The growing popularity of social media channels has led to the rise of the influencer, a relatively new marketing phenomenon. Influencers have rapidly come to play a vital role in a brand’s marketing mix, offering top-of-funnel brand exposure, compelling content to use across paid and owned channels and influence over fans and followers’ purchases.
Influencers have much to offer brands, however, traditional influencer campaigns have historically been difficult to track and measure. Many companies have moved towards the performance-based model, measuring influencers based on outcomes and giving them more control over their marketing costs and a better way to measure ROI.
The impact of Covid-19 on marketing budgets led to these new rules of engagement. Rather than only paying a flat fee per post, companies shifted to paying influencers based on performance, such as new revenue, new customers, or incremental sales. Many influencers adapted to these changes, partnering with a broader range of brands and gaining more control over income streams.
Shifts in consumer privacy controls are also creating a tailwind for influencers, as recent changes by Apple and Google are making it harder to track and measure traditional paid media. Brands are shifting dollars where they can effectively measure outcomes, and consumers are continuously gravitating towards content from trusted authorities to help make purchasing decisions.
As brands start to bridge the gaps between influencer and affiliate marketing, they are aligning their partnership goals, strategies, and processes. Rather than operating influencer and affiliate marketing in silos, companies are aligning their partnership strategies to drive efficiencies and improve performance.
Here are four ways to align your influencer and affiliate marketing efforts:
A traditional influencer relationship tends to be transactional, with brands paying for a one-off promotional post and tracking high-level engagement metrics. This is a somewhat limited approach and typically not a good strategy for driving performance over the long term. By collaborating with influencers over time, similar to how brands manage their affiliates, companies can build stronger relationships, track ongoing activity and promotions and realise a better return on the time it takes to recruit and influence a high-performing influencer partner.
A long-term relationship also gives brands time to better understand the influencer’s niche and what has worked for them in the past. Influencers have unique ideas and can help brainstorm ways to promote various campaigns. What’s more, an ongoing relationship gives influencers the chance to promote a brand when it organically aligns with their audiences’ interests. This gives them a more holistic view of how their followers respond to the brand and the opportunity to optimise campaigns for maximum impact.
Influencer campaigns have been challenging to scale due to their reliance on manual processes— phone tag, long email threads and spreadsheets— and the hours each week spent on them. Brands can’t do every step manually to achieve scale and need to ensure they are automating to enhance their influencer relationships and gain improved access to data for insights and decision-making.
Additionally, large, fixed budgets spent on content creation fostered an environment where there is a tremendous amount of oversight on each campaign involving legal, marketing, PR, social teams, and creator side agency representation, often to the detriment and authenticity of the actual work being produced.
Technology has become more sophisticated, automating influencer discovery and communications, tracking, and payment processing. This has allowed the influencer sector to thrive, freeing up brands to focus on building stronger relationships with their growing roster of influencers and analysing data to see the role and value a partner plays in the path to conversion.
Any company with a growing partnership programme has likely seen some overlap internally when it comes to managing influencers. Influencers can span public relations, social and affiliate teams, which typically perform similar functions and own different facets of these relationships.
The key to a successful partnership strategy is making sure all your internal teams are aligned and moving in the same direction. Avoid duplicating efforts, such as two teams reaching out to the same partner or influencer about the same campaign and sharing different instructions–this can lead to poor performance.
When onboarding new influencers to a partnership programme, marketers need to check to make sure the public relations or social team doesn’t already have an established relationship. By collaborating on the best way to work with the partner, teams can align on objectives and set the stage for the way campaigns should be executed and carried out in the most effective way possible.
As the partnership programs have grown and evolved, brands are focusing on adding value to the customer—the influencer’s fans and followers. Unlike intrusive advertising and sales, audiences respect and trust the influencer and are accepting of the influencer’s choices and recommendations. They are actively seeking out the creator’s guidance and content on their own terms.
Brands are best positioned to capitalise on their influencer partnerships by giving them the building blocks to tell their own story authentically. This usually includes sharing content, images, product information (niche, sizing, etc.), and other promotional assets so that the influencer is equipped to make their post engaging and drive strong results.
There’s a big opportunity in aligning influencer and affiliate marketing. Brands can streamline their approach to managing influencer and affiliate partners to create a more scalable, measurable partnership marketing strategy and the results are worth it. By focusing on outcomes, influencers can make a bigger commitment to their brand partners and deliver more profitable campaigns.