- Many influencers earn money when their followers buy recommended products through affiliate links.
- Creators get commissions from the sales made when followers use these links.
- Insider is highlighting the top 9 affiliate-marketing networks influencers use.
Influencers get their title in part because they influence the lifestyles and purchasing decisions of their followers. For many, that influence has translated into cash from both brand sponsorships and affiliate marketing.
Over the last decade, a robust network of affiliate-marketing platforms has developed.
Here’s how it works: When an influencer, blogger, or publisher shares links to products, they can use affiliate links; followers can spot these links in Instagram Story “swipe-ups,” link-in-bio landing pages, or the comments below YouTube videos.
Any sales those unique links drive are tracked, and the person who shared the link receives a commission from those sales.
For emerging or smaller creators — referred to as “nano” or “micro” influencers, who typically have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers — affiliate marketing is often the first step toward monetizing their social influence.
Influencers typically earn between 1% and 20% commissions from these sales, but the exact rate varies by platform and brand. For instance, retail programs for fashion brands often offer a lower rate compared to those of rates software or investing companies, according to industry professionals.
Kara Harms, a full-time travel-and-lifestyle creator with 78,000 Instagram followers, said affiliates have played a crucial role in her business since she started blogging about seven years ago.
“There’s a very low barrier to entry to using affiliate programs,” Harms told Insider in an email. “That’s why it’s such a powerful tool for all content creators, but especially new ones, to monetize their content quickly and effectively.”
For everyday brands, like Target or Madewell, Harms uses LTK, formerly known as RewardStyle. The influencer Amber Venz Box cofounded LTK eleven years ago. Now, the platform has over 200,000 creators and works with a network of over 6,000 retailers and brands. Brands set their own commission rates within the LTK platform, which can range from 1% to over 50%, according to Harms.
In 2021, earnings from affiliate marketing made up approximately 30% of Harms’ overall earnings.
But LTK isn’t the only tool helping creators like Harms earn money from creating content.
Some creators use MagicLinks, an affiliate network that partnered with the text-marketing startup Community to drive sales through texts. There are also brand-specific affiliate programs that are run independently of networks.
In our third annual list, Insider is highlighting the top affiliate programs social-media influencers use that offer high commission rates, access to top brands, and robust interfaces and tools. Each network has specific qualifications to apply, and some offer varying rates and tools — like shoppable apps or special tracking information.
The list was determined by Insider based on our reporting and nominations from industry insiders.
Here are the 9 top affiliate-marketing platforms:
Note: Companies are listed in alphabetical order.