What motivates an influencer to post? Most often it’s about the two P’s: passion and payment. Most influencers should have a passion for what they write about. But make no mistake—payment can boost that passion and often result in a killer influential post for brands.

Keep in mind that bloggers spend a lot of time building their influence. Asking them to share a new product, opinion, or announcement without payment can sometimes be likened to going to a restaurant and asking for a free meal just because you’re hungry. Don’t get me wrong: many bloggers post free content to build their brand and readership, and it’s rare that an influencer gets paid for every single post they write. After all, a nice blend of authentic and sponsored posts is optimal to maintaining a healthy readership.

But when brands have a marketing goal, it’s important to understand that influencers can be compensated in multiple ways for their time, as we discussed in this post. Two of the most common ways are sponsored blog posts and affiliate marketing.

What is the difference?

Writing sponsored posts results in immediate payment for active work. With sponsored writing, the interaction between a blogger and client is more personal. An interested party approaches bloggers who meet specific criteria. Most brands want influencers that have a lot of readers as well as a certain number of followers on social media outlets, and, of course, the right target audience.

Affiliate marketing pays on a per-click or reach basis. The affiliate model moves the risk from brands to bloggers. If the affiliate placement doesn’t convert to a lead or sale, the blogger doesn’t get paid for the work. Many large bloggers can earn six figures from affiliate relationships, yet many brands still struggle with blogger outreach using the affiliate model.

The decision on how to compensate the influencer should come down to campaign goals:

  • Sponsored posts are effective at generating brand awareness.
  • Affiliate marketing is a viable option when a brand wants lead generation and increased sales, and it can often result in a less expensive return on investment.

For example, say a large grocery chain wants to promote an upcoming holiday sale in-store. A sponsored post might work best in this situation, as it would prove difficult to track the amount of store traffic that was generated from a blog post. However, if that chain had a coupon for the sale, affiliate marketing would be a great way to measure and compensate an influencer. Another option would be to include both a lower sponsored post payout in return for additional potential affiliate income.

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

For Brands

  • One of the most effective ways to pay for impressions.
  • Moves the risk from brands to bloggers.
  • Good for measured deliverables. Examples include coupons, app downloads, email sign-ups, social media sign-ups, and sample requests.
  • Affiliate links can be promoted beyond just the post.

For Bloggers

  • Long term passive income.Affiliate revenue is often called “passive” income because well optimized affiliate placements can generate ongoing income.
  • Rewards can be greater as a result with a higher payout in the long-term than sponsored posts.
  • Works for blogs of any size as affiliate marketing earnings depend on the influencer’s ability to deliver quality clicks.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

For Brands

  • Hard to measure for simple impressions or brand awareness.
  • Requires an individual tracking link for each blogger.

For Bloggers

  • Time is money to a blogger, and they can get quickly frustrated with brands seeking advertising without upfront or guaranteed payment.
  • Moves the risk from brands to bloggers.
  • Many bloggers need money now.

Finally, as a brand, remember that it’s important to focus on results of an influencer, not just the size. Results matter most. How an influencer’s community engages with their content is often more important than the size or reach. Small-to-medium bloggers can get a consistently higher rate of engagement on their content as they are more intimate with their audiences.

A good start is to determine the overall goal of the brand. Get creative in ways to compensate influencers for their time and effort, and remember that a healthy working relationship with the influencer will give a better end result for the brand.