Affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors, social media marketing, affiliate marketing

Affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors: What’s the difference?

The terms, affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors, get tossed around interchangeably. For the most part, that’s harmless. They are all terms to describe someone getting paid to market a brand’s products or services to their audience. In that broad stroke, they might appear as one and the same, but the reality is that these three roles have differences in their approaches, their operations, and their role in marketing.

We’re breaking down the difference between affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors, so that you can better align with who you need to gain the audience you’re looking for, or you can steer your own marketing path better into any of these three roles.


An influencer, to put it simply, is a social media marketing individual who has influence over their audience. They have the ability to adapt people’s opinions based on their audience’s opinion of them.

However, there are tiers of influencers dictated by how many followers they have, and who they are can serve a brand in different ways. You start with the smallest group, nano-influencers with 1 to 10 thousand followers, micro-influencers with 10-50k, mid-tier influencers with 50-500k, macro-influencers with 500k-1million, mega-influencers with 1 to 5 million and celebrity influencers with over 5 million followers.

Smaller influencers, usually collected under the term of micro-influencers, are being favoured more today, as users are gaining a distrust of the “disingenuous” bigger influencers and have more hold over a more niche and more dedicated community.

Partnering with an influencer is generally a more fast-paced environment. A brand pays the influencer for one or two pieces of content endorsing their brand and then it is over. The two parties are free to approach each other again, and brands are seeing that long-term collaborations are paying off today, but generally, the gig is quick, and influencers have to go looking for more.


To be an affiliate means to be paid to drive new customers to a brand’s own marketing campaign through whatever means the affiliate has on hand. So, that can mean adding a link to their blog that drives traffic to the brand’s landing page or doing a “Swipe up” promotion on Instagram.

However, the difference between influencers and affiliate marketers is that influencers are paid a set commission regardless of the results, whereas affiliates are paid a rate based on performance, namely how many users use their link to access the page. Due to the nature of the link, users responding to it can be tracked and a commission can be delivered based on that.

If users then buy something having come from the link, they will be given an additional commission based on how many users bought something.

For the purposes of language in marketing, affiliates that have generated a social media following and are using their content for the purposes of affiliate marketing are often considered influencers, too.


Ambassadors typically are hired to represent a brand in an attempt to increase awareness, and therefore sales, of a company. It comes with an inherent sense of loyalty; however, you can take on multiple brand ambassador roles as an influencer.

You don’t need to be an influencer to be a brand ambassador. Brand ambassadors have been made of anyone who feels like a good fit for their demographic, including models, students, customers, employees, etc. A famous one to remember is the likes of Jared Fogle for Subway, for example.

Brand ambassadors can be rewarded with ongoing payment, commissions, plus perks like discounts and free products. However, this is considered more risky today. If your average influencer gets into hot water in the eyes of the public, their sponsorships might be forgotten after only having worked with them once or twice, but a brand that is represented by an ambassador has to vet their ambassador for bad press and will often be said in the same sentence as the influencer’s name. An example of this would be GGPoker, who has recently dropped poker player Dan Bilzerian from their GGTeam brand for his ongoing controversial behaviour.

Which one is right for you?

Deciding between affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors and which approach is right for you comes down to what you are aiming to achieve in your marketing campaign. If you need a quick boost to sales or awareness, you can stick with a quick deal with an influencer and perhaps pick it up again down the line if it works. If you are looking for traffic specifically to your site, you will need an affiliate marketer, and if you want ongoing marketing and very specified demographics targeted, you’d be best going with a brand ambassador.

If you’re interested in more information on affiliate and social media marketing, you can take a look at our blog for all the details, or book a free call with a member of our team for more personalized advice on online marketing.

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