Affiliate Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – An Essential Guide

From referring products to family and friends to referring products to a fanbase of millions, affiliate marketing has grown exponentially through the years. This might sound familiar to the prowess of social media marketing.

In this article, we try to understand affiliate marketing vs social media marketing – which one is better, and which one should you use for your business

Both are intricately linked with each other. Affiliate marketing works best based on a foundation of referrals done using social media. And the sales potential of social media is best realized when using it as an affiliate marketing channel.

Affiliate Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Understanding the Basics

Affiliate marketing and social media marketing are a great way to promote your business and drive sales.

Simply put, affiliate marketing is when you earn a commission for marketing somebody else’s product. Whereas social media marketing is sharing valuable content on social media to drive engagement, build brand awareness, make sales, etc.

While social media marketing provides you with direct control of the marketing process, affiliate marketing is a more indirect method wherein a brand leverages the influence of other parties to drive sales.

Affiliate marketing has three main players –

  • The seller or merchant
  • The affiliate marketer or product promoter
  • The customer or the buyer

The merchant can be the creator, seller, or owner of the product. An affiliate marketer or product promoter plays the role of selling your product through their marketing channels in exchange for a commission per sale.

An affiliate marketer can tap into several affiliate networks (e.g., Amazon, Clickbank, Gumroad, etc.) to look for affiliate programs and campaigns. These networks can make the process of finding the right product a lot easier.

As a seller or brand owner, your job is to identify the right affiliate marketer having the right audience profile to sell your products to. This would usually include influencers in your industry or trendsetters who try out new products.

Using Performance-Based Social Media Marketing

When it comes to affiliate vs social media marketing, driving good performance is your end goal. Performance can be measured in sales (conversions) or in terms of brand lift and other metrics.

Building a cohesive social media marketing strategy also includes reaching out to affiliate marketers or influencers as well. Where affiliate marketing is great to drive conversions, social media marketing offers much more than that.

Being in control of your messaging and content allows you to direct the story of your brand in your words. As a brand owner, you can build a cohesive brand across multiple social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Social media marketing is also more cost-effective as your marketing spend is spread across social media platforms instead of paying a huge sum for a high-value affiliate marketer.

Most importantly each social media platform offers you access to diverse audiences –

  • Facebook is the king of social media with the highest number of users. Its targeting parameters let you fine-tune your targeting right down to interests so that you can reach your target audience more effectively.
  • Twitter is great to post short updates about your product or even a 30-second promo reel.
  • Instagram is visuals heavy and has proven to be exceptionally good as a picture-based online store. Just tag your products with their shopping tags and users can buy your product right from the platform!
  • Pinterest is again visuals heavy but more suited for online shopping as it lets users create mood boards, wish lists, and shopping lists. Just like Instagram, you can make purchases on Pinterest as well.
  • LinkedIn caters more towards B2B audiences and is great to build thought leadership around your brand and also scout for senior decision-makers in your target audience.

Which Is Better – Social Media Marketing or Affiliate Marketing

Choosing between the two depends on your priorities. If your product sales have reached a level of saturation you might want to invest in affiliate marketing and leverage the audiences available to an affiliate marketer.

Affiliate marketing is relatively easier to measure since you are basically tracking conversions through an affiliate marketer. Social media marketing can get a bit complex with its multiple platforms and complex reporting.

That being said, affiliate marketing does provide access to a targeted audience which your brand was not able to reach on its own, provided you fit the affiliate marketer’s brand personality.

Also, while affiliate marketing tends to be quicker, social media marketing follows a more holistic approach and does not appear as ‘salesy’ to a prospect.

Both, social media marketing and affiliate marketing work best in unison. However, you can choose to invest more in one over the other depending upon which technique provides you the most ROI and reaches your marketing goals quicker.