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Influencer Marketing vs. Paid Media: Which Is Better for ROI?

May 2, 2024

Brands have been utilizing paid media for decades to drive brand awareness and increase sales. But, brands looking to be successful in today’s competitive and ever-changing market need to implement influencer marketing into their marketing mix. 

Rakuten found that more than 80% of brands utilize some form of affiliate marketing, such as influencer marketing. Moreover, Influencer Marketing Hub found that 67% of brands plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets.

This article will cover the fundamentals of paid media and influencer marketing. Then, we’ll compare the two and go over why brands are seeing better returns with influencer marketing. 

Paid Media vs. Influencer Marketing

The majority of today’s consumers place more credibility in other consumers than in advertisements in paid media coming from brands. Consumers continuously report and even brag about buying something recommended by an influencer. 

Paid media involves brands utilizing advertising channels to purchase advertising space to increase brand visibility. This happens most often through television, radio, display spaces on websites, and even sponsored posts on social media. Paid media offers brands complete control of their media presence, including the wording and imagery used to promote the brand. 

As a result, it gives brands flexibility in how and where they wish to promote their products and services while allowing them to optimize their marketing campaigns to improve outcomes. This precise control and flexibility are the reasons why brands have been using paid media for decades. 

On the other hand, influencer marketing may not offer this level of control and flexibility, but it makes up for it in its overall effectiveness. Influencer marketing involves brands paying influencers, who have a dedicated and carefully curated social media following, to endorse or promote their products in the form of branded content or sponsored posts they create and share on social media. Influencers are often deemed as “industry experts” in a given niche in the eyes of their audience. 

Therefore, today’s consumers trust influencers with their product recommendations more than faceless brands that utilize paid media to promote themselves. Influencers have built trust and loyalty with their audience over time, so their product recommendations hold higher value to today’s consumers than product recommendations from brands through paid media. As influencer marketing only continues to develop along with the consumers’ needs, paid media stays stagnant and doesn’t contribute to credibility. 

Influencer marketing doesn’t require brands to be experts in how to best market themselves and engage with their audience compared to paid media. Paid media typically involves extensive expertise to effectively create and optimize content that best resonates with the target audience and delivers results. 

On the other hand, the influencer is usually the expert in developing and providing the most effective content to their niche audience. Brands also benefit from the content influencers produce because they can later repurpose it across various marketing channels, such as social media profiles, newsletters, and paid media. These added benefits allow brands to run effective influencer campaigns that deliver proven results, all at a more moderate cost than paid media typically. 

Today, brands have access to countless macro-influencers, micro-influencers, and even nano influencers. All three types of influencers are uniquely effective at engaging with their audiences and driving sales, with the only difference being their audience size. 

The smaller micro and nano influencers often have better engagement and conversion rates than their larger counterparts, the big macro influencers. The smaller micro and nano influencers benefit from the more intimate level of closeness they share with their followers, making their recommendations even more influential. 

By partnering with the right influencers, brands can reach new and relevant audiences and increase sales more effectively than paid media. In addition, influencer marketing is a powerful tool for brands to build instant trust and credibility to increase brand awareness and sales. 

The Bottom Line

Influencer marketing offers endless possibilities and benefits for brands compared to paid media. It allows brands to reach new audiences and increase conversions. Refersion can help take your affiliate marketing program to the next level. To better understand your affiliate marketing program, check out our 3 Tips for Understanding, Measuring, and Growing Your Affiliate Marketing Program and ROI.

Additional FAQ

What are the specific challenges or risks associated with influencer marketing compared to traditional paid media? 

The specific challenges or risks associated with influencer marketing compared to traditional paid media include potential issues with brand alignment and authenticity. Since influencers are individuals whose actions and opinions can fluctuate, there’s a risk they might engage in behavior that doesn’t align with a brand’s values or could damage the brand’s reputation. 

How can brands effectively measure the qualitative impact of influencer marketing, such as brand sentiment or customer loyalty, beyond just ROI?

Measuring the qualitative impact of influencer marketing, like brand sentiment or customer loyalty, requires a mix of direct and indirect methods. Brands often use social listening tools to monitor changes in how people talk about their brand across social platforms. Surveys and focus groups can also gauge customer attitudes and satisfaction. Analyzing these metrics over time helps brands understand the broader impact of influencer campaigns on consumer perception and loyalty, beyond direct sales.

What strategies should brands use to choose the right influencers to ensure alignment with their brand values and target audience?

Choosing the right influencers involves several strategies to ensure they align with brand values and reach the intended audience. Brands should conduct thorough research into an influencer’s content, audience demographics, engagement rate, and brand compatibility. It’s crucial to assess whether the influencer’s followers match the brand’s target market. Additionally, brands should consider the influencer’s reputation and past collaborations to ensure consistency and reliability in promoting brand values.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey