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Affiliate vs. Influencer Marketing: Which Should Your Company Use?

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Too many times, we see things as one thing against another -- chocolate or vanilla, yin or yang, paid or organic -- as if the two entities cannot hope to coexist. The same goes for affiliate marketing and influencer marketing, and unfortunately for us, digital marketing agencies get their clients caught up in an endless battle of which vehicle is better.
But they’re having the wrong discussion. They should ask which type of marketing is best suited for the organization’s current goals.
Affiliate and influencer marketing each have a time and place. Your responsibility is to figure out where your company is today and how to get where you want to go tomorrow. It all starts with a broader understanding of your options and opportunities.
Related: How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs
Making affiliates your remote sales force
As of the first quarter of 2016, Amazon reportedly had an astonishing 310 million active customers. Perhaps you're one of them. If so, you might have made your way to this behemoth of an online shopping center through an Amazon affiliate.
Affiliates are paid to link to a business’s products from their websites. Every time a visitor clicks the link and makes a purchase, the affiliate receives a commission. Most businesses work with the support of an affiliate marketing service provider that handles the work behind finding and paying affiliates, weeding out spammers and tracking success.
Here's the caveat -- this industry has more black hat (or untrustworthy) affiliate marketing programs than not. Much like the black hat SEO tactics that saw their heyday before Google algorithms started to punish those tactics, black hat affiliate marketing programs have yet to be pushed out of the industry. If the benefits of affiliate program sound like a good fit for you, it's important to properly vet a partner before signing on.
JVZoo, an online software solution for affiliate marketing, is one white hat provider that's on a mission to restore the soul of internet marketing. You'll never hear it tout any get-rich-quick schemes as a recruitment tactic for affiliates that use the software, and it actually cares about making online business owners' lives easier. 
Generally, businesses that prefer using affiliates sell products or services online with high enough profit margins to pay out commissions without hurting their bottom line. Affiliate marketing has great potential for your business if it's the right fit, but don't go into it blind. Do your research and make sure you select an affiliate solution that has your best interests in mind.
Piggybacking on influencers’ social standing
Every social media platform has certain people who collect devotees by the thousands or millions.
They are influencers, and their reach is deep, personalized and thoughtful. Imagine you could get a well-known industry guru to mention or endorse your brand. You’d be hitting a prospective buyer niche and increasing the chances of striking a gold mine.
Business-to-consumer companies routinely pay influencers to use and promote specific products on their channels, such as YouTube or Instagram. The remunerative arrangement varies from influencer to influencer; some influencers are paid by the post, while others are given a flat fee for their brand loyalty. And believe it or not, it’s one of the most effective strategies for reaching your target audience.
Related: How to Create a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign
Axe's recent partnership with theAmplify is an example of influencer marketing excellence in action. By utilizing theAmplify's proprietary mobile app that streamlines the process of identifying and communicating with influencers, Axe created stellar influencer campaigns around its hair care products.
TheAmplify reached out to its network of influencers in the men’s grooming sector and extended Axe's marketing reach without overspending. For instance, millions of people saw influencer Rudy Mancuso’s short video, giving Axe a huge popularity and recognition boost without the need for costlier traditional advertising methods.
Tips for choosing between affiliates and influencers
Neither affiliate nor influencer marketing is better or worse; everything depends on your timing and adherence to a few tips.
1. Outline the psychographics and demographics of your target audience.
Knowing your target is as essential in marketing as it is in a game of darts. Affiliates can assist in bringing your items to audiences who fit your ideal customer by giving them direct links to products or services. However, if your goal is to bring about awareness to mass numbers of Millennials, you’ll want to think about the personalized nature of influencer marketing. Younger audiences tend to eschew affiliates and prefer buying on the recommendation of a trusted influencer.
Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Determining Your Target Market
2. Take a serious look at your marketing budget.
Affiliate marketing doesn’t cost much up front because you only pay your affiliates and software partners when people they send your way make a purchase. Still, this takes a cut out of your bottom line and reduces the take-home amount of each purchase. Every percentage point counts when you’re thinking about profits.
Influencers typically charge up front for their commitment, though rates will vary. If you feel like you’d rather go the influencer route but have a modest budget, look for mid-level influencers. Although they have thousands -- not millions -- of followers, they’ll eat up fewer of your marketing dollars.
3. Consider both affiliate and influencer marketing for differing campaigns.
Your job is to create a viable marketing stack that takes advantage of opportunities. In some cases, your research and education may lead to the realization that affiliate marketing is the right strategy for one campaign and influencer marketing for another.
Crunch the numbers ahead of time to ensure you’re putting the right affiliates and influencers in place and your company knows how to convert the visitors you obtain from each. Do a little competitive analysis to see how your biggest challengers are spending their marketing dollars; if they’re all in the affiliate marketing sphere, perhaps you should follow suit.
To say that new online marketing doors are being opened regularly would be a serious understatement. Years ago, affiliate marketing was in its infancy; now, software allows companies to take it further than ever. Similarly, influencer marketing has blossomed thanks to our global reliance on and appreciation of social networks. Know the proper time to use each, and you’ll position your organization to take giant leaps forward.
Chirag Kulkarni
Chirag Kulkarni is a serial entrepreneur and advisor. He is the CEO of Insightfully, which is using AI to discover what employees skills and passions are to reallocate human capital within the enterprise. He has also spoken at Accenture, In...
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The best ways to use social media for marketing your medical practice

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With nearly 2 billion active monthly users, it’s safe to say that Facebook should be a part of your business and marketing strategy. If you’re in the medical industry, it’s even more of a necessity.
By using Facebook to interact with patients, physicians can highlight procedures and products — and, most importantly, they can build trust with their current and potential patients. While likes and reactions are great, the goal is to create posts that engage and inform. That way, you can more easily spread your brand, authority, and expertise to patients that are trying to find it.
Getting your posts shared is easier said than done, right? To help break down just how to craft updates that will keep your patients engaged, here are some helpful practices to integrate into your social media business plan.
Develop a consistent voice
The first step in planning your social media strategy is to make sure you stay consistent with your voice. Having a list of prepared responses ready for commonly asked questions will help your team engage with users to build your brand. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive topics in the medical industry like procedure specifics, insurance, or recovery questions.
Connect with your audience on their time
According to data from Pew Research Center, 76 percent of Facebook users check in and use the platform every day, and 55 percent visit several times per day. With this in mind, you definitely don’t want to go days without updating your practice’s page. You should also be strategic about when you’re posting in order to get the biggest reach. Use scheduling tools (available on most platforms) to post throughout the week at different times of the day, and track which time slots get the most engagement.
Keep posts short and watch the jargon
According to HubSpot, the ideal length of a Facebook post is around 40 characters. Have a sophisticated new procedure that you’re proud of? Go ahead and post about it — just keep it simple and write for your audience. That means steering clear of medical jargon. Colleagues may appreciate an update that has standard medical abbreviations common to your practice, but this could potentially turn off future patients.
Vary your tone now and then
Although the bulk of your posts should focus on how you can help solve customers’ problems, don’t make every post promotional. Your patients don’t need to read about every service or product that you offer; they just want to know that you’re listening to them. Have fun with some of your posts. Discuss topical health issues and connect to the local community. Use Facebook Live to show off your team in action. Just remember to mix it up, giving your patients both fun and educational content to explore.
Always be present
By being present in your social media campaign and responding to patient inquiries, your current and potential patients will trust you as someone who genuinely cares about them. According to a survey conducted by Convince and Convert, 42 percent of users expect a response within an hour on social media. To keep everyone on the same page, set an internal response time goal, and hold team members accountable for maintaining that time.
Highlight community service
Promoting your work in the community is a great way to humanize your online presence. Have a flu shot drive coming up? Are your employees participating in a fundraising campaign? Create an event page to drive users to take action offline, link to informative articles about the campaign, and post images and videos that highlight your team’s participation in the event. It will further align your practice as a contributor to your local community.
Use Facebook promotions and ads
It may seem like Facebook ads are unnecessary — why pay when you can post for free? However, by using Facebook’s Ads Manager and the Audience Insights tool, you can target the users you specifically want to reach, from age to income level. Whether your focus is on brand awareness, lead generation, or website traffic, Facebook promotions and ads can help you reach your target demographic, allowing you to engage with more qualified leads.
Furthermore, the organic reach of Facebook posts has gone down markedly over the last few years.
Analyze your results
Set smart, achievable goals, and make a point to analyze them every month. How do users interact with your posts? What types of posts get the most reactions and comments? Measure key metrics like engagement and reach to determine what works, and throw out what doesn’t.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author Will Scott is CEO of Search Influence, a national online marketing firm focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and white label online marketing products for publishers and media partners who serve them. Search Influence is the largest online marketing company on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans’ only Inc. 500 honoree in 2011. 

6 Predictions for the Convergence of IoT and Digital Marketing

We're on the cusp of a tectonic shift in digital marketing.
The boom in IoT (Internet of Things) technology will soon allow us to analyze, predict, and respond to consumer behavior in almost every market possible.
That sounds amazing ... but what's the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is the connection of everyday products like cars, alarm clocks, and lights to computing devices via the internet. It allows them to exchange data with each other, providing marketers with more context about their customers' product usage. This enables marketers to deliver more relevant messages and leads to greater customer engagement. 
For example, if you run out of milk or it spoils, a refrigerator connected to the internet could recognize your need and display a message on its screen or your phone about the best milk deals in town. You could even order a carton through one of those devices if the refrigerator company partnered with a grocery store.  
Since IoT technology connects the internet with objects that are ubiquitous in our daily lives, marketers in almost every industry will be able to engage consumers throughout every phase of the customer journey.
The term “Big Data” is an understatement for the amount of data IoT devices will produce. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, IoT devices and sensors will exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018 and generate a staggering 400 zettabytes of data per year.
IoT's surge will overjoy marketers because they can leverage these massive data sets to integrate consumer behavioral signals into their marketing stack. This will allow them to capture interactions, conversion metrics, and consumer behavior predictions and link them to purchase-intent data.
Access to this data is exciting, but it could also lead to confusion. Marketers might not know how to interpret this unprecedented influx of information. Changes to the digital marketing landscape are clearly on the horizon. So check out these six predictions of how IoT will influence digital marketing's growth and evolution and how you can prepare for it.
1) New digital devices will emerge.
Since anything connected to the internet could be an avenue for consumer engagement, marketers will move beyond today’s digital devices like laptops, mobile, and tablets.
For instance, we could use things like car and refrigerator monitors as possible touch points. Amazon already leverages IoT with their Dash buttons, allowing consumers to order a product with the push of a wifi-connected button.
2) IoT data, attribution, and analytics will revolutionize contextual marketing.
IoT devices generate unprecedented amounts of data, so every customer interaction allows marketers to capture consumer intent, behavior, needs, and desires. This makes it possible to serve contextually relevant marketing messages at the most optimal place and time.
Understanding a consumer’s behavior, purchase patterns, and location also provides a level of attribution, analytics, and predictive capabilities that were previously unavailable. Based on signals from IoT devices, we'll be able to push timely notifications to consumers when they need to purchase something rather than waiting for them to show interest.
These insights and the ability to accurately attribute every interaction throughout the customer journey will be groundbreaking.
3) Marketing technology platforms will treat IoT data like their first born.
Marketing platforms and technologies will be able to ingest and use IoT data similarly to how cookies and unique IDs (UIDs) are used today. These platforms will also use IoT signals to further evolve our current cross-device technologies.
Developing platforms and technologies capable of ingesting, analyzing, and acting on these vast data sets will be a very complex undertaking. But evolution in digital marketing AI and machine learning applications will produce marketing technology platforms that can process, interpret, and evaluate these data sets in near real-time.
In other words, expect many new entrants in the marketing technology space to tackle this challenge.
4) The agency's role will evolve.
Along with the traditional responsibilities of agencies, they will start playing an increasingly technical, data-centric role as technology partners. Agencies will help build their client's platforms, develop their internal systems, and manage the implementation of tagging elements.
The agency staff's skill set must adapt to the evolution of their role, though. They'll need to develop an agile approach to managing campaigns, marketing initiatives, pricing, and product development.
Keen understanding of the data packets IoT devices can produce will become commonplace, as well as knowing what the actionable endpoints within a customer journey are.
5) Marketers will be able to deliver timely, personalized messages that align with their customer's lifecycle stage
The ability to deliver timely, personalized messages at the precise moment to the optimal device will transform digital marketing. For example, using data collected from a fitness wearable and proximity data collected from beacons, digital marketers could deliver fitness product messaging or emails when the user is near a relevant advertiser’s store, like a smoothie joint.
The possibilities for using a combination of these signals to provide highly relevant messaging at the optimal moment are unlimited.
IoT could also provide marketers with the information to improve customer experience and determine when they should send acquisition or retention marketing messages. One example is using offline purchases coupled with proximity data from IoT devices in a brick and mortar store to target recent purchasers with an upsell email or social campaigns asking for product feedback to send to their peers.
6) There will be increased scrutiny of privacy and security.
With great data, comes great responsibility. We can expect more privacy and security regulations and technologies focused on protecting both consumer and enterprise data.
Methods such as network segmentation, device-to-device authentication, and bolstered encryption techniques will likely emerge to prevent IoT devices from being compromised.
The data created by the Internet of Things will unleash considerable digital marketing potential. Predicting exactly how these changes will play out is not exact, but the evolution is already underway.
The only question is: will you be prepared for it?
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