Overview: Influencer Marketing is simultaneously one of the most important (while being one of the most misunderstood) tactics used in brand promotion today. The vast majority of people have seen or heard of numerous studies showcasing the value of it having significant impact compared to nearly any other kind of product available to them.
But, when some brands run a campaign, they don’t see the views they wanted or have their “viral” moment, even after months of planning. While it is easy to point fingers, the problem comes from working with someone you view as a marketing tool instead of as a creator, automatically setting you down the wrong path that most campaigns cannot recover from.
Who is a Content Creator?
Creators post on one or more platforms, whether longform YouTube, short form on Instagram Reels, Live via Twitch, or any combination of more than one of these and other sites or apps.
They do so without the backing of a major production company or media enterprise (at least at the start of their channel). From there, they continue to create as they build an organic audience who regularly consume and interact with their content. This audience can be from thousands to tens of millions of people each time they post, and they are coming back often, reliably, and regularly.
What creators aren’t, though, are content farms. When something is built purely to get views and take advantage of an algorithm without a genuine connection, these are channels with followers. The difference for the marketer is that while the video may still get views and exposure from these channels without personality, it is no different than seeing a billboard on the side of the highway. The industry relies on the trust built between content creators and their audiences.
One of the biggest misunderstandings from classic media to digital media comes from the perception that digital-first creators can be viewed the same as linear television or a movie studio. And there are outliers with those who have transcended between the two sides of entertainment. Still, the vast majority have gained their fandom by not just recreating exactly what is seen on television, studio-backed streaming, or movies. Being different is what made them standout.
The creative from an influencer will be more raw, and smaller teams are taking on the tasks that larger production studios would do in traditional media and have to do it daily to weekly across multiple outlets.
This ingenuity in content has become a part of their identity. Not to be confused with a lack of quality but instead viewed as a quality of a different kind of media form. Depending on the creator and their channel, language may be a little grittier, but that is what has driven the audience there. How they frame a shot or address the camera would most likely be shunned if seen in film school, but doing that is what got them where they are. And where they are is usually the main reason why brands want to work with them.
A creator has spent the same amount of time you would at your full-time job on their content, day in and day out. They’ve thought about thousands of ways to make videos or broadcast streams. If a creator pushes back heavily, it is time to trust them since they understand what has and has not worked for them in the past. Most important to any creator is that they feel no single deal is worth putting their channel as a whole at risk. Forced creative under delivers at best or leads to backlash at worst.
Share Your Goals, Not Your Creative
Dialogue with a creator is one of the most important things to nail for the success of a campaign. It is surprising how many brands don't do this when this is a critical step in the success of a campaign. Tell the creator what result you're hoping for and ask them what they believe would make that happen. Are you looking for a tune-in? The purchase of an item? Extended time spent with your IP? Tell them your KPIs and what results would make a successful campaign for your product. Don’t tell them the way to get there.
Sometimes, a marketing team member will want to dictate the audience's response. While that creative may be brand-approved and an internal team likes it, that doesn't always mean the creator will or thinks it will be successful on their channel. In many cases, if they don't like it they'll either pass on the opportunity or it won't feel authentic when posted, jeopardizing your campaign and spending.
Instead, give them a few thought starters and see how they feel. Ask them what they'd change or what doesn't work and what can be done to make something bigger, better, and something their fans will love. Those questions excite creatives and will spawn meaningful content for your brand and your goals.
At the End of the Day…
If you choose to work with Content Creators, understand why you’re working with them. Creators aren’t just productized metrics; there are intangibles beyond data points that made them so popular and beloved by their audiences. Their creativity and personality got them on that ride you want to hop onto to bring your campaign to the next level, so trust them and trust their feedback.
Most importantly, have a team working with you who understands Creators and speaks their language. People who consume digital first-creator content will be able to advocate for you, have tough conversations when needed, and help bring forward the concepts that will get you the success you’re hoping for.
Just remember, these are Creators first, and influencer marketing is just one weapon in their arsenal. Your brand will want to ensure to wield it properly.
- written by John Carle, VP, Creator Relations