and Cashback. This in part was a result of slow roll out of proper attribution models among the networks. The pandemic however brought a tipping point; technologies becoming more favourable coupled with the huge changes in the advertising market meant that the affiliate model was a real and valuable alternative monetisation route. 

Even despite the ad market achieving more of an equilibrium towards the end of 2021, this trend has not noticeably reversed. Influencers are adopting a blended approach with fees and commissions. 

Influencers and Affiliate Commissions

In a  conversation with Marie of, she related that years ago she would not touch affiliate as Google had the potential to downgrade her site. That changed a few years ago and now she readily uses that blended strategy; several of her older posts from 2012 are still earning commissions nearly 10 years later. 

Case Studies

Others in the wider industry report a similar picture across a variety of market sectors:

Acceleration Partners cite a great example in an article on an un-named ‘Fitness Brand and Influencer Network’. As they report, “the brand was willing to be flexible to maximize the partnership with the influencer network, agreeing to a CPA that is more than three times their standard rate. Since the brand did not have to incur any high upfront fees or provide free product, this reduced risk for the brand“.

The volume of referrals that influencer network drove for the brand surpassed expectations and the partnership generated over $500,000 in revenue during the length of the campaign. The influencer network has become one of the brand’s top five partners in their affiliate program.

PuraVida worked with SaaS platform, Refersion to help to grow their micro-influencers as ‘lifetime ambassadors’ using affiliate tracking to reward them for referrals. Within a month, they saw a 230% increase in revenues driven by over 126,000 ambassadors, as they covered in their recent Case Study

All Inclusive Marketing quotes in their blog that “evidence that suggests content publishers can help the overall health and growth of your affiliate program”. PostAffiliatePro also report that 86% of B2C businesses are already using content marketing as part of their digital strategy. 

Influencers and bloggers have also been helped enormously in monetising their content by third party services which simplify the path to accessing the many thousands of individual brand programs across hundreds of affiliate networks and SaaS platforms. For most the task of managing and inserting affiliate links into their content is daunting. 

Companies like Skimlinks, Viglink and Digidip provide content publishers with access to pretty much every available brand by a simple website integration. This allows the publisher and influencer to have a single login to manage links and payments rather than multiple affiliate network dashboards.

FMTC provides a curated service collecting thousands of advertiser coupons for publishers to access – and manage all this in a way that ensures the deals being shown are current, crucial for an influencer with an engaged audience.

The Future for Affiliate with Influencers

The changes we saw during 2020-21 have not shown significant roll-back, as mentioned previously. Similarly, affiliate revenues paid to mainstream media and influencers have not slowed as some had expected.

So the application of affiliate to content, bloggers and influencers has become a well worn path and entered the mainstream. So much so that affiliate marketing is now very much a live discussion among the C-suite and ecommerce professionals.

One of the perennial challenges for affiliate managers is to assess which of the potential affiliate partners are going to perform well, particularly content and blogger partners. The crossover with the influencer sector gives an opportunity to get a real understanding of each potential publisher by understanding their individual audiences.  

The spend on Influencer marketing is set to grow massively – especially when compared to the depressed levels of 2020-21, with the affiliate model of monetisation being an increasing component. 

Read the Full Article

You can read the fuller article in the Adello Magazine or on the Publisher Discovery blog.

Read more on affiliate marketing on the Resources page

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