Episode 005: Creating Content & Getting Paid With Affiliate Marketing and Sponsored Content
Have you ever wondered how people make money online, especially influencers & content creators?
We hear about so many different revenue streams, in addition to the main income maker, that it can often get hard to discern which is the best for for us holistically as designers and which is the best fit for your unique business model.
If you create any kind of content — blogging, social media, video, email, podcast — then there’s a world of ways to monetize “passively” but two very popular ways involve brands that aren’t your own — sponsored content & affiliate marketing.
Today I’m gonna chat with you about the differences between the two & how (if at all) they may make sense for your business.
While still an area that I am still learning to navigate, this is one that I have found myself quickly immersed in & loving. I like to think this comes from my background actually being in marketing.
What does this have to do with marketing?
Because you’re selling, duh!
If you’ve ever looked up marketing funnels, then you'll know that at the very very bottom of the funnel is the actual purchase or sale, whereas at the top it’s all about brand awareness.
From awareness to sale, the rest of the funnel is interest, consideration, intent, and evaluation.
A marketing funnel essentially illustrates the difference between sponsored content or affiliate marketing — awareness & purchase — and ultimately the deciding factor of which’ll be best for you & your audience.
What is affiliate marketing?
Simply put affiliate marketing is when you promote a product with your unique link, and you earn a commission on that sale.
Maybe it’s a relationship you have with a retailer or maybe it’s with a software you use, but it costs the buyer nothing extra & costs you nothing at all but maybe some time on the front end to set it up. For the purposes of this comparison I’ll mostly be talking about affiliate marketing for retailers.
Some programs are pay per click.
Some are based on the exact sale.
No matter which you’re in, affiliate marketing works best with the audience that’s ready to buy — bottom of the funnel — because they’re already shopping, they’ve got their eye on something, and maybe you’ve just gotten em a little closer to the finish line.
What is sponsored content?
While this phrase has come to be used very loosely, especially with social media leading the fray, in the most basic sense it means you were given something — product or money — in exchange for you featuring the brand in your content.
So this could look like your favorite paint resource tapping you to feature their product in your next project, a hardware company paying you to demonstrate installations of their new collection, and everything in between that you can probably think of.
It may be a tangible product or it may be a location.
No matter which, bottom line is a brand wants more eyeballs on what they offer & you’re the one to help make that happen.
Sponsored content is top of the funnel — before you can “sell” anything, chances are you have to make your audience aware of it. And this isn’t to say they’re not already familiar with the brand or the product, but unlike affiliate marketing, you’re not necessarily presenting to an audience primed & ready to buy.
You’re telling a story.
You’re selling a lifestyle.
You’re developing a trust, on behalf of the brand, with your audience.
Then, only then, will they hopefully want to know more, go through the rest of the funnel, and eventually buy.
How do you get paid?
So let’s say you’re doing a blog post round up or you’re putting together your client’s e-design shopping list, where you’re linking product from your favorite go to retailers.
Using a regular link, the purchaser spends, let’s say, $10,000. And, aside from your design fees, you get nothing. Using an affiliate link, the purchaser is still spending the same $10,000 but you’ve now made a commission from that.
Like a finder’s fee.
If the commission is 5% you’ve now made $500 for doing what you were already doing. Cha-Ching!
Commission percents run the gambit from 1% to 10% and to be honest I’ve even seen a few higher than that — that’s all up to the program you’re in — but even at 1% on my $10K example, that’s $100 you’ve earned either via a blog post or on top of your design fees if it’s a project shopping list.
With sponsored content, as I’ve said, you’re showcasing the brand in exchange for payment or product.
For payment, it’s pretty straightforward — you negotiate a rate for working with the brand.
Maybe it’s $250 for an instagram post.
Maybe it’s $1,500 for a blog post.
Maybe it’s 5,000 for a YouTube video.
Whatever your rate is, you’re essentially getting paid for your influence.
For product, it’s a mutually (hopefully) beneficial arrangement where in exchange for something you would need/use anyway, the brand (through you) gets to showcase what they offer in a way that’s tangible. While this may not translate to actual dollars, it may be the beginnings of what can become a lucrative partnership. Or the value of the product is worth more to you & what you’re creating than a monetary amount would’ve been.
And this isn’t to say a sponsored piece of content can’t also include an affiliate relationship — maybe as part of the content for product exchange, you’re provided with an affiliate code or link.
While the “terms of payment” for sponsored content aren’t as black & white as with affiliate marketing, the bottom line is that you’re tapping into a deeper level of messaging when it comes to this type of selling.
Which is best?
I can’t tell you that one is better than the other, because the profitability & effectiveness of each will come down to your what your level of influence if & what you’re willing to produce.
Affiliate marketing, the execution, is more short-term and immediate. While sponsored content is more long-term, as you may be produced full campaigns that can results in an ongoing relationship.
Sponsored content is typically contractual, while affiliate marketing, short of following the terms of that program & FTC laws, are pretty much fair game.
Are you someone who wants to create a quick round up blog post of your favorite sofas, using affiliate links for each or would you prefer to highlight one sofa vendor in your next living room design project committing to that vendor for the project?
Which makes the most sense for the way you like to product content & which’ll resonate more with your audience?
Will your audience be more than happy to shop your round up, with the recommended list being enough for them to make a purchase; or will your audience respond better to seeing the item as part of a project come to life, then being moved to make a purchase?
Know your influence.
Know your audience.
Know your numbers.
I liken sponsored content to being hired as an advertiser, whether it’s for payment or product, and so I am a bit more discerned with brands that I will work with exclusively in that way. With affiliate marketing I don’t have to commit to anyone except what I’m creating.
Personally, I’ve benefited from both models, using them in different ways — affiliate marketing is a large part of my e-design business model, as well as my content creation; while I reserve my sponsored content for relationships that I want to foster in the long term relationships with, and can therefore produce two, three pieces of content for.
While you can’t go wrong with either model, you definitely don’t want to take on anything that isn’t the right fit for the way you work and/or the right fit for your audience.
I would love to know where you land on the two models.
If I would love it if you take screenshot while you’re listening & tag @thedesigninfluence on Instagram or on our Facebook Page, and let me know if you use affiliate marketing or if you’ve ever partnered with a brand on sponsored content.
Which did you find to be a better fit, or are you more like me, and you like a healthy balance of both?
I hope you’ll subscribe join me every week, and if you haven’t already, be sure to let me know what you think with with a rating & review, and share the show with your design bestie, so we can all hang out.
Talk to you soon!