Although people use them interchangeably, the terms associate and affiliate are not the same. Continue reading to learn about the differences between the two, and how they apply to online marketing as well as other fields.
What is an associate?
An associate is a person or legal entity that is connected with another person (e.g. a co-worker) or entity (e.g. an enterprise). The success of both is considered a joint venture. Although it can be considered closer to a partnership, it still comes with a set of rules all the parties must follow.
In the context of online marketing, associate marketers are those who are partnered with a business entity to promote their message or a product. Sometimes they can be the “face” of a company and interact with customers and build relationships. An associate is usually a person who has gained the respect of their followers, many of whom are willing to trust and listen to their advice.
Take the Amazon Associate Program as an example. People who signed up for the program promote Amazon’s products to their audience base usually through content marketing. While the Amazon Associates Program doesn’t specify traffic thresholds, other associate memberships may come with the requirement to meet a minimum that is set by the company.
What is an affiliate?
An affiliate is an individual or business entity that is contractually bound to another organization. In the context of affiliate marketing, independent affiliates can be individual marketers or companies that advertise products or services on behalf of a brand. Affiliates have a business relationship with brands through affiliate marketing programs. Affiliate members are paid a commission for products they help sell, usually via affiliate links.
In the online marketing sphere, affiliate marketing has become increasingly popular over the years thanks to its availability, low starting costs, and high ROI.
For an affiliate program to work, three different parties must be involved:
- The product creator – A company that creates and sells products or services. The product creator doesn’t have to be an active member of the advertising process, as long as they have an intermediary between the customers and themselves.
- The affiliate – Usually a contractor that markets products or services created by the product creator. Affiliates often operate in niches where they have specific interests and are well-regarded by their followers. Each affiliate has a preferred channel of communication where they grow their audience and engage with them. An important thing to remember is that affiliates have to always disclose their relationship to the customers to whom they are advertising.
- The consumer – The most relevant person out of the three. This is the end customer to whom affiliates market. When a consumer follows an affiliate link to the merchant’s checkout page and completes a purchase, the affiliate that referred them then receives a commission.
An example of an independent affiliate would be a social media influencer. They create content and as a part of a brand’s affiliate network, they advertise products to their audience. When members of the audience make a purchase, the influencer is then paid a portion of the revenue as commission.
What is the difference between an affiliate and an associate?
The differences between the affiliates and associates are often blurred. Although they can both advertise products to their audiences, associates tend to act as experts in their respective fields, while affiliates can be considered an intermediary between the business entity and its customers.
Another difference is that in the case of associates, customers don’t have to buy a specific product the associate advertises about for them to receive a commission. The customer just needs to make a purchase using the associate’s link. In contrast, affiliates market a certain product using a referral link and receive a portion of the revenue made from the sales of that exact product.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the differences between affiliate associates and subsidiary companies?
The main difference between the two is the parent company's level of ownership over their stocks. In subsidiary companies, the parent business entity has a majority control over the subsidiary's stocks; in some cases, the parent company can even have control over all the subsidiary’s stocks. On the other hand, an affiliate company has a minor share of the stocks controlled by a parent company. The affiliate company is still the entity controlling the majority of its stocks.
What is the difference between Amazon Associates vs. Amazon Affiliates?
Amazon Associates receive a commission even if a visitor doesn’t buy a specific product they are linking to. In the long run, this can potentially result in higher income for the associates, with commission being anywhere between 4% to 8.5% per sale. Amazon Affiliates earn only when a customer buys a product they have affiliate links to, with commissions being dependent on the agreement between affiliates and the company they are marketing for.
What is the difference between association and affiliation?
People often use these terms synonymously; however, the main difference between the two is in the type of relationship they describe. Association usually indicates a more casual business relationship closer to a partnership, whereas affiliation can be understood as a stricter contractual agreement.
Are affiliates considered employees?
While affiliates can be employed by the companies they advertise for, they are most often independent contractors.