In this post, our Head of Affiliate Ash Bage discusses the difficult question of how to find influencers for affiliate marketing campaigns.

Affiliate marketing is a great way for brands to increase their reach and speak to an extremely broad audience. It enables you to use a diverse range of publishers to promote your brand, especially on social media. But with the competition for people’s attention on social media being so fierce, and with platforms continually developing and changing how they operate, it can be difficult to find the right influencers to partner with. In this post, I’ll talk through some of the key points of affiliate marketing, and then look at how best to find influencers that will suit your brand.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is fundamentally about being able to promote a brand anywhere online. The core idea is providing publishers – websites, influencers, etc. – with a link that they will present to their readers or followers in some way. The link will take those who click on it to your website, perhaps a specific product page, and will track them to see if a sale takes place. The publisher then receives a commission on the sales that they generate.

Essentially, affiliate marketing is brand awareness and a sales tool. With the sheer range of different publishers and different ways of communicating with diverse audiences online, affiliate marketing is a vital tool for finding new customers and getting your brand noticed.

How do affiliate marketers use social media?

Using social media for affiliate marketing means one thing: influencers. Influencers are people who have the power to influence the buying habits or behaviour of their followers through the content they post on social media. They are sometimes celebrities in a more traditional sense – for instance, Love Island contestants, people who have some degree of fame from another medium that translates into influence on social media. In other cases, they’ve built up a social media profile in a more organic way.

When it comes to using influencers for affiliate marketing, the process is basically a variant of what I described above – in this sense, they are simply another type of publisher. Influencers will publish content to their followers which includes a link to the products we’re trying to sell. In practice, this means giving the influencers a unique code that can be used to track the sales they generate. At Castle, we primarily use Awin, a platform that uses UTM codes for tracking. A UTM code is a piece of code at the end of a URL that lets you track specific sources of traffic to your website – so, we can use them to track exactly which visitors came from a specific influencer.

An Affiliate Assistant for Castle, Isobel Bridge working on her laptop and explaining the process of how to find influencers for affiliate marketing.

How do you work with influencers for affiliate marketing campaigns?

Generally speaking, the process of working with influencers for affiliate marketing campaigns is quite simple. We usually go directly to an influencer and say to them, “we want to work with you on this brand.” We then provide them with various products from the brand, and they promote these products in different ways. For instance, they may post videos showing how to use the product, what they liked about the product, give the product a review, etc.

In each post, they would provide a link with their unique UTM code. On Instagram, for instance, they could use this as a swipe up link on their stories. This link takes the user straight to the site and tracks any sales that go through as a result so that the influencer can be paid commission. Additionally, we can provide a voucher code that the customer would use at the end of the sale process, and this allows us to track the source of sales as well.

So, in sum, the influencer is basically promoting the product through their own various means – through a grid post or a story on Instagram for instance, or sometimes blogs as well. They then get a commission for the sales they generate.

Which social media platform is best for affiliate or influencer marketing?

With affiliate marking at present, everyone usually looks at Instagram, because that’s a huge platform. However, it’s quite saturated now, and TikTok has started to take over.

One particular reason for this is a shift in how influencers on Instagram are now operating. With affiliate marketing, influencers often work on a CPA model, which stands for cost per action. Cost per action means that the brand won’t pay anything unless a sale actually goes through. However, influencers on Instagram are increasingly asking for payment upfront, and some of them can charge as much as £5000 for one post. Which is a lot of money!

So, the key difference is that Instagram has reached a point where people think that they can charge £5000 or £6000 for a post. TikTok on the other hand is relatively new and most influencers using the platform haven’t reached that point yet. This means we can work with TikTok influencers who have got a million followers on there, and they’re still working on a CPA model.

Given this, TikTok is probably the best platform to use at the moment if we’re talking in general terms. However, the best choice of platform is ultimately dependent on the strategy and the brand in question. Some brands would work better on Twitter, whereas some brands would work better on Instagram – if the product was more visually oriented, for instance, Instagram is a better choice. Clothing works well on Instagram for that reason, but if you work on something like a CBD company, where it’s a bit more informational, Twitter will probably work better.

How to find influencers for affiliate marketing?

Fundamentally, finding influencers is just about searching for them. We have a few different methods we use for this purpose. On the one hand, we have our affiliate team who literally search for hours, looking through different influencers – they look at their engagement, look at their following, and, perhaps most importantly, see if what they’re posting would be in line with the brand. This is fundamental for finding the right influencers for affiliate marketing campaigns.

So, for example, say you’re working with a lingerie company, and you have an influencer who has never posted in lingerie before – it’s very disjointed to go to them and ask them to work with the brand. It just doesn’t look authentic.

Aside from simply searching on Instagram or other platforms, we’ll also use talent agencies as well. In that case, we’ll partner with the agency and basically just ask if they have anyone we can use. From there, we’ll negotiate a deal with them and, all being well, get them working on the campaign for us.