5 Tips for Growing Affiliate Programs Through Social Channels

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Mass adoption of social media has impacted every facet of marketing in immeasurable ways — none more so than affiliate and partner marketing. In many ways, these channels were built to leverage social media.

Affiliate marketing began with the simple practice of publishers using trackable links and earning a commission when a consumer clicked or converted on that link. As affiliate marketing has evolved, this link tracking and CPA mentality has taken over other forms of partnership, and social commerce is no exception. Today, any type of partner, including influencers, can leverage the principles of affiliate marketing to reach consumers where they spend the majority of their time while online: scrolling Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

According to a recent study by the Performance Marketing Association (PMA), the affiliate marketing channel is expected to grow to over $6 billion by 2020. A Mediakix study found that US influencer marketing spend on Instagram alone is expected to grow $2.3 billion by 2020. The PMA study also indicated that content, bloggers, and social media accounted for 40% of ad spend by affiliate type in 2018, and that number is surely going up. All of these numbers support the idea that influencers and social media bring an incredible monetization opportunity to affiliate marketing.

Let’s look at five ways that brands active in the partner and affiliate channels can benefit from leveraging social media, and ultimately drive more revenue. 

Find Out Your Target Audience’s Favorite Platform

Whether you want to reach Gen Z, Millennials, Baby Boomers, or any other demographic, chances are the overwhelming majority of them are on multiple social media platforms. Let’s look at Gen Z, whose spending power has now eclipsed that of millennials and is estimated at somewhere between $29 billion and $143 billion. Gen Z spends two hours and 52 minutes a day on social networks and messaging services. Research also shows that four in 10 Gen Zers are following brands they like on social media. 

This group is open to seeing valuable content from brands they care about on their favorite social channel. For certain audiences, this may be Instagram. For others, Twitter or Facebook may be where they spend focused time. Whether you partner with publishers, media brands, influencers, or other brands, distributing co-marketing content on the social networks where your audience is active makes sense. For this reason, we are seeing ad dollars go from being allocated mostly to traditional affiliates such as coupon, cashback, and loyalty sites to a more even distribution with content, bloggers, and social media.

Leverage Advanced Tracking Capabilities Built for Mobile Commerce

Of the 3.5 billion active social media users globally, 98% are accessing social media via mobile devices. That represents an astounding opportunity, especially when considered alongside the fact that by 2021, mobile commerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total ecommerce sales. People are finding it easier and easier to complete transactions on mobile, so ensuring they see your affiliate offers on their social platforms or through the influencers they follow is only logical.

In the early days of affiliate marketing, the notion of mobile tracking was non-existent. In today’s world, marketers can track everything from what partner influenced an app download to what mobile tracking link led to a conversion. The ability to incentivize partners and commission on nearly any parameter through this advanced tracking has made it easier than ever to optimize affiliate campaigns running through social channels.

Align Content to All Stages of the Buyer’s Journey 

By including social channels in your affiliate program, you enhance your ability to reach consumers in all stages of the purchase journey. Shoppers are now using their mobile phones from the time they start researching to comparing prices to buying your products and services. Social media partnerships can massively broaden your reach at each point and, as mentioned above, everything is entirely trackable now.

In today’s social media-obsessed world, there are bloggers and other content affiliates who heavily lean on social to promote brands creatively and effectively. Again, this content can be used to drive awareness, consideration, and purchase. In many categories, social media plays the largest role in the early stages of the consumer journey, not in driving the final click to buy. Today’s advanced tracking enables better attribution and improved partner commissioning strategies. We’re even seeing some brands implement bonus programs and incentives to social partners that help in the earlier buying stages.

Have Clearly Defined KPIs for Your Programs

As with any type of affiliate you work with, the importance of starting with clarity around your program’s KPIs cannot be understated. Distributing promotions and offers through social media and influencers can have different purposes. You might be looking to elevate average order value, repeat purchases, or new product experimentation. If you’re a subscription services brand, maybe you want to drive trials or app downloads.

It’s important to set clear expectations up front with your social partners. Make it clear what constitutes a desired action, and what doesn’t. You’ll want to be able to optimize high-performing programs and drive incremental revenue through the social channels that are working.

Stay Ahead of the Curve on Social’s Shiny New Objects

As quickly as social media and influencers have become mainstream for affiliate marketing, new social tactics, platforms, and innovations will come along that are even better at engaging your target audience. Don’t be afraid to be an early adopter of the latest and greatest. You should always keep an eye out for new platforms where influencers with the right following can promote your brand. Innovation means being ahead of the curve. Work with social-first publishers to leverage the freshest ways to acquire new customers and build brand loyalists. 

On the other side of the coin, it’s key that your affiliate automation technology is evolving to track new paths to purchase. For example, when Instagram launches features like Checkout on Instagram or Shop Looks from Creators or Reminders for Product Launches, the platform is making it easier for people to make purchases directly from the content your brand shares. The opportunities here are abundant, but all of the links in use must be trackable so you know what’s working in your programs. Work with your technology partner to ensure you can leverage all of these amazing new ways to convert.

The Path Forward

Affiliate marketers can find a wealth of new opportunities for engaging with potential customers via social. And as consumers grow more and more comfortable using social media for brand and product discovery, and shopping, the options expand further. 

If you’re looking to deepen relationships with customers, consider leveraging social media in your affiliate marketing efforts. Today’s tracking and technology make is easier than ever to capitalize on this source of incremental revenue.

Mike Maher is Vice President of Sales, US, at Partnerize.