Influencer marketing is an industry currently worth nearly $14 billion. This is more than 10 times its value just five years ago when it broke $1 billion.
But since the explosion of creator content across new and old channels at the outbreak of COVID-19, experts are examining a bigger wave – the Creator Economy. Both industries – influencer and creator – account for more word-of-mouth marketing and online community engagement than any other medium.
“The creator economy is the collection, creation, and distribution of all content in our current digital world. At the center of the creator economy are social media channels where like-minded users and creators interact to form highly engaged online communities.”
Not only has this development expedited the demand for authentic content from non-branded sources, but it has also encouraged marketers to examine more diverse partnerships. And managing these partnerships effectively is of utmost importance when executing digital marketing strategy in the 21st Century.
What is a creator?
Creators make content that attracts online engagement and forms digital communities.
The Creator Economy is a vast industry encompassing bloggers, vloggers, crafters, photographers, thought leaders, athletes, coaches, professionals, and so much more. Anyone who consistently publishes compelling content falls within the category of “creator.”
Creators are active predominantly on social media. They may choose to engage others from public social profiles, private instant messaging channels, or their own website/app. For easier discovery and a wider reach, most creators are active on more than one platform or medium.
What is a creator’s role within influencer marketing?
In influencer marketing, brands seek partnerships with creators who have earned the full attention of their audience.
Instead of blasting their message to millions of consumers with competing interests, brands can zero in on engaged online communities that share the same values, lifestyles, goals, and aspirations. When brands build relationships with the right creators, they gain instant access to the credibility built within that creator’s entire community.
Are creators influencers?
Influencers are a type of creator, but not all creators are influencers.
There are many similarities between these two types. For example…
- Both leverage digital content to engage others and nurture online communities.
- Both tend to be especially skilled on the leading social media platforms, including:
- Both must resonate with large audiences (usually maintaining 1,000 or more followers on their preferred channels) and must produce authentic content to be successful.
But the terms “creator” and “influencer” are not interchangeable. The key difference between the two is the creator/influencer’s purpose.
The ultimate goal of creators is to connect and engage people with similar goals, values, and lifestyles. While influencers do those things, they also tend to prioritize their brand partnerships and leverage online communities to guide more informed buying decisions.
What are the key differences between creators and influencers?
|Artists with a strong online presence and personal brand||May begin as artists but will eventually prioritize their entrepreneurial endeavors & brand partnerships|
|Engagement from genuine follower relationships often take priority over brand partnerships||Brand partnerships become the cornerstone of personal brand growth|
|Monetizes their content through multiple sources (tipping, Patreon, brand ambassadorships, etc.) or not at all||Monetizes their content primarily through brand partnerships|
|“Creator” is the broader term (there are far more creators than there are influencers)||“Influencer” refers to a select group of trend setters|
Are creators better than influencers?
On the surface, it may seem like creators are more genuine in their desire to make original content and engage audiences. But in reality, a creator or influencer’s authenticity varies based on who that individual is and the content that they create.
If you’re a brand, the important questions to ask are:
- What are your campaign goals?
- Who does your audience listen to?
What you’re trying to understand is which type is a better fit for your brand. And what is best for one brand or marketing goal may not be ideal for another.
For example, non-influencer creators can leverage their follower relationships to spread accurate information, promote social values, or drive sales for exclusive brand ambassadorships.
On the other hand, influencers tend to garner the attention of informed shoppers – people who want to know the latest fashion, launches, or trends. They may have larger audiences and be better suited for raising brand awareness.
Most intermediate and advanced programs include a healthy mix of all creator and influencer types.
How do influencers become creators?
Influencers are already creators. But each term carries certain connotations. Many view creators as those who serve more niche audiences. If an influencer decides that they want to become this kind of creator, then they have to narrow their focus.
For the average influencer, it can be difficult to retain personal connections with a massive audience.
Some influencers may feel inauthentic when appealing to a broad audience and prefer to connect with fans with whom they are more aligned. They will tailor their content to reach niche groups and look for ways to make the creator-follower relationship more personal.
Influencers who revert to the “creator life” may actually prefer to see the size of their audience shrink for the sake of better quality connections and content.
How do creators become influencers?
A far more common transition occurs when creators begin to have a much wider appeal than they anticipated. They might decide to accept their viral status and grow their personal brand.
These creators can broaden their reach by publishing content that feels inclusive to more audiences. They may also reach out to their favorite brands or offer unsolicited shoutouts when using certain products.
At this point, creators begin to look more and more like influencers. And so long as they produce authentic content, they can achieve great success for themselves and their brand partners.
What does the creator economy mean for brands?
Because of the rapidly-growing pool of talented creators, brands don’t have to get “pigeon-holed” into one or two traditional influencer types. Marketers have more partnership options than they’ve ever had.
Additionally, brands can narrow their message and marketing campaigns to countless niche audiences. This approach allows them to personalize the customer experience in more meaningful ways with the help of dynamic creator relationships.
Lastly, the growing talent pool and increased personalization helps brands incorporate their partnerships into every stage of the buyer’s journey. Marketers can leverage different kinds of effective creator partnerships and tailor those partnerships to achieve different goals and KPIs.
But with each new opportunity comes a different set of challenges. Casting a wider creator net and employing more partnership types can strain marketing teams. For this reason, brands are investing resources into creator management tools.
What is creator management?
Creator management is any task or process that oversees brand-creator relationships. Creator managers streamline the following components in order to boost program ROI:
- Creator prospecting
- Creator recruiting & onboarding
- Relationship management
- Product gifting & fulfillment
- Content management
- Campaign workflow
- Performance tracking & reporting
A key piece of creator management is knowing which partnerships are working. It makes little sense to invest in relationships that are benefiting neither the brand nor the creator.
To accurately measure creator ROI, marketers must define their campaign goals and break those goals down into actionable KPIs.
Some of the most common campaign goals are:
- Increase brand awareness
- Drive sales/conversions
- Boost social sentiment
- Inform buyers
- Increase website traffic
- Maintain a library of high-quality content
When building KPIs, brands must define what it means to reach a goal. For example, a campaign goal of brand awareness could easily accompany the following KPIs:
- Reach # followers on brand IG page by [deadline]
- Reach # page views by [deadline]
- Get # engagements on branded posts
The ideas above are by no means prescriptive – your goals and KPIs will always be unique to your brand. By setting goals and KPIs, you will clearly see what’s working, what isn’t, and what steps you can take to refine your creator management process.
Authentic brand-creator relationships
To achieve best results, marketers must work with creators directly. This approach ensures that the relationship is genuine, which in turn produces authentic content that resonates with the creator’s audience.
“Creator management is a genuine partnership between you and your creators. There is no network or marketplace in the middle, treating creators like an ad buy. It’s just you and your creators, mano a mano.” – GRIN, Creator Management: No Middlemen
Quality creator management means treating creators as relationships rather than transactions. That means that brands can’t cut corners if they want to reach consumers and achieve maximum ROI.
How creator management software can help
For new programs, it’s doable to manage creator partnerships using a collection of spreadsheets and saving email threads. But once your brand is working with a handful of creators across multiple partnership types, the manual process will suck away time that you don’t have.
Before you hire another team member, consider whether adding a creator management platform could help you achieve more with less.
Many social media platforms have helpful discovery tools, such as profile and hashtag search capabilities. But once you’re developing a robust creator “pipeline” to grow your team, those social tools won’t be advanced enough to help you achieve your program goals.
With a creator management system, you can perform advanced searches with filters to help you find the right creator prospect faster. Additionally, a good platform will include basic social listening features and creator/influencer look-alike tools (finding other creators that are just like your top performers).
Creator recruiting & onboarding
After identifying your shortlist of possible creator partners, you will need a platform to help you systemize and improve your recruiting process. This includes managing email communications, contracts, brand introductory materials, and more.
If your program is already up and running, it’s likely that there are creators that love your brand and want to collaborate. A creator management system can help you reduce the time it takes to take a creator from prospect to active status using various inbound request tools.
As you define goals for each of your partnerships, software will allow you to keep track of all the critical details for each relationship and partnership category.
Maintaining strong relationships with your creators requires you to know and update things like…
- Creator social handles
- Name, gender, industry, etc.
- Addresses (to ship products)
- Partnership terms
- Campaign goals/KPIs/deliverables
- Any unique detail that helps you personalize the brand-creator experience
Product gifting & fulfillment
One essential part of any creator collaboration is ensuring that your creators receive product gifts promptly. On the surface, this may not seem like much of a challenge. But in reality, any number of issues – bad inventory management, wrong sizes, shipping delays, etc. – could derail an entire campaign and hurt your relationships with creators.
The best creator management platforms integrate your CRM with your ecommerce store. This feature ensures that inventory is updated in real time, simplifies the gifting process (you don’t have to manually upload/send product cards), and doesn’t interfere with your campaign timelines.
A common technique in influencer marketing is to organize creator content and reuse that content across multiple mediums, including paid ads, email newsletters, and websites. Not only can automation guarantee that your contracts include rights to content, but it will also pull campaign posts and organize them for future use.
One of the most valuable things you can do as a marketer is keep track of your top-performing creator content. Doing so will reduce your costs and increase the effectiveness of branded content across your owned and paid media channels.
To run a well-coordinated campaign, you need your creators and marketing team to complete next steps to prevent bottlenecks. In many cases, a quick turnaround is essential to achieving best results.
Your campaign workflows should keep critical tasks from falling through the cracks. A robust creator management software will automate tedious steps and promptly inform the right person when it is their turn to take action.
Prompt and accurate payments to your creators maintains positive relationships and builds trust. Additionally, tracking payments helps you establish program ROI and file taxes correctly.
A creator management platform can send and monitor these payments, whether calculating commissions or figuring in the cost of gifted products.
Performance tracking & reporting
After setting goals and KPIs, it’s important to assess the effectiveness of each campaign through accurate reporting. You need reports for yourself, your team, and your boss.
But putting manual reports together is time-consuming when you don’t have the numbers readily available. That’s why the right creator software saves you time and improves the quality of your reporting – every metric is stored in one place for easy recall.
The right tool won’t just help you demonstrate program ROI, but it will also show you how to improve each piece of your creator program.
The creator economy allows brands to think beyond the traditional celebrity endorsement or influencer campaign. Collaborative brand-creator relationships can maximize each and every customer touch point so as to dramatically reduce customer acquisition costs.
But managing creator partnerships directly can be complex and time-consuming. Creator management software simplifies the process, cuts work hours by half (or more), and can scale programs tenfold.