Is direct selling dead? Given the importance of affiliates, ambassadors and influencers in the world of e-commerce, this is a valid question. In fact, these three roles are high value-added intermediaries between a community and one or more advertisers. However, these are varied profiles with major differences in the way they work. And they haven’t killed the exclusive relationship between a brand and a customer, they have actually enriched it. And the most ambitious companies have found that it is now essential to work with them. This is an approach to performance that enhances branding while cutting down on risks and costs. To help you get your bearings, let’s see how this small group of people works.
The affiliate: the recognised specialist
They are first and foremost a content producer or publisher before being an affiliate. They own their own blog, site or their own YouTube channel, for example. You become an affiliate because the platform hosts quality information, the visitors are many and regular, and the community is loyal. But that’s not all. To become an affiliate, you have to want to monetise your audience. This is a monetary approach that can be more or less visible depending on the chosen actions (banners, links on shopping tips or product reviews, email campaigns, etc.).
To succeed in affiliation, you don’t need to be a specialist in web marketing, even though basic knowledge of it always helps. There are more and more platforms that can handle the automation, promotion and affiliation processes that are delivered turnkey. Thanks to them, it is easy to target advertisers via an intermediation platform to convey the right message at the right time.
You have to see affiliation as word-of-mouth 2.0. The affiliate selects their offers and the brands with whom they are comfortable enough to work, and implements an action plan that balances the expectations of their community with their monetisation needs.
The ambassador: the altruistic enthusiast
This is a customer who likes to talk about a particular brand. Either because they like the intrinsic quality of their products, because they identify with the values promoted, or because they have been following the brand for a long time.
Initially, the ambassador does not expect anything from the brand. Their approach is voluntary and based on a personal interest. The best example of this are the Apple enthusiasts who contribute in leading or creating buzz on many forums, sites, social networks, etc. There are ambassadors in all areas and all sectors. While brands are not prohibited from approaching ambassadors, they must be careful about the relationship they uphold. An ambassador will appreciate testing an exclusive product, being invited to a premium event or meeting the brand’s directors much more than being paid to talk about it. There is almost the same relationship between an ambassador and a brand as there is between a fan and their favourite artist. You have to be careful not to ruin the myth, because there is nothing worse than a disappointed ambassador.
The influencer: the trendsetter
Influencers are found mostly on social networks, and Instagram most of all. These are individuals who gradually make a name for themselves because of their online work sharing interesting content. This also includes more or less ephemeral celebrities who share all or some of their personal or professional lives, and who, through the growth of their community, and therefore of their audience, attract advertisers. For an influencer, promoting an online brand is one way to monetise their work.
This is called sponsored advertising, with a link to the advertiser’s site. The relationship is totally mercantile and assumed, although the majority of influencers seek to maintain a link or consistency between their usual messages and sponsored ads. Influencers play a decisive role in a brand’s strategies. Take Estée Lauder, one of the world’s largest cosmetics groups who announced that, from now on, 75% of its advertising budget would be invested in digital advertising, and that influence marketing would receive the majority of this funding.
We call somebody an influencer when their community is very big (at least 500,000 or even 1 million subscribers), a micro-influencer when it’s a smaller community (between 100,000 and 500,000 subscribers) and a nano-influencer if they have a community of 20,000 to 100,000 members.
Marketing levers’ shift towards digital has sometimes tended to dehumanize the relationship between customer and advertiser. With affiliates, ambassadors and influencers, you can restore meaning to this complex relationship, where values, time spent together and product content directly or indirectly adds value to a brand. In the end, it’s a win-win contract.