The top 9 affiliate-marketing programs that influencers use to recommend products and earn money from sales

  • Many influencers earn money when their followers buy products they recommend through a trackable link.
  • Influencers receive a cut of every sale, typically between 1% and 20%.
  • Insider is highlighting the top 9 affiliate-marketing networks used by influencers in 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the most straightforward and accessible ways that influencers can start earning money is by recommending products to their followers through commission-based affiliate marketing.

In short, affiliate marketing is when an influencer, blogger, or publisher shares a product through a specific link. Purchases made through this link are tracked, and the person who shared the link will receive a cut of every sale made.

This form of income is a particularly effective way for emerging “nano” and “micro” influencers (with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers) to start making money and working with sponsors

Influencers typically share affiliate links on Instagram Story “swipe-ups” or in the comments below a YouTube video. Some have even started texting their followers links to their favorite products as a way to drive sales through features like affiliate-marketing network MagicLinks’ Text2Shop, which is powered by the text-marketing startup Community

Publishers also use affiliate marketing, with special links in travel articles or product reviews, for example. 

More recently, the social-media platforms influencers use to connect with and grow their audiences are tapping into affiliate marketing. In June, Instagram announced it was building its own native affiliate-marketing tools.

Influencers typically earn between 1% and 20% commission from these links. Retail programs generally offer a lower rate, while rates from tech programs run higher, according to industry professionals.

There are a number of factors that play into the percentage, including what type of content the influencers create. For instance, some finance influencers make a considerable percentage of their income from affiliate links for investing apps like Robinhood or Acorns. 

One personal-finance influencer, Tori Dunlap told Insider in March that she earns between $85 and $125 every time someone clicks on an affiliate link she shares on TikTok.

“I might post a video about how to save money and mention that a high yield savings account is the best place to keep money for short-term goals,” Dunlap said. “Then, I’ll say, ‘The one I recommend is linked in my bio’.” 

Affiliate marketing is especially useful for creators like Dunlap, who share advice and recommendations. If an influencer is frequently sharing products or content that is shoppable, joining affiliate-marketing networks can be “worth it,” micro influencer Lissette Calveiro told Insider. 

But affiliate marketing takes time and work, from getting onboarded into a program to navigating the platforms, and finding the right links and products. Some influencers also juggle several affiliate marketing platforms at once if they’re promoting more than one brand, which is why Calveiro suggests creators keep a running spreadsheet of all their links and codes.

In our second annual list, Insider is highlighting some of the top affiliate programs used by social-media influencers 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, conversations with industry insiders, and the nominations that we received.

Here are the top 9 affiliate networks influencers use, listed in alphabetical order: 

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