- Many influencers earn money when their followers buy products they recommend through a traceable link.
- Influencers get a share of each sale, usually between 1% and 20%.
- Insider highlights the 9 best affiliate marketing networks used by influencers in 2021.
- Watch more stories on the Insider Business page.
One of the most direct and accessible ways that influencers can start making money is to recommend products to their followers through commission based affiliate marketing.
In short, affiliate marketing is when an influencer, blogger or publisher shares a product through a specific link. Purchases made through this link are tracked, and the person who shared the link will receive a portion of each sale made.
This form of income is a particularly effective way for “nano” and “micro” influencers (with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers) to start making money and working with sponsors.
Influencers usually share affiliate links on their Instagram Story “swipe-ups” or in the comments below a YouTube video. Some have even started texting their followers’ links to their favorite products as a way to increase sales through features like MagicLinks’ Text2Shop affiliate marketing network, which is supported by the text marketing startup community.
Publishers also use affiliate marketing, with special links in travel articles or product reviews, for example.
Recently, influencers are using social media platforms to connect with and grow their audience in affiliate marketing. In June, Instagram announced that it was building its affiliate marketing tools.
Influencers usually earn between 1% and 20% commission from these links. Retail programs generally offer a lower rate, while technical programs have higher rates, according to industry professionals.
There are a number of factors that influence the percentage, including the type of content that influencers create. For example, some financial influencers make a large percentage of their income from affiliate links to investing apps like Robinhood or Acorns.
Personal finance influencer Tori Dunlap told Insider in March that she earns between $85 and $125 every time someone clicks on an affiliate link you share on TikTok.
“I might post a video on how to save money and mention that a high-yield savings account is the best place to keep money for short-term goals,” Dunlap said. Next, I’ll say, ‘The one I recommend is linked in my resume.’
Affiliate marketing is especially useful for content creators like Dunlap, who share tips and recommendations. If an influencer frequently shares products or content that can be shopped, joining affiliate marketing networks can be “worth it,” small influencer Lysette Calvero told Insider.
But affiliate marketing takes time and work, from joining a program to navigating the platforms, finding the right links and products. Some influencers also match multiple affiliate platforms at once if they promote more than one brand, which is why Calveiro suggests creators keep a running spreadsheet of all their links and codes.
In our second annual list, the Insider Program highlights some of the best affiliate programs used by social media influencers that offer high commission rates, access to top brands, and powerful interfaces and tools. Each network has specific app qualifications, and some offer different rates and tools — like shoppable apps or private tracking information.
The list was determined by Insider based on our reports, conversations with industry insiders, and nominations we received.
Here are the top 9 affiliate network influencers, listed in alphabetical order: