When I talk to marketing leaders about influencer marketing, I get asked fairly frequently about best practices for influencer and affiliate marketing. They want to understand how – and why – a platform like Ambassador is different than modern day influencer and affiliate networks. Rather than get into the technical mechanics here, I’d like to present a hypothetical situation instead.

Let’s say you got a new job in New York City and found a great one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. You signed a lease, moved in, and everything was great. You were close to the office, within walking distance to great bars and restaurants, and had lots of friends in your building. As attentive as the leasing agent was when you were considering renting the apartment, six months in, you can’t get anyone to come fix the inconsistent A/C or the broken garbage disposal. Twelve months in, Brooklyn is growing, real estate demand is booming, and your rent is getting jacked up by 35 percent. And while living there is great – short commute, ideal location, and proximity to friends – you realize you have zero control over the apartment you love…or loved.

Now, let’s consider a different scenario. You got the same job offer in New York City, but instead of renting that Brooklyn apartment, you decided to buy a smaller apartment with a longer commute. You chose to invest in something more conservative, but you’re also on the HOA board…so you’re in control. After a year of small but steady improvements, you reappraise and realize that your apartment is now worth 20 percent more than what you paid for it.

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If you to need to live in NYC, which one makes more sense? That’s how I think about influencer and affiliate marketing.

Historically, affiliate marketing has been very transactional. Its success (and cost) has depended on how much a brand is willing to pay a publisher to display their ads. Newer influencer networks are primarily matching algorithms (see “agencies”) that match brands with trusted people (subject matter experts, niche-celebrities) or smaller publishers (bloggers) whose audience is one the brand seeks exposure to and are their most ideal customers.

Now, let’s contrast that against how forward-thinking brands are approaching influencer and affiliate marketing today. When you vet influencers specifically connected to your brand, it’s more likely that you’ll build more collaborative and valuable relationships with these individuals. In fact, according to a recent study by Nielsen, 92% of people say they trust the advice and/or recommendations from their own networks over any form of advertising. This turns influencer marketing into a channel that’s owned, which gives you more flexibility and control if market conditions change.

In our latest eBook, we break down these approaches to relationship marketing, explore the benefits of both types of management, and present an argument for how your brand should be thinking about this channel.