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Affiliate Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Which Is The Right Business For Me?

September 1, 2022

Affiliate marketing and social media marketing are two of the most popular ways to make money online. However, both require you to be a content creator. In addition, you need to tap into current trends and drive engagement. You also need to build trust and a sense of community around your product or offer. 

In this article, we delve into the pros, cons, and distinct characteristics of each. We also cover why an alternate option, like a lead generation business, might be a better choice if you enjoy creating content and connecting with small business owners.

Which Is Better For You? Affiliate Marketing Or Social Media Marketing?

Before you decide which business model is better for you, there are a few points you should consider:

  • What do I prefer? Copywriting or video editing and brand storytelling?

  • Do I have a specific skill I can sell as an SMMA service?

  • Do I enjoy networking with business owners or prefer more autonomous relationships?
  • Does the affiliate marketing program Iā€™m considering have good reviews and a lucrative commission percentage?

  • Do I want to start my own SMMA agency ($100+) or spend money on paid ads to promote my affiliate links ($100-$3000+/month)?

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is promoting a brand's products or services for a commission. You don't need to own inventory or deal with customer service issues. But affiliate marketing is performance-based, so your job is to drive traffic to the offer(s) you're trying to promote. And you need to persuade a consumer to click your affiliate link. (So you can make money).

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is about being a storyteller. But you need to be creative and consistently publish engaging and tailored content. Your job is to promote a product or service through social media channels. And create an active community with a target audience that engages with your brand. You also need to be personable and build connections with business owners.

Social Media Marketing vs Affiliate Marketing Pros & Cons

Affiliate Marketing Benefits

You don't need to build or create a product

No customer service requirements

Free to choose your affiliate offers and how you promote your links

Social Media Marketing Benefits

A low-cost and effective form of advertising

Engage with a targeted audience

An ideal way to promote content and build a brand

Affiliate Marketing Disadvantages

You need a substantial following (or rely on paid ads)

You have to constantly drive new traffic to your offers

It takes a long time to build trust and credibility with your audience

Social Media Marketing Disadvantages

Time-consuming and takes consistency

Trends change fast

Reputation management issues

What Are The Differences Between Affiliate Marketing & Social Media Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing vs Social Media Marketing Comparison:

Affiliate Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Business Model

Affiliate marketing promotes a company's products or services. So you don't need to create a product or handle customer service issues. But you do need to comply with affiliate network terms. And you're always on the hunt for a new audience to promote your offers to (no opportunity for recurring sales).

You're competing with millions of businesses, and organic traffic is declining. So you need to understand your ideal customer avatar. Plus, it takes significant time to generate profits from your efforts. (You need to be consistently active for months). And you need to prove to business owners who retain you to manage their social media pages that your social media post will increase their ROI. (So you need to have distinct parameters and KPIs to make sure what you're doing is working).

Profit Margins

30-60% commissions

You can start a social media marketing agency for as little as $100 and profits depend on your rates and number of clients

Scalability

You can test multiple offers simultaneously and can use more than one marketing channel to promote your offers so you can scale quickly

Develop processes and systems as you build connections and network with business owners to retain additional clientele to scale your agency.

Your 3 Top Social Media Marketing Questions Answered:

What Are The Challenges Of Social Media Marketing?

The biggest challenge with social media marketing is understanding your target audience.

  • What kind of content do they like to consume?
  • Where do they like to congregate?
  • Which social media platform should you choose?

Part of any successful social media strategy is community building. So you need to know what your customer is searching for and what type of content gets the best engagement. But you also need to understand your product's and customer's needs.

Use search engines like Google or Bing to look up 'how to' questions about your product. Then you can educate the customer through your posts. Use high-search keywords and start building content around these keywords. You can also get inspiration on sites like Answer The Public. Or check out your competitors' sites:

  • What are they posting?
  • What kind of engagement do they get?

Then take what's working and do better. But you need to find a unique angle on the right platform. And you need to post valuable and informative content consistently. Information that engages your audience and gets them interacting with your brand, either with written copy, video marketing, or images/reels.

  • How can you benefit your customer to elevate your brand? 
  • What can you do to be seen as the authority?

You need to publish value-based content (value is key here). So overdeliver to ensure your customers see your worth. By sharing valuable content, you're paying into the future and will ultimately increase the lifetime value of your customer.

"Over 8 out of 10 companies in the USA use social media marketing daily." Statista

Organic reach is declining. So if you want to dominate over the competition, you might have to 'pay to play' and invest in paid ads or influencer marketing. Paid ads can push your brand in front of your target audience. Plus, they give you access to millions of customers who have never seen you before.

Additional Benefits Of Paid Ads:

  • They work fast because people are searching for the product you're promoting.

  • Specific and target based.

  • You have more control and can leverage real-time data to adjust ads as needed.

But paid ad costs are rising. (Meta costs rose 61% YoY, and TikTok saw a 185% YoY in 2021). So you'd better know how to run profitable campaigns. Or know when to shift gears if things aren't working to achieve results for your clients. (You can also use influencer marketing to grow your brand awareness).

But you need to be strategic and work with the right influencers in your identified niche. And they come with a price tag (from $10-$10K+) per influencer marketing campaign. By contrast, the lead generation business model is about driving organic (free) traffic to websites and generating leads for small business owners.

You learn the skills you need to leverage Google without relying on paid advertising. (This benefits your profit margins and results in a semi-passive income). 

How Do You Start Social Media Marketing?

SMMA is a simple business model and falls under the umbrella of digital marketing. But social media marketing is just one channel of digital marketing and the focus is on marketing products or services on social network marketing sites (like Facebook or Snapchat).

You set up social media accounts and post relevant content to reach a target audience and build trust. But you need to engage with your audience to build brand awareness and elevate the perceived value of your business. You also need to decide on a few fundamental components like:

  • What Service(s) Will To Offer?

  • What Niche Will You Target?

  • Where Will You Find Clients?

SMMA can offer astronomical results for your clients and can be used in conjunction with traditional forms of advertising and other digital marketing efforts.

SMMA is an efficient and cost-effective advertising strategy that leverages social media platforms to reach a highly targeted audience and increase interactions. But you need to strategize. And know what social media platforms to target for your ideal audience. A few options include sites like:

  • Facebook & Instagram
  • YouTube & TikTok
  • LinkedIn & Pinterest

But you can sell any service, including marketing-related options (SEO, content creation), email marketing, or managing sales teams.

First Access:

  • Where does your experience lie?

  • What are your interests?

You can 'niche hop' to decide on your ideal industry. But the more insight into your audience's interests and tastes- the better prepared you are to engage. You need to share a ton of informative, high-quality, and valuable content.

Use images and video storytelling with the help of photos, posts, and a clear call to action. But be prepared to stay consistent for an extended period of time before you see any real results.

Pro Tips: Explosive growth takes luck in addition to consistency and value. So you need to create videos or content with virality potential (to expedite the process). 

Set clear goals using tools like BuzzSumo or Buffer. (To track ad campaigns' progress, success, and engagement. And tap into and analyze customer feedback).

Is Social Media Marketing Hard To Learn?

Social Media Marketing isn't hard to learn. But it does require some skill if you want to be viewed as a professional. First, you need to connect with business owners. Help them understand your brand better and why they should trust you as an authority. 

You have to be good at working with others and building trust with your clientele. You're managing other people's social media pages. So you need to be create tailored content for specific social media platforms. Content that will drive engagement and promote their business.

But you need to promote your customers' interests more than your business. Know what your competitors are doing and do better. Use third-party monitoring and analytics tools like Brandwatch and RivallQ. Or engage in your own recon mission using techniques like:

Competitor Analysis Strategies:

  • Follow their social media accounts

  • Sign up for their email updates

  • Review their best content (use tools like BuzzSumo)

  • Analyze their hashtag strategy

  • Use social listening tools (like Mention)

  • Identify if they're using influencer marketing

"Brands will spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022". MarketingDive

You also need to leverage trends on social media platforms. For example:

  1. Where does your target audience like to hang out?
  2. Which social media platforms should you use?
  3. Will you use paid ads?

Get market insights to understand your audience better and learn as much as you can about your buyer persona. Then use built-in tools on your social media platforms to achieve the best possible results for your clients.

But there are still a ton of variables. Plus it takes daily action to generate tangible results. That's why I prefer local lead generation. The business model takes work at the beginning to build and rank your sites (about 10 hours). But once the sites rank and generate organic traffic, they act like semi-passive income on autopilot and take little to no effort to maintain.

Affiliate Marketing: People Want Information On These 3 Topics:

Can You Start Affiliate Marketing For Free?

Yes, you can start affiliate marketing for free. Affiliate marketers promote products or services for businesses. So you don't own inventory and don't deal with customer service. However, you need to be a content creator extraordinaire. Your only goal is to drive internet traffic to your affiliate links. (You can do this with a website, landing page, video, or podcast).

But you need to be publishing valuable and informative content. And you need a compelling hook. One that will convince your target audience to click and purchase whatever you're advertising. Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular methods of digital marketing. But because the barriers to entry are low, there's a ton of competition.

So you need an angle and a way to stand out from the competition. Have a clear content marketing strategy and use tools like SEMRush or Google Trends to get data on search volume and keyword difficulty. Check out sites like Amazon's best sellers list or 'TikTok Made Me Buy It' to determine:

  • What's trending? What affiliate product is selling right now?

  • How can you monetize trends?

  • What's your angle?

  • Will you focus on evergreen products or hot-sellers?

There's no brand loyalty as an affiliate marketer. The customers belong to the brand you're promoting. So you need to constantly be on the hunt for a new audience. And build trust with your ideal consumer base to drive traffic and sales. In addition, you need to drive an abundance of traffic to make decent money because not everyone who views your offer will click on your affiliate link.

"79% of marketers use affiliate marketing to engage their existing customers." Forrester

You also need to find high-paying affiliate offers that gel with your audience and that you're willing to support. Check out affiliate marketing program offers on sites like ClickBank to find high-paying offers. And pick a niche that isn't too broad but has numerous products/services you can promote (like the fitness or baby niche).

Find affiliate offers on reliable network sites like:

Pro Tip: Look for affiliate program selections that align with your target audience and have a complementing backend offer to get the best profit margins.

What Skills Do You Need For Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketers need to master core skills and build systems to scale and create a passive income. In addition, you need to be an expert at content creation and traffic generation. You need an affiliate marketing strategy and must be highly skilled at copywriting.

If you know how to create content the right way, you can create compelling copy to generate traffic and views passively. Plus, if your content is optimized for sales, you'll get views, followers, affiliate sales, and customers. But you need to pick your digital platforms. For example, will you opt for video (YouTube) or written copy (blog)? And your content needs to either:

  • Inform
  • Educate 
  • Entertain

Aim to put at least two of these goals in your content. Your goal is to solve a problem. Once you solve a problem, you gain a person's trust and respect (and they'll follow your recommendations).

Use third-party tools like VidIQ or Keywords Everywhere to help determine which search terms to target. Find words or phrases people are already looking for. And then help them find a solution to their queries with the content you publish.

Affiliate marketers also need to become masters of lead generation. You need to earn the right to communicate with your audience more than once. (Most people don't take action the first time they read your blog or watch your video). So you need to build an email list by extending a free offer or recommendation that shares free value.

You also need to understand the science/psychology behind copywriting formulas like:

  • Does it make people follow the next step?
  • Does it lead a person to a specific action?

Learn and apply these steps to your content, lead generation, or sales point to keep people engaged, and you can become a skilled affiliate marketer.

How Fast Can You Make Money Affiliate Marketing?

You can make money with affiliate marketing in 3-12 months using organic methods like a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast. But you need to build trust with your audience and create reasons why they should view you as an authority.

There are over 600 million blogs on Google. And the top spots belong to established brands that have spent considerable time honing their craft and developing a trusted and devoted following. So you need to be patient and committed to publishing content over an extensive period of time. 

Building an organic and profitable affiliate marketing business takes months (sometimes years) of consistent and high-quality content. So choose a niche you're passionate about. Or a topic of interest with an active online community and reliable affiliate program options. (So you won't quit before you start making money).

"More than 6 million posts go live every day, on average". Zippia

However, if you want to achieve results faster, you can invest in paid advertising with things like Facebook ads or Google ads. You can start making money with affiliate marketing by leveraging paid traffic in as little as a few weeks. (You're targeting niche audiences likelier to want to buy what you're promoting).

Paid ads also allow you to test, validate and scale faster. But you have to be willing to pay, and ads are expensive. So you need a compelling hook and enticing creatives. Videos or images that will grab the attention of your potential customer. You also need to have a clear call to action and know how to run profitable affiliate campaigns. But you have to pivot fast when things aren't working. 

Choose the best paying offers to generate profits and cover your ad costs-ones that are converting right now. (Check out ClickBank's top performers). But trending products are quick wins with a short shelf-life. So you're always looking for the newest hot-seller and need to stay one step ahead of the curve if you want to make solid cash.

Conclusion: Affiliate Marketing vs Social Media Marketing? Is One Better & Which One Should You Pick?

Affiliate marketing and social media marketing are two popular ways to make money. But neither is a better online business in 2022, and there's no wrong answer. Instead, you should pick the business model that best aligns with your skills.

  • Do you enjoy content creation?
  • Or do you like to hustle and network?

Both business models require an understanding of platform algorithms. (Including how to leverage paid traffic and persuade your audience). You need to invest time to hone your craft and both take considerable effort to generate consistent results. You can make money with either business model, but I prefer local lead generation.

Could Lead Generation Be The Best Business Choice For You?

I've tried affiliate marketing and social media marketing. But I could never generate the consistent cash flow and semi-passive income level I've achieved through my lead generation business. So now, I work with small business owners by leveraging Google to drive free traffic to websites I 'rent out.'

Each site generates leads I sell to local companies (I own over 80). As a result, I get a semi-passive income every month, and business owners get their share. Learn more about the lead generation business model and why it's my number one recommendation in 2022.

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Ippei Kanehara
Founder/CEO

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses

Ippei.com is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2022, is to build your own lead generation business.

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