Navigating Influencer Deals in the New Creator Economy
A Three Part Series on the Creator Economy
Written by Heidi Mika, Director of Influencer Marketing at Mekanism
Years ago, agencies were doing everything they could to convince brands of the value of working with creators — and then the pandemic happened. As we all began to spend more and more time on our phones, creators began to be utilized as a tool to test the waters for brands on emerging platforms (i.e. TikTok). But now, people — specifically brands — are seeing the value in user-generated and influencer-generated content. Inc. recently published an article suggesting creator content in advertising is delivering 11 times the ROI of traditional media channels. We’re currently seeing a revolution from the agency services perspective — most content will be coming from creators because it’s what people actually want to see on their feeds — and for that reason, it performs better than the typical creative ad. Keep reading to understand how to build mutually beneficial relationships between brands and creators.
How do creators decide what brand deals to take on? When is it worth/not worth the money?
Most creators who have been doing this for a while feel a sense of protectiveness over their personal brands and their audiences. Without that community, they won’t have long-term success. Creators typically ask themselves the following questions:
- Is the product safe?
- Is it something that the audience will be interested in?
- Is it something that I would actually use or purchase, and therefore recommend to my followers?
When the answer to these questions is “yes”, the creator needs to strategize how to seamlessly integrate the product into their content. Since authenticity on social media is key for creators, it can be difficult to create genuine sponsored content. Think about the “photo dump” trend on Instagram — that type of candid content is doing well for creators. Consumers are tired of the highly polished and unattainable influencer posts. They’ve seen the brand deals come and go, but know which products stayed because they added value to their lives.
How should brands navigate making deals with influencers to make sure the benefits are mutual? How do you decide which platform is the right fit for the partnership?
Unfortunately, there’s still a creative gap when working with influencers. Brands hold tightly onto their brand guidelines and can sometimes find it hard to give creators the freedom they’re asking for. In order to come to an agreement, brands and creators should come to the table with their creative vision, as well as any potential compromises that can be made.
At the end of the day, building relationships with creators isn’t just a display ad or a one-off integration. We like to look at it as if brands are patrons of the creators they’re partnering with and vice versa. This not only makes the sponsored content more authentic, but it helps brands build a relationship with new audiences, both on and off social media.
We’re seeing in the creator economy a difference between what creators put on their channels and what they can create that will live in paid media. There’s a lot more freedom to be more direct with brand messaging, and creators are usually more open to doing something that feels a bit more like advertising, since it won’t live on their channels. Paid media campaigns featuring content creators (check out Denny’s featured menu item with TikTok sensation Zachariah Porter), can be more brand-focused. Content creators are less precious about content that doesn’t live on their profiles.
The space continues to change and evolve. Where do you see it heading in the next 5 years?
We’re going to see more creator brands. Creators have been bringing in money from merchandise in addition to brand deals, so it only makes sense that we’ll see creators expand from t-shirts and hats to start developing real products to sell to their audiences (i.e. Logan Paul’s PRIME hydration drink).
Creative services like creative production and ideation for brands are also going to start to diminish. Polished, well-produced content isn’t what’s attracting viewers. Brands are going to create their own opportunities to work directly with creators — for example, Walmart just announced their creator platform. Creators are looking to follow the market and emerging social media trends.
- Brand/influencer relationships should stem from mutual interest. Brands should become patrons of a creator and vice versa.
- Creators are protective of their brands. Sponsored content that lives on their feeds needs to align with their brand, but sponsored content that exists in other media can be more tailored to the brand.
For more marketing and advertising insights and updates, visit the Mekanism blog.