Influencer vs. Affiliate Marketing: Here's The Difference

Influencer vs. Affiliate Marketing: Here's The Difference

Upon first glance, you might confuse affiliate marketing with influencer marketing. They look alike, they sound alike, and sometimes they even involve the exact same people. Some claim that influencer marketing is just an updated fancy version of affiliate marketing. But it’s not. 

Influencers and affiliates serve two separate purposes, but it’s possible, and in some situations advisable, to function as an influencer-affiliate hybrid. The lines have been blurred, and we’re seeing more and more influential people on Instagram sharing their unique discount codes or links for products, so it can be difficult to decode the nature of a creator’s brand partnership unless you’re familiar with the differences. 

Let us break it down for you. 



  • Purpose: Employed at the start of the customer journey, working to build brand awareness and trigger initial considerations of a brand.
  • Payment: Get paid on flat rate per project basis.
  • Measuring ROI: Difficult to measure ROI on influencer campaigns.
  • Presence of influencers: Exist across nearly all social media platforms, with higher concentrations of influencers on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Creative control: Opportunity for brand to closely regulate messaging and might stifle creative liberties or require post reviews before you share your content.
  • Nature of income: One off project payment when content is posted. 


  • Purpose: Operate at the point of purchase, helping to convert customers that are on the fence about purchasing.
  • Payment: Get paid on a commission basis.
  • Measuring ROI: Easy to track success using unique affiliate links.
  • Presence of affiliates: Traditionally affiliates are bloggers, but affiliate programs have spread onto Instagram, especially in the beauty, food, and clothing niches. 
  • Creative control: Brand has less control over messaging, so you have more freedom and generally fewer exclusivity clauses to cater to. 
  • Nature of income: Passive income opportunities for long after the initial post. 


These days, most affiliates are influencers, but not all influencers are affiliates (in fact, most aren’t). So when relevant, you may want to explore affiliate opportunities. The influencer-affiliate hybrid ultimately looks something like this: get paid in exchange for sponsored content that is intended to build brand awareness, and also get paid commission based on the sales you convert. 

The most important thing is that the nature of your partnership and what you’re delivering in exchange for what sort of compensation is clearly outlined at the outset. Check out Contracts 101 for a guide to writing an ironclad brand partnership contract.

Photo credit: Unsplash

Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence

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