Best of Both Worlds: Affiliate and Influencer Marketing

Edition #58

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Today’s Edition:

  • How brands can successfully integrate affiliate marketing and influencer marketing

  • Pinterest expands its Creator Inclusion Fund

  • France’s proposed regulations require influencers to disclose filters or face jail time

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How Brands Can Successfully Integrate Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing

TikTok started testing an affiliate program with creators as part of its TikTok Shop initiative that was launched a few months ago. Participating creators can showcase products from sellers in their videos and live streams and earn a commission (between 5% - 20%) for any resulting sales. These videos and live streams are marked with an "Eligible for commission" label, similar to the "Paid Partnership" label used for sponsored content by creators.

The affiliate program is part of TikTok's efforts to support brands in driving sales and to generate their own revenue. Competitors, like Instagram and YouTube, have also explored similar affiliate programs.

The Intersection of Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing

Since the pandemic, brands have increasingly explored affiliate marketing, too. In most cases, they’ve investigated how to inject it into their influencer marketing efforts. As people were forced to stay home, brands secured budgets to collaborate with influencers on sponsored content. This allowed them to connect with consumers who were spending more time on mobile devices and to generate content assets as in-house studios became obsolete.

This increased investment in influencer marketing programs garnered attention from leadership and executives, as well as other departments such as performance marketing. This led brands to focus on the return on investment (ROI) of the dollars they were putting into creators instead of traditional marketing tactics.

Despite the passage of time since March 2020, brands are still navigating how to effectively integrate the strengths of both affiliate marketing and influencer marketing into their strategies. A great deal of friction exists today as brands see affiliates and influencers as the same when they are actually two very different types of creators.

Here are a few factors that I believe are important for brands to successfully integrate the strengths of both affiliate marketing and influencer marketing.

Understand the Differences Between Influencer and Affiliate

It's important to recognize that influencers and affiliates are not the same. Influencers focus on creating content and building an audience, while affiliates are primarily focused on driving sales. Affiliates may not always produce high-quality content or have a large audience, but they excel at getting their audiences to take action. Influencers typically receive guaranteed payments, whereas affiliates earn commissions based on conversions. Understanding the differences helps brands align their strategies accordingly, whether they partner with influencers, affiliates, or both.

Utilize a Hybrid Payment Approach

Brands can utilize hybrid payment models that combine flat-rate payments with performance-based incentives. This approach enables creators to receive a guaranteed payment while also tying their additional earnings to the performance of their content through affiliate links or codes. This allows marketers to understand their ROI and incentivizes creators to go beyond their campaign deliverables. This model aligns with where the industry is heading — creators of all sizes receiving some form of payment for producing content.

Explore a Pay-for-Performance Model Beyond Conversions

Many affiliate programs traditionally focus on rewarding creators solely for generating sales. However, there is a growing trend where creators are paid based on other key performance metrics commonly used in influencer marketing campaigns, such as impressions, engagements, clicks, CPM (cost per thousand impressions), or CPE (cost per engagement).

TikTok and Instagram have started to embrace this approach through programs like Branded Missions and Reels Play Bonus Program. In addition, there are emerging influencer marketing platforms that use these models for challenge-based campaigns. They compensate creators based on top to middle of the funnel results and provide marketers with more visibility and predictability on campaign outcomes.

Leverage the Appropriate Channels

Choosing appropriate channels based on a brand's product or service is crucial. While Instagram and TikTok may be popular platforms for influencer marketing, they may not be the best fit for driving conversions for certain products and services, especially those with a longer customer purchasing journey.

Activating creators on channels that align with the customer purchasing journey is important. For example, consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are easy to promote through short-form video content on Instagram and TikTok. However, tech or mattress products may require longer-form content on blogs, newsletters, or YouTube.

Provide Incentives for Viewers to Support Creators

Provide viewers with compelling reasons to make purchases directly from creators rather than from other sources like Amazon

Offer exclusive discounts, limited-time offers, or unique product pages to incentivize viewers to complete purchases through the affiliate links shared by creators. Make it convenient and enticing for viewers to buy directly from creators versus going elsewhere.

Utilize Long-Term Partnerships

Embrace long-term partnerships with creators to build sustained exposure and trust with their audience. The "one and done" approach may not be as effective, as it takes repeated exposure to a product before a consumer makes a purchase. It takes time for consumers to be exposed to a product or service multiple times before making a purchase. By working with creators on long-term partnerships, brands can increase the chances of conversions and build stronger relationships with the audience, which can drive long-term success.

Empower Creators to Succeed

Brands should actively share relevant data, insights, and resources with creators to help them optimize their content. This includes providing information on historical performance data, such as successful channels, messaging, and creative ideas that can contribute to the creators' success in promoting the brand.

While creators are experts in their field, brands can provide valuable assistance, especially when it comes to data-driven aspects like affiliate marketing. Brands should approach creators similarly to how sales enablement specialists support sales teams.

Test, Learn, and Iterate

Affiliate and influencer marketing integration is still in its early days, so it's important to continuously test, learn, and iterate. Brands should be open to trying new strategies and experimenting with different types of creators, payment models, briefing methods, and other innovative approaches to optimize their affiliate marketing efforts in collaboration with influencers.

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Pinterest Expands Its Creator Inclusion Fund

Pinterest is expanding its Creator Inclusion Fund to include five additional countries: Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France. The program offers financial and educational support to underrepresented content creators. Additionally, the Fund is expanding into a North America Creator Fund, with the first cycle focused on sustainability and open to eco-conscious creators. Independent publishers, digital magazines, and content collectives are also eligible to apply for the program.

Unlike other Creator Funds, Pinterest's approach is holistic. It provides creators with access to resources such as training, personalized consulting, and financial grants in cash and ad credits to help them grow their audiences and monetize their content. Past participants have experienced significant growth in their audiences and businesses.

Snapchat Unveils New Safety Features for MyAI Chatbot

Snapchat unveiled new safety features for MyAI, its chatbot powered by ChatGPT. First, there is an age filter that will enable the chatbot to determine a user's age and understand which user requests are appropriate. Second, in the coming weeks, parents will have access to information about MyAI in the Family Center, such as whether their teenagers are using it and how often. For this feature to be activated, both the teen user and parent will need to opt-in.

Shortly after MyAI's launch, there were reports of the chatbot responding inappropriately. These features, developed over several weeks of learning, aim to reduce the number of inappropriate interactions between users and the chatbot while providing transparency for parents of teenage users. As an early adopter of AI, Snapchat faces challenges in integrating the technology in a secure and responsible manner. It’s not alone in this, as other social media platforms are also introducing their own AI-powered features.

France's Proposed Regulations Require Influencers to Disclose Filters or Face Jail Time

France is proposing legislation to regulate influencers with a bill that is "aimed at combating scams and abuses by influencers on social networks." According to the proposal, influencers - defined as anyone who distributes digital content to promote a product or service in exchange for money or a benefit-in-kind - would be required to comply with the proposed rules. Key components include:

  • Influencers who use a filter or alter their face and/or body are required to disclose it and must include a visible disclosure on the photo or video at all times.

  • Influencers are not able to promote pharmaceutical products, medical devices, surgical procedures, financial products, and services, or counterfeit products.

  • To promote betting and gambling services, influencers must have a visible disclosure on the image or the video at all times.

  • Influencers that violate the law face up to 2 years in prison, €30,000 in fines, and are prohibited from using social media.

If passed, this bill will heavily impact the influencer marketing industry in France by limiting what influencers could promote as well as increasing the risks that come with being an influencer. Recent events, such as China requiring influencers to have qualifications to talk about certain topics and the Advertising Standards Authority’s update to its influencer guide, suggest that tighter regulations for influencers will continue.

Twitch Experiments with New Sponsorship Solutions for Creators and Brands

Twitch is currently experimenting with new sponsorship solutions for creators and brands. These solutions will be tested over the next few months and include the following:

  • Channel Skins: Branded graphics that are clickable and appear in-stream, on channel pages, and above Chat during sponsored streams.

  • Streamer-read Ads: Readouts of branded talking points across multiple streams.

  • Sponsored Gift Subs: Brands can buy and gift subscriptions in Chat to viewers at scale.

Sponsored streams are already common on Twitch, but they are typically between brands and streamers with large audiences, and Twitch doesn't have any direct involvement. With this round of experiments, Twitch hopes to play a more active role in bringing creators and brands together while helping more streamers monetize. However, some streamers have expressed concern that Twitch is trying to get involved simply to take a cut of their earnings.

LinkedIn Tests Suggested Posts and Enhanced Search Functionality

LinkedIn is testing Suggested Posts in the Feed, which display trending posts to users based on their interests. They have a "Suggested Posts" label at the top. Additionally, the platform is enhancing Search to provide users with more valuable posts from creators based on their search queries. Users can filter their search results according to specific content and categories such as Posts, Groups, Events, Courses, and Services.

As LinkedIn has experienced a 2x increase in engagement over the last year, the platform is seeking additional ways to assist users in discovering valuable content. Suggested Posts are designed to serve users content that aligns with their interests, even if they are not following that particular person. The updated Search experience enables users to take a more active approach to discover content. This two-pronged approach ensures a balance between passive and active content discovery, providing users with more pathways to find what they are looking for, which can increase engagement even more.

 Upcoming Events

Here are some events I have coming up this month:

  • Monday, April 17th - Tuesday, April 18th - Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (St. Louis, MO): I’ll be returning to the MDMC in less than two weeks to speak on a panel about leveraging the power of influencer marketing. Last year was a blast. If you are a reader from the area and want to attend, shoot me an email for a complimentary ticket.

  • Tuesday, April 25th - Happy Hour (Boston, MA): Meredith Jacobson (Consultant and Founder, We Are Boosters) and I are hosting a happy hour in downtown Boston for those working or interested in the creator economy, influencer, and social media space (really anyone is welcomed). To join us and RSVP, click here!

    What I’m Reading

  • What marketers need to know about ByteDance-owned Lemon8 — and its link to TikTok (Digiday)

  • Instant videos could represent the next leap in A.I. technology (New York Times)

  • Brands increase TikTok spending despite threat of US ban (Financial Times)