Affiliate Marketing vs MLM: What You Need to Know About Both

If you’re looking to earn some additional income, affiliate marketing is an effective way to do so. Unfortunately, many people mistake affiliate marketing for multi-level marketing (MLM). This misconception prevents some from starting what could otherwise be an enjoyable and lucrative side business.

Unlike MLM businesses, affiliate marketing programs are free to join and don’t require you to recruit anyone into a “network.” Understanding the differences between affiliate marketing vs MLM can help you see how the first can actually result in a decent income.

In this post, we'll explain how both strategies work, highlighting the key differences between them. Then we'll explore some of the advantages of affiliate marketing specifically. Let's get to it!

Affiliate Marketing vs MLM: Understanding the Difference

Multi-level marketing, also referred to as network marketing or pyramid selling, is a strategy in which non-salaried participants promote and sell a product or service. The earnings are commission-based and derive from sales to end-users or to other distributors the seller has recruited into their network.

Unfortunately, MLMs are structured in a way that mainly benefits only those at the top of the hierarchy. They are very similar to pyramid schemes in this way. The only real difference is that in an MLM you make a commission on product sales to customers, whereas pyramid schemes base their pay on network recruitment.

Although MLM is not illegal and true pyramid schemes are, there are some notable similarities between the two. Even in a legal MLM, it's rare that participants make a profit. The startup investments are typically so high that it is difficult to recoup the money you put in.

Affiliate marketing is much different. With this strategy, participants choose which products they promote and earn a commission on every sale they make. This money is paid by the retailer or business to the affiliate for driving traffic, sales, or referrals. There is no network recruiting involved.

There are also no startup fees for joining an affiliate marketing program. As long as you have a method for promoting brands, you can begin doing so for free. Many people find this strategy very profitable, and the relationship is mutually beneficial for the company and individual affiliates.

3 Advantages of Affiliate Marketing vs MLM Programs

Hopefully, you now have an idea of the basic differences between these two strategies. Next, let's take a look at three advantages of affiliate marketing vs MLM programs.

1. You Can Choose Which Products You Sell Based on Your Interests

One of the benefits of affiliate marketing programs is the level of control you have. For starters, you get to pick which brands you want to work with and which products or services you want to promote.

This means you have the opportunity to focus on products you are genuinely interested in and passionate about. When you choose items you're familiar with and actually use, you're able to help consumers make informed buying decisions.

Some popular and profitable niche categories for affiliate programs include health, wealth, and hobbies. is an example of an affiliate website based around something many people are passionate about – their pets:

The DogFoodAdvisor website.

With MLMs, you're limited to pushing specific products your parent company has chosen. You may or may not be interested in these items, and trying to sell something you don't believe in may be difficult.

2. There's No Cost To Join, and Each Sale Earns You Money

MLMs typically have membership fees and other startup costs. Most participants have to invest in a kit containing products they're supposed to sell. While promoters often receive discounts on these products, the amount usually only covers the cost of being part of the network.

In many MLMs, marketers also have to earn a certain number of points before they see any actual money. Most of the revenue you can make in this structure, if any, comes from recruiting other people into your network.

Affiliate marketing, on the other hand, is free to join. You'll earn a percentage of every sale you make, and can track your revenue with a tool such as Affiliate Royale:

The Affiliate Royale website.

Our plugin is an all-in-one affiliate management platform that you can easily integrate with your WordPress site. Being able to use tools such as this one to start your own program speaks to the freedom and flexibility this marketing technique permits.

3. You Have Complete Control Over How You Promote Products

Affiliate marketing programs monitor their participants' sales through the use of special tracking links. Brands can see how customers arrived at their sites and give credit to the promoter who directed traffic their way.

Therefore, there's a wide range of methods you can use for affiliate marketing promotions. Almost anywhere you can post your link is a viable option, so long as you aren't spamming others with comments or emails. Some of the most popular include websites or blogs, product reviews, social media, and videos.

YouTube is a popular platform for affiliate marketing promotions because you can include the affiliate links in the video description:

A YouTube video description containing affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing can be done entirely online, and you can sell to complete strangers. Although many MLM participants can make sales this way, most of their revenue comes from direct communications.

MLM hinges on recruiting other members. Therefore, a lot more personal interaction is needed in order to build out a network. Often, this can involve tactics that some consider annoying.

With affiliate marketing, you're often only speaking to people who are likely to be interested in your products. For example, with an affiliate website, you can optimize your content to target people who are searching for products in your niche.


Affiliate marketing and MLM programs are often confused. However, unlike the former strategy, it's incredibly difficult to earn a profit as part of an MLM.

As we discussed in this article, there are three advantages to affiliate marketing vs MLM programs:

  1. You can choose the products you sell based on your interests.
  2. There’s no cost to join, and you earn money on every sale.
  3. You have complete control over how you promote products.

Do you have any questions about affiliate marketing? Let us know in the comments section below!

How to Build a Target Audience Profile (In 4 Steps)

target audience profile

Marketing to the right audience is more important than ever. With today's global e-commerce market, it’s easy to see very little return on your marketing efforts. But it doesn’t make sense to target everyone, so how do you know who the correct audience is for your business?

One way to answer that question is to create a target audience profile. This can be a powerful marketing tool for any business. A profile gives you a structured look at the needs your audience has that your products or services can meet, the features and content that matter most to them, and the messaging that will resonate. 

In this article, we’ll talk about what a target audience profile is and why it’s important for your business. Then we’ll explain how to create one in just four steps. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to the Target Audience Profile (And Why It Matters)

Your target audience is a group of potential customers for your business. It encompasses all those who are most likely to respond positively to your promotions, products, and services.

To understand those potential customers, you can create a target audience profile, which is a description of their most common characteristics. This often includes key demographics such as location, age, gender, and income.

Trying to sell without knowing your audience is like driving with your eyes closed. Analyzing your customer base and determining commonalities among its individuals enables you to more specifically target your marketing efforts, which can result in more sales. 

Target audience profiles (also known as personas), offer direction for your marketing and make it easier to deliver consistent messaging. If your products match with what your audience is looking for, you're more likely to drive conversions.

How to Build a Target Audience Profile (In 4 Steps)

You probably already have some idea of who your customers will be. You may use customer feedback, testimonials, or other social proof as part of your marketing efforts already, which is a good place to start.

However, having a comprehensive target audience profile will help you better define what your customers are looking for, and decide how you can serve their needs. Fortunately, creating a useful profile isn't hard. It simply requires a bit of time and research. 

Step 1: Create Broad Descriptions of Your Ideal Customers

Before you look at specific demographics, you'll want to consider what is important to your customers, and what makes them want to do business with you. This is where customer reviews may come in handy, as well as any existing data or analytics you have on your current customer base.

First, consider your customers’ attitudes toward your product. How do they feel about it, and what problems does it solve for them? Some other questions to think about at this stage include:

  • Why have they chosen your product over your competition’s? 
  • Do your customers need coaching to understand the value of your product, or is it clear upfront? 
  • Do they care more about the product or its features?

For example, let’s say you sell help desk software so businesses can better manage employee and customer communication. Consider the following profile:

Larry is a small business owner. He currently uses Gmail to communicate with his employees and customers, but his business is growing and he finds it increasingly difficult to manage his emails. He wants to continue to provide personalized support for customers.

Based on this broad profile, we can assume that some important selling points for Larry would include pricing and scalability. Since Larry’s business is small, he needs whatever product he chooses to be affordable, but he also wants it to be able to grow with his business. 

Step 2: Research Your Potential Customers’ Demographics

Now that you have some broad descriptions of your potential customers, you can begin to add more detail. Including demographic information in your target audience profile will help you better understand your customer base.

Some basic demographics may be easy to identify. If you sell beauty products, for example, your audience is likely to be mostly women. Other demographics may require more research to identify, such as:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Job and income
  • Family status
  • Preferred social media sites

Once you have this information, you'll better understand the motivations of your target audience. 

Step 3: Identify the Needs and Problems of Your Target Audience 

By now, you have a good idea of who your ideal customers are. Next, you'll need to identify their needs and pain points. 

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers, and look at your products or services from their point of view. What motivates them to buy? Some other things to consider include:

  • What concerns might they have that your product helps them feel better about?
  • How does your product solve a problem they're facing? 
  • What are they worried about that might prevent them from buying your product?

Consider your customers’ needs based on this information, and you'll have a much better idea about how to present your products in a way that makes them appealing. Knowing your target audience may also help you to define your niche in the market. 

Step 4: Determine Where Customers Will Find You

Last but not least, it’s important to think about how customers will find your company or offerings. It doesn’t matter how great your products are if your customers can’t find them and don’t know they exist. 

Think about how your customers are likely to stumble across your business. This requires finding out where they already spend their time online, and asking questions such as:

  • What websites do they visit?
  • What blogs do they read?
  • Which social media sites do they frequent?
  • What are the search terms they use?
  • What content appeals to them?

For example, if you sell professional products, you may consider using LinkedIn as part of your marketing efforts. If you sell entertainment products, on the other hand, you may consider a site like BuzzFeed

What matters is to reach out to your audience in spaces they're already familiar and comfortable with. This increases your odds of finding the right people and grabbing their attention.


Without knowing who your target audience is, much of your marketing efforts will fall on deaf ears. Building a target audience profile will enable you to create more meaningful content that resonates with potential customers.

To build a target audience profile, simply follow these four steps:

  1. Create broad descriptions of your ideal customers.
  2. Research your potential customers’ demographics.
  3. Identify the needs and problems of your target audience.
  4. Determine where customers will find you.

Do you have any questions about how to create and use your target audience profile? Ask away in the comments section below!

3 Ways a Social Media Presence Can Benefit Your Affiliate Business

When promoting your affiliate business, it’s important to use every channel that can benefit your brand. Many marketers find social media to be time-consuming; they struggle to justify the time and effort required. A strong social media presence, however, can help your business grow by boosting site traffic and increasing interest in your brand. It's essential that you make time for social media on your weekly to-do list.

In this post, we’ll discuss three ways that a strong social media presence can benefit your affiliate business. In addition, we’ll show you how Affiliate Royale can help – especially when it comes to creating social media-friendly affiliate content. Let’s get started!

1. It Can Drive Quality, Targeted Traffic to Your Website

A Google Analytics graph showing traffic growth

A strong presence on social media can grow your site's traffic numbers.

Driving traffic to your website is essential for business growth. However, there’s a major difference between ‘regular’ traffic and quality, targeted traffic: targeted traffic is the type more likely to convert.

A strong social media presence helps you connect with your target audience, thus increasing targeted traffic to your website. In addition, social media gives you a platform for promoting on-site content (and attracting readers to said content).

Follow these two steps to use your social media presence to drive quality, targeted traffic to your site:

  1. Find the ‘right’ platforms for your audience. How ‘right’ a platform is will vary according to your business. In a nutshell, you want to find the platforms where your target audience hangs out most.
  2. Create ‘clickable’ content. Content that is compelling and that speaks directly to your target audience leads to more clicks.

Remember that not all traffic is created equal. To drive the ‘right' traffic to your site, you need to ensure you're following the steps above, and posting on your social media profiles consistently.

2. It Can Expand Your Industry Reach

Industry reach example as shown by number of Twitter followers

A social media presence enables you to use your followers to expand your industry reach.

Your ‘reach' simply means how far your brand extends beyond your immediate audience. A strong social media presence can expand your brand's reach. Your followers will share your content, delivering it to their own followers and so on.

With the proper techniques in place, expanding your reach with the help of social media is a breeze. Here are two particular techniques we think will be most beneficial:

  1. Include industry leaders by using hashtags and mentions. This is a simple way to increase the number of eyes on your posts, and maybe even make some vital business connections.
  2. Create ‘shareable’ content. Incorporate trending topics and audience engagement into your social media campaign to ensure that your content is shareable.

Aside from the obvious benefits of an expanded reach (such as more social media followers and potential leads), social media can also boost your credibility.

3. It Can Boost Your Credibility

An example of brand credibility on Twitter

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income hosts live chats (and includes special guests) to boost his brand's credibility.

As an affiliate marketer, you know that credibility can lend itself to improved sales. A social media presence can lead to such credibility. Your reach on social media can build trust among your followers and establish you as an industry leader.

Of course, presence alone won’t boost your credibility. There are two habits you can adopt to ensure you’re making the most of your platform:

  1. Use your platform to discuss industry-related news. This will show your followers that you’re well informed, and will also help to build your reputation as an industry expert.
  2. Engage with your audience, asking them questions and leading the conversation. Acting as a moderator can help you appear more knowledgeable. It also gives you the chance to see how your audience feels about certain topics.

These two techniques can go a long way in establishing you as an industry expert. A solid industry reputation is important if you want to continue to increase your brand and your website's credibility.

How Affiliate Royale Helps You Create Stellar Affiliate Content for Social Media

Affiliate Royale is an affiliate program management plugin. Its array of features can help you create a strong affiliate program and establish a strong social media presence through the use of the link and banner creation tool.

To use the tool, just head to Affiliate Royale > Links & Banners, located on the left side of your WordPress dashboard. You'll be brought to the Links & Banners settings page:

The Affiliate Royale Links and Banners tool options page

Once on the page, you can select either Text or Banner from the Link Type drop-down menu. You can then add the target URL, create a unique slug, and even upload the background image you’d like to use.

Once you're all done, you just need to copy the code or URL provided by the tool. Now, paste it to your social media profile or posts. It's really that simple!


With a strong social media presence, you can do more than just gain followers; you can also build lasting relationships with your audience and business contacts. You can broaden your reach and build your reputation. With these benefits, social media marketing is worth the time and effort you spend on it.

In this post, we’ve highlighted the benefits that an active social media presence can bring to your affiliate business. To recap, you can:

  1. Drive quality, targeted traffic to your website.
  2. Expand your industry reach.
  3. Boost your credibility.

Do you have any questions about how a strong social media presence can benefit your affiliate business, or how Affiliate Royale can help? Let us know in the comments section below!