Social media marketing is a powerful tool for building customer relationships, moving warm leads down the sales funnel, and growing your business. The best part of social media marketing for a business owner is the power of using others’ trusted voices to promote you – such as through affiliate marketing on social media.

Social media affiliates are people who have a following on social media and who will promote your business in exchange for a commission. It’s like having a sales force that works for you, without paying them anything in advance! Whether you’re an ecommerce retailer or a B2B, a small business or a large enterprise, or somewhere in between, we’ve got the strategies you need to leverage social media affiliates and scale your business.

Keep reading to learn how to create the best social media affiliate program.

What is social media affiliate marketing?

Social media affiliate marketing involves asking social media personalities, who have a built-in audience that matches your own, to promote your brand via their own social media channels.

  • Affiliates will feature your products in some of their posts, and talk about why your products are awesome. They might create tutorials, share product reviews, or highlight the features they like best.
  • You give each affiliate a unique link to include in their social posts or bio, which leads to your website and tracks all the traffic sent there. (You might also let them offer discounts to followers when they visit your site through the link.)
  • An affiliate earns a cash commission whenever someone clicks on their affiliate link and purchases from you. In other words, the affiliate earns passive income through their social media page while your brand increases in popularity. 

Affiliate marketing programs are an excellent way for brands and influencers to collaborate on content that benefits both parties. The key is to match your brand’s values with your affiliates. If you can find a way to align, the opportunity for success is high.

fitness social media affiliate

Lauren (@gainswithglover.lauren) is a social media affiliate for Oner Active.

Why use social media affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing works – it’s a great way to generate sales and increase traffic. Social media can help drive that growth even further by creating an easy way for you to connect with new audiences through your affiliates’ social media accounts. Here are some of the main benefits of social media affiliate marketing:

Affiliates are highly trusted, leading to more sales

Affiliates’ followers trust the affiliates’ endorsements of your products, so followers are more likely to click the link and purchase from you. Plus, social media helps build relationships with your affiliates’ audience, making it easier for affiliates to promote your products and create new customers.  

Social media affiliates rapidly increase brand awareness

Social media affiliate marketing is an amazingly efficient way to grow your brand because both parties win: The social media influencer gets passive income while continuing to spread awareness about your brand on their own platform. At the same time, more people will find out about your company’s offerings, leading to increased exposure for your business!

By collaborating with the right influencers on social media, you can significantly expand your brand’s audience—one well-placed post from the right person could reach thousands!

You can easily track the ROI

In addition, affiliate links allow you to track the ROI of word-of-mouth marketing (which can be hard to measure on social). You won’t have to guess how effective your affiliates’ promotions are, because affiliate links record each sale and tie it back to the responsible affiliate.

It’s a performance-based form of marketing, so it’s low-risk

Affiliate programs are cost-effective and low-risk since you only pay affiliates when they generate sales (in contrast to paid ads, where you must pay before you see results).  They allow you to build a network of people who genuinely believe in your product and can help spread the word about it through content marketing. You can use data on sales generated by affiliates to identify which types of people have the most influence when recommending products.

It’s proven effective

Affiliate programs are a proven form of digital marketing. Data shows that 80% of brands currently run one, and over 80% of marketers spend at least 10% of their budget on affiliates. These programs are a great way to reach a new audience and work well when your product is relatively new or needs exposure. You can use affiliate programs as part of your overall marketing strategy or even replace other forms of digital marketing with them.

Are you ready to recruit affiliates on social media?

Although social media affiliate marketing is an effective growth strategy under the right circumstances, not every business is ready to recruit affiliates. Here’s how to know if social media affiliate marketing is right for you: 

  • You’re only ready if you’re okay with paying affiliates cash commissions on every sale affiliates make.
  • You’ll also need a high customer retention rate (since a high retention means you’ll be more likely to afford the repeated commission payouts).
  • It helps if your product appeals to a wider audience.
  • You’ll need to know the best platforms to seek out affiliates on, based on where your ideal customers are. For instance, young adults might be best reached on TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram, while you can promote to professionals with LinkedIn affiliates. 
  • And after you’ve determined the prime platforms to use for your campaigns, you’ll need to get familiar with social content creators who share your audience.
Not ready for an affiliate program yet? Consider a social media referral program or social media brand ambassadors. These programs give you the flexibility to reward advocates with different incentives – not just cash – while still enjoying the rapid reach of social media and the easy ROI tracking.

Social media affiliate marketing best practices

So, you’ve determined that affiliate marketing is right for you. But how to enjoy the greatest success with social media affiliates, and optimize your program to bring in lots of new customers? Follow these proven best affiliate marketing tactics, and you’ll be on your way to generating a considerable ROI. 

Set measurable goals

The first step in creating a successful affiliate marketing strategy is setting measurable goals. If you’re going to be tracking your results, it’s essential to define what success looks like from the get-go.

To ensure that your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound), you should consider the following:

  • What is my revenue goal? Is it specific enough? How much money do I want to make in five years? Will this number help me achieve other important business objectives, such as hiring new staff or expanding into new markets? 
  • How many sales do I expect through these referrals? When will those sales happen (i.e., within what timeframe)? 
  • What conversion rate would be considered acceptable for our business model—and how can we improve on that number over time?

It’s essential to track how many unique affiliates contribute to sales and the number of affiliate sales they generate. This way, you can measure the success of your affiliate program over time and identify the most effective affiliates. It’s also essential to determine the average order value for affiliate links over set periods (compared to other sources and overall) to get a sense of the value of each affiliate sale.

This way, you’ll be able to see which affiliates’ campaigns are driving sales and which ones aren’t working at all. This information will help you decide where to focus your efforts in the future.

Investigate competitors’ programs

One of the best ways to get a sense of what goes into an effective affiliate program is to investigate your competitors’ programs. This will help you understand what offers are most popular with affiliates, what type of incentives to offer to stay competitive, and how they structure their programs.

To start your research, look at two social media affiliate programs that target the same audience as you. Evaluate them against each other, and against your own brand, in terms of the following:

  • What are some strengths of each competing program?
  • What are the weaknesses of each program?
  • Are there any opportunities I can take advantage of?
  • What possible threats do competitors pose to my program’s success?
  • How can I differentiate my brand’s program from competing programs?

After looking at these competitors’ programs, compare them with your own program in progress?

  • What will the benefits of my program be? 
  • Will they be worth signing on for, compared with those offered by competitors?

Compare commission rates and terms across all competitors’ programs (if available). This will give you an idea of whether there is room for improvement, or whether you should stick with what works well already in your niche when launching yours later.

Stay away from affiliate networks

You might have heard of affiliate networks as a way to find social media affiliates and set up your program. But existing affiliate networks have far more drawbacks than benefits. 

  • With a network, you don’t control the relationship with your affiliates – the network is a middleman.
  • The network also owns all of your affiliate data, so you’ll likely miss out on crucial info about how your program is performing.
  • On a network, you’re forced to compete with other brands for the same affiliates
  • Affiliate networks also won’t keep affiliates engaged in selling your products (they benefit when affiliates are involved in many different programs on their network).
  • Most importantly, affiliate networks are expensive. They take their own additional cut of your sales – plus sometimes, extra fees – on top of the commission you’re paying affiliates. 

Choose the right affiliate marketing software 

Affiliate software (also called an affiliate platform or affiliate marketing platform) will track affiliate sales, and help you compensate affiliates automatically.

  • With affiliate software, you’ll control your data and how you run your affiliate program.
  • Plus, software makes it easier to engage affiliates, especially since your program won’t be positioned alongside competing programs.
  • And software costs much less than signing up for an affiliate network.

Affiliate program software is a much better way to manage your affiliates, without all the drawbacks of affiliate networks. Referral Rock offers affiliate software that gives you full control over your program and lets you customize it to your needs.

Offer competitive commissions

At the heart of any successful affiliate program is a commission structure that’s fair and competitive. You must pay out high enough affiliate commissions to motivate social media affiliates, but you also need to ensure profitability for your business. Use the info you gathered in the competitive analysis, as well as your own profit margins and business performance, to find the commission sweet spot. And remember – cash commissions are king, as affiliates usually expect to be paid in cash for their efforts.

It’s best practice to only pay affiliates when they make sales, and not when they drive traffic or generate leads. If you pay for traffic, you can easily lose money if that traffic doesn’t result in paying customers – and it’s much easier for affiliates to game the system.

You’ll also need to choose your commission structure. This could be a percentage of each sale, or  a flat fee. The percentage commission is best if you offer lots of different products and want to motivate higher average order values. However, if you only offer a few products with fixed price points, a flat fee is usually the better call. 

In addition to the cash commission, think about additional incentives to further motivate social media affiliates:

  • Bonuses or temporary commission increases when an affiliate is responsible for a given amount of sales in a quarter or year
  • Permanent commission increases when an affiliate meets certain revenue goals
  • Added incentives (like tech items or event tickets) for the top-performing affiliates in each year

Decide on other terms

Social media affiliate marketing is a great way to grow your business, but it’s essential for both you and the affiliates to agree on the rules before they jump in.

The best way to establish the program’s terms is with an affiliate program agreement, which affiliates must sign off on before they start. This way, all parties will know what to expect from the program, and you’ll be protected in case affiliates engage in any unethical activity.

Here are some of the agreement terms you’ll need to decide on, before searching for affiliates:

  • What products will you allow your affiliates to promote?
    • Will they be allowed to promote any product, or are there specific types of items that they must include in their marketing campaigns?
    • Will they promote products that usually produce high average order values?
    • Will they promote top-selling products only?
    • Will you assign specific affiliate products that fit best with an affiliate’s audience (products their followers would enjoy and benefit from most)?
  • When is an affiliate eligible for a commission?
    • How long after an affiliate link is clicked on does an affiliate remain eligible for a commission? (In other words, how long do tracking cookies last?)

It’s also important to consider how much control you’ll want over your affiliates’ social media posts and content. 

  • When they’re promoting your brand and talking about your products, what guidelines do they need to follow?
    • Can they create images and videos featuring your brand, or will they post content you create for them?
    • What key points about your brand should affiliates cover?
    • Must they include specific hashtags? 
    • Is there anything they can’t mention in their content?
  • What are the rules for how affiliates can and can’t promote their links? 

Find the right affiliates

Finding the right affiliates can seem like a daunting task. But if you know where to look, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

If you look at the social platform(s) your audience frequents most, you’ll find plenty of potential affiliates who have already expressed interest in your product or service.

Affiliates don’t have to have used your product before, as long as they consistently produce quality content and have a niche or audience that matches yours. They don’t need to have high follower numbers, either, as long as their audience is of reasonable size and engagement from followers is high.

Once you’ve found the right affiliates, reach out via DM (you can invite them directly or link them to an affiliate application).

 You can also reach out to existing customers with a known social presence, ask them if they’d like to become an affiliate, and send a link to your affiliate application page. Do this by either putting a call for affiliates on your own social accounts, or by looking for customers who have mentioned you and reaching out via DM.

travel social media affiliate call

Travel Insurance Masters puts a call out for affiliates using Instagram. 

If someone shows interest in becoming an affiliate for your business, making it easy for them to apply helps ensure they’ll go through with it! Placing an application directly on your website is one way to do this – it lets social media affiliates come to you. It’s also a good idea to provide a link in your DM or email, which will take them directly to the affiliate application form (and away from your inbox).

After someone has applied, it’s up to you whether or not you want to accept them as an affiliate. Because you’re seeking social media influencers, ask applicants to provide links to their profiles so that you can verify the quality of their posts.

You might also find good-fit affiliates on other platforms, like bloggers or hosts of podcasts, who also have a social media presence. The process for reaching out is the same for potential affiliates you find on social: DM them with the program info, or with a link to your affiliate application.

Vet potential affiliates, and choose the best ones

When you’re vetting potential affiliates, there are a few factors to consider. Make sure that the affiliates you select:

Create social content in a style that meshes with your brand: 

  • Are they creating content that covers similar topics to your own social content? 
  • Do they have high-quality images and copy that fits your style?
  • Are their voice and tone consistent with yours?

Align with your brand’s values and mission: 

  • What do they write about (or talk about) on their social media platforms?
  • Are their posts relevant to what you offer or promote, or do they stray too far from your niche and vision?
  • Do all their posts seem in harmony with your mission statement and brand values?

Have a niche audience that matches yours as closely as possible: Ensure that their niche is at least part of the same industry as yours (you want an audience of like-minded people who may be interested in buying products related to yours).

Have high engagement: Don’t just look at how many followers someone has. Look at how engaged those followers are by checking out whether the creator is getting lots of comments and shares on each post. 

Consistently create new content for their audience: The best way to check this is by looking at their most recent posts and how long ago they were posted. Seeing that they are constantly creating new content is a good sign that they care about their audience and want to keep them engaged with what they’re doing.

Are ethical and transparent: This can be tough to gauge, but it’s worth looking into. Research their past posts, video content, tweets, or stories before deciding whether or not to work with them. Also, make sure they haven’t engaged in any questionable behavior – like buying fake followers or inflating their traffic. 

Can give you a concrete marketing plan when asked: Affiliates should be able to give you a clear idea of how they would promote your brand on social media if selected. This can include their target audience, the type of content they’ll create, and any other specifics that you need to know. Use an application, interview, or conversation (over email or DM) to find out more. You might also ask if they have any previous affiliate or influencer experience, although this isn’t required.

Onboard and train affiliates

It’s essential to onboard new affiliates as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your first point of contact should be through email marketing or direct messages. Start by sending emails or DMs to the people you want to recruit, providing them with a clear overview of what they need to know about the program, its benefits, and its terms.

Then, require them to sign the written affiliate agreement you created, which details their responsibilities and commission rules. 

The most effective way of onboarding affiliates is by going over the fundamentals of your brand and products in person or via video chat. This way, they can get up-to-speed on what makes your business stand out from competitors.

It’s also beneficial for affiliates if you educate them about best practices when posting links on social media sites, and brief them on your social media guidelines for language and images.

  • For example, what kind of language should they use?
  • What should they avoid saying? 
  • Must images be clear and focus on the product?
  • How many times per week (or per month) should the affiliates promote their links?
  • How will they need to disclose their affiliate relationship with you, in order to comply with social media ad disclosure laws?

 These guidelines will help drive more traffic toward your website and increase conversions.

Make promotion easy for affiliates

After you have your affiliate program in place, ensure you’re providing all the tools affiliates need to promote your products or services successfully.

  • Offer them promo codes or coupon codes that activate when followers buy products using their respective links. This will make it easier for affiliates to drive sales and earn commissions. 
  • Provide assets they can use in the promotion process – including pre-created images for posting – so they don’t have to spend time creating these elements themselves.
  • Let affiliates use your products for free, for the most authentic social promotion. After all, many affiliates might not have tried your products yet, but you want their followers to hear real reasons why they should buy from you. 
  • Create guides or templates with ideas for posts (including affiliate-created image ideas and language ideas) so that affiliates can easily create content about your company without any prior experience.
  • Create optimized landing pages that potential customers end up on once they click the affiliate link, to increase the odds that these leads will buy and affiliates will earn more commissions. 

Providing these materials will help affiliates create more content, and it will also make them feel like part of the team. This can lead to higher-quality content that helps drive sales for you and your affiliates!

fun n nails affiliate code

Vicky (@fun.n.nails on Instagram) uses a discount code to help drive sales on the nail art products she’s an affiliate for. 

Regularly check in on affiliates

One of the best ways to maximize your affiliate marketing efforts is by regularly checking in on your affiliates. But how do you do this?

  • DM, email, or Zoom individual affiliates regularly to check on their progress.
  • Send newsletters (or create an exclusive social media or Slack group) to all affiliates whenever needed, to update affiliates on the program and your brand.
  • Set clear expectations and communicate them to all affiliates, so everyone knows what they must contribute and what they’ll get out of the program.
  • Be a cheerleader for your affiliates.
  • Keep an eye out for new opportunities to help your affiliates succeed.
  • Make sure they know how to reach you if they have questions or concerns.

Track the ROI of your program

If you’re not tracking the ROI of your program, then it’s hard to know if it’s meeting the goals you set at the beginning of the process. Fortunately, affiliate marketing software makes ROI tracking easy. Use the software to track all the essential metrics and see if you’re meeting your goals.

Keep track of which affiliates are bringing in the most sales and which ones aren’t performing as well as expected. And if your program isn’t meeting your goals, rethink its structure or change your affiliate lineup.

Wrapping up

Social media affiliate marketing is a powerful way to use social media to generate sales, increase traffic and build your brand. 

One of the most important things when building a social media affiliate program is choosing the right affiliates for your business, who fit with what you sell and your audience. Another crucial element is having a way to track your program’s ROI. 

One tool that can be very useful for you on this journey is affiliate software. Referral Rock is powerful and easy-to-use affiliate software that lets you create your affiliate program in minutes. You can also customize it according to your needs.

Don’t miss out on your best opportunity to start an affiliate program and efficiently scale your business. Visit Referral Rock now and sign up to create your affiliate program.