The Age of the Creator

As the influencer marketing arena continues to evolve, integrated marketing becomes ever more important and creativity remains crucial to brands’ campaign success, what’s next for influencers? Katie Hunter, Social & Influencer Lead, Karmarama explores how agencies, brands and influencers stay relevant, and enhance creative value beyond reach and follower numbers.

Gone are the days of quick fix influencer solutions and scales of efficiency; influencer marketing has changed.

The re-brief

Gone are the days of quick fix influencer solutions and scales of efficiency; influencer marketing has changed. Regulations surrounding #ad made things clear and transparent but potentially superficial. Fake followers took everyone back a bit for a moment, and then there was the ever-expanding world of ‘the influencer’ to navigate. Making it hard to know where to start and whose rules to follow. We’ve all had to grow up and wise up a bit.

 

The evolution of content creation via influencers

We know for certain to expect more considered approaches, more innovative solutions, quick-fire algorithm changes and painstaking due diligence (no one wants a fake follower frenzy on their evaluation). Therefore, it’s inevitable that the way we incorporate influencer content into campaigns is going to shift, and that’s no bad thing. The challenge is how we can help influencers explore, utilise and assert their creativity in a way that will work for the brand or the client? But also for creative teams, above-the-line (ATL), media plans, PR and social content (beyond the influencers’ own posts). We need to start thinking of influencers, whatever their size, less as borrowed reach or credibility and more collaboratively as creators.

Ultimately, the ability to grow huge followings through content is no mean feat and that talent should be realised. But it isn’t quite enough to send a one-liner and expect an ad to come back, and that shouldn’t be the ambition either. We should be using this ever-expanding pool of incredibly varied content creators to strengthen our own creative offering, helping to bolster, broaden – and to a degree – inform wider campaigns so that we’re not only creating assets, but advocates and genuinely engaged audiences too.

The move to longer-term ambassador roles and advocacy plays is nothing new for the influencer marketing world either, but what these relationships look like and what they produce is something that still needs to be defined. Again, a one-line brief and sporadic posts posing for product launches is transparent and painful and we’re being told this constantly by creators, through the comments, and by creative peers. There is a need for more thoughtful curation and collaboration to grow love, followers and engagement.

 

Back to basics

Here are five key considerations when working with creators to get the best results:

 

  1. Honest objectives

The influencer/creator bit cannot be a bolt-on or afterthought. Whether about sales, high quality social assets, scale or credibility, nothing sits in isolation. Without a true sense of the full content journey it’s tough to know where to start with collaborators or the right approach to using their content. Therefore, consider carefully where the content needs to go; who needs to see it, and how that content needs to sit within, or complement, additional campaign facets.

 

  1. Content is still creative

Authenticity and good relationships come in a few different forms and if you find the right people to work with, that’s even easier to cultivate. Worry about brand safety, fake followers and partnership overload, of course. But don’t let that be at the sacrifice of style, tone, innovative use of formats and platforms, less trodden ground for topics and genuine brand love. Ask if this partner is going to create content that is exciting and engaging for your target audience. Are they going to represent your brand in a way that will stand out from the mass of content streaming through Instagram?

 

Content quality comes from good ideas, an understanding of the brand and its strategy, and a bravery to do something a little different.

  1. The brief just isn’t brief anymore

The responsibility for creating strong content with great creators doesn’t end with the agent, platform or contract. As campaigns become more complicated and integrated, the role of the brand or agency in the development of content becomes more instrumental. Be rigorous with your creative brief. Is it answering all the objectives? Are you working collaboratively with the influencer (whether via their agent or directly) to scrutinise, develop and adapt the brief? Are you working towards the right platforms and content formats?

Trust creators to come back with ideas based on what they know works for their channel, but that doesn’t mean losing all input on the process. A multi-stage process can really help to ensure things are going in the right direction for all parties and avoid the dreaded re-shoot once content is created, which is a nicer process for everyone.

 

  1. Don’t let KPIs foil creativity

There is an ever-growing need to justify results and activity. Think data, data, data… and more data. And comparing the numbers, redesigning the measurement framework and justifying ROI. The challenge here is that the ‘softer’ metrics are missed. But they shouldn’t fall by the wayside or so will quality and meaning of content. Again, collaborative ways of working are important here, as is a good relationship between the client and agency and some helpful ways to articulate and justify these KPIs to the wider business but thinking beyond the numeric results is crucial for quality control. If the content is crap, the creator hates it, or their audiences don’t care about, a follower base of 500k+ isn’t going to make a positive difference to brand perception or advocacy. This goes back to the need for honest objectives and a real mission for the campaign content from the word go in order to manage outputs and expectations.

 

Thinking beyond one campaign at a time is fast becoming key to authenticity and effective content.

 

  1. Get committed

Thinking beyond one campaign at a time is fast becoming key to authenticity and effective content. We shouldn’t be afraid to work with creators on a longer-term basis, to really immerse them in the brand and take their steer on production ideas. This is also a great way to maintain control over disclaimers, brand messaging, content usage and audience data. The more you’re working with someone, the more committed to delivering high quality work they’ll be, and they more they’ll understand it. This shift in ways of working also marks a significant departure from the perception that creator content should be free. We should be acknowledging and paying for the quality and fame achieved, and longer-term relationships are only going to make this a more beneficial approach for everyone.

 

Summary

In a world where creativity and data can co-exist, we need to reconsider the role creators and influencers play in campaign content and its amplification. Content quality comes from good ideas, an understanding of the brand and its strategy, and a bravery to do something a little different. Working with influencers shouldn’t be any different, regardless of the pressure of ROI and popularity through association.

The key take-away? Start treating influencers as a key component in the content creation process and assess and evaluate them accordingly. Let them get to know your brand, think longer term and try to prevent last minute panic buys. We’ve all been there, and it almost always backfires. There’s definitely a much bigger picture emerging and key to that is a step change in content.

 

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Katie Hunter – Social & Influencer Lead at Karmarama

After starting out in PR ten years ago, Katie has worked at agencies including PrettyGreen and OMD UK across a range of entertainment and FMCG brands. Now Social & Influencer Lead at creative agency Karmarama, Katie continues work with brands to grow their social content and influencer marketing strategy, and well as exploring new ways to drive creativity across digital channels.

This post is also available in: Italian

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