Affiliate Marketing as Community Engagement


Welcome to a new series on ways to engage your community. Here we’re going to focus on affiliate marketing as one way to engage your community. We’ll be looking at affiliate marketing through the lens of community engagement – meaningfully connecting your customers in a way that they actually want to be associated with your brand and, more importantly, get excited and are satisfied with being related to your brand. This is the holy grail of all marketing – to create a context where your customers seek you out and naturally want to come to you. How can we do that? Let’s take a look.

5 Ways To Best Engage Your Community Affiliate Marketing

As we covered in our previous post, affiliate marketing is a performance-based model that uses revenue sharing. Brands reward third-party publishers or affiliates when they successfully generate traffic, leads, or sales to the brand’s products or services. Spending in the United States increased from $5.4 billion in 2017 to $8.2 billion in 2022.

But what’s the best way to go about it? Here are some strategies for your brand to stand out as you build affiliates.

1. Get Related and Be Relatable

Gaining trusted and valuable affiliates is all about building relationships. Start by making a target list of the influencers and opinion leaders in your community. Ask: Who do my target customers trust? Who do they actually listen to? Next, begin to cultivate relationships with these people. Follow their channels, comment, like, DM and let you know how much you appreciate what they’re doing and the content they’re creating, show up to their events and livestreams – anything you can do to really connect. Start to view them as potential partners. Spend time learning how they think, feel, speak and act. In other words, the first step here is to find and begin to be in the community. The worst way to build a relationship is to ask for something or make a request right away. This is akin to walking in the office first thing in the morning and immediately talking about a project that is due. It turns people off. Start by getting related, as people, as members of the same community.

2. Be Authentic

Now that you found it, and created an opening, begin to spend time in the community – either in real life or in the digital space. Here, what you say and what you contribute to the conversation matters. People can easily tell the difference between when you really care about your product and brand and whether you just are out to make a buck. They can easily tell where you stand. Authenticity is about creating an inspiring possibility for everyone involved. So when engaging potential affiliates, look for the win-win. Start with sharing how passionate you are about your brand and your vision – the problem you are solving. Authenticity has the effect of moving, touching, and inspiring others. It makes them want to share what you are up to. That is the heart of all good marketing.

3. Do It With Integrity

Integrity is about keeping your promises – doing what you said you would, and doing it on time. Integrity is also about doing things as you know they should be done – that is being 100% rather than acquiescing over time to 65%. Set a high bar from the beginning. In practice, this means making a goal to get back to all your affiliates on time and let them know when you expect to hear back, when they can expect payment, what percentage, and so on. In other words, be clear and upfront about what potential partners can expect when choosing to do business with you. This will create a good experience where everyone is satisfied, and relationships will strengthen over time instead of evaporate quickly.

4. Be Generous

We all have competing commitments. One of the reasons why people may not follow through or pay attention is the incentive just isn’t important or valuable enough. Put yourself in the shoes of the KOL/influencer. They get many requests to work with various brands. Why should they rep yours? More importantly, why should they prioritize their partnership with you over other brands? Airtime and communications real estate is limited in our attention economy. One easy practice is to be generous. Offer incentives – a percentage of sales, bonuses, etc. – that make it worth their while. This makes it easy for potential partners to choose and keep choosing you. Of course, given the chance to work with comparable brands for the same return, there is another edge, another value you can offer. Which brings us to..

5. Be Up to Something Bigger

Once you have connections, and have done the work to build relationships, you will need to keep your new community inspired. One powerful way to do this is to share with them and continue to remind them of the “inspiring future” that you are creating together – in other words the bigger vision. It’s one thing to get excited about a new brand of cosmetics. It’s an entirely different and more energizing possibility to get connected to a cosmetics brand that sources ingredients sustainably and provides career development opportunities to young women in a developing country, for example. In the latter case, the “inspiring future” – the vision – is a word where we can look/feel good and take care of the environment, and where the most vulnerable in our global community can help meet their needs. Give your affiliates, influencers, a reason to want to connect, and feel good about associating with your brand.


Affiliate marketing should be viewed as yet another opportunity to strengthen your relationships with the communities your brand engages. There are plenty of ways to go about it – from low-liability and having it be an afterthought – to engaging fully, 100%, with integrity, and leading with purpose. The latter are ways of being that will not only fulfill orders but also leave everyone – the real life human beings – fulfilled in the process.

One last tip: Finding the right affiliates that are aligned with your brand can take a lot of energy if you go it alone. A smart way to go is using data-driven targeting analysis like our new Adtarg Compass+ system which builds a vertical labeling system for major categories, integrating multi-country sales, user reviews, media evaluation and other data that helps global companies see regional market opportunities and establish localized management benchmarks.

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