There is no denying that content creators have shifted the world of social media and marketing. The creator economy is booming and as more brands seek out partnerships for their social media networks, marketers need to understand how to remain creative and confident when building their strategies.
In this article we’ll lay out why creator marketing is a must for marketers over the next year. We’ll also give you tips on how to craft a creator marketing strategy and answer frequently asked questions.
What is creator marketing?
Creator marketing is when brands partner with content creators to drive awareness and engagement for specific campaigns or initiatives. It goes beyond simply publishing one post with the help of a creator. It focuses on the larger strategy at play, determining how creator partnerships can support a brand’s overall marketing goals.
Incorporating creator marketing into your social media strategy can improve your reach, grow audience engagement and help you connect with new communities in an authentic way.
Why a creator marketing strategy is a must next year
Every brand should have creator marketing on their radar when strategizing for the new year.
In a Sprout survey of 280 marketers responsible for their brand’s social media strategy, 57% of respondents collaborate with content creators on a monthly basis. And nearly half of respondents (49%) value creator collaborations more than they do their other social strategies.
But why are marketers collaborating with creators so frequently and why are they seen as valuable?
Because creators help brands achieve goals in ways that brands can’t. Creators embody what consumers are looking for: authenticity. The Sprout Social Index™ revealed it’s the second most important creator qualification for consumers and marketers. The best creators inspire communities and drive culture, so they can help brands nurture existing customer relationships and attract new audiences.
In our Creator Economy Report, we found marketers rank generating engagement (62%) and reaching new audiences (60%) as their top two goals for creator marketing.
Types of creators to inform your marketing strategy
Not all creators are one in the same. Here’s an explanation of the various types of creators and when a brand may choose them for a partnership:
Content creators produce entertaining, educational or captivating content for digital distribution. This content can include, but is not limited to:
- Audio content (podcasts and audiobooks)
- Written works (blog articles, social copy and ad copy)
- Images (memes, photos or graphics)
- Videos (Youtube videos, live streams and short-form like TikToks and Reels)
What’s special about creators is that they have an online presence that draws people to them. Content creators’ viewers are more than just their followers—they’re fans and devout supporters that admire the creator’s unique voice. Their followers trust and respect their opinions because they have created a deep connection with them over time.
To connect with a particular audience in an authentic way, brands need to collaborate with a content creator who has a relationship with that target audience.
Social media content creators
A social media content creator makes and shares educational or entertaining content for an audience across social media platforms. Similar to regular content creators, they can write blogs, create memes, etc. However, the difference between the two is social media content creators prioritize understanding and building an audience on social media.
This subcategory of content creator usually maintains a presence across all social media networks. Our creator report research found more than half of content creators anticipate using TikTok, Instagram and Facebook creator collaborations within the next three to six months. If your brand is looking to collaborate across several networks at once, social media content creators are a great option. You can request sponsored posts to be shared across all of your interested networks, furthering your reach but with lower lift effort for everyone.
You may have heard the saying, “All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.” Well, some influencers can be content creators but not all content creators are influencers. You might have heard digital creator and influencer used interchangeably, but they are not one in the same.
So what’s the difference between a digital creator and an influencer?
A content creator makes a living creating content, distributing photos, videos, blog articles, etc. Whereas influencers inspire followers to buy or do something. An influencer may have a different profession as well.
For example, a trainer who shares their favorite athleisure essentials and food brands could be an influencer. Influencers are simply sharing their lives and promoting brands and services they use. If you’re looking to launch and promote a new product or service, influencer marketing is a great option since people are more likely to trust their opinions.
Content creators by platform
Along with knowing the different types of creators, it’s important to recognize what creators can bring to the table by platform. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter are some of the most popular social media networks for marketers working with creators.
Here’s a quick overview of creator marketing by platform:
Facebook and Instagram creator marketing
Some 71% of Facebook and Instagram users have taken shopping action as a result of seeing content posted by a creator.
Facebook and Instagram offer branded content ads, making it a great option for ecommerce, retail and consumer-packaged goods (CPG) brands. When compared to creator handle ads without the paid partnership label, Instagram branded content ads see an 82% increase in probability to win purchase outcomes. The numbers speak for themselves—creator marketing can help convert consumers and encourage them to buy.
YouTube creator marketing
YouTube is the OG home of content creators, so naturally it’s a great fit. The video platform is known for its educational and entertaining content, so almost any brand can join in.
Pinterest creator marketing
Although it isn’t as popular as the other channels, Pinterest creator marketing can be effective as well. Content on Pinterest never expires, so you’ll be able to reach new audiences long-term. Creators can collaborate with brands via shoppable paid partnership tags and affiliate links.
Pinterest is all about the aesthetics and DIY projects, making them a great avenue for the beauty, fashion and interior design industries.
TikTok creator marketing
There’s a reason why #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt remains a trending hashtag. TikTok is basically modern word-of-mouth marketing. TikTok reported 67% of users say the app inspired them to make a purchase decision, even if they weren’t looking to buy anything. And with over 1 billion monthly users, nearly any brand can take advantage.
How to differentiate your creator strategy from the rest
From generating engagement to reaching audiences and driving revenue, there are a variety of ways you can use digital content creators to supercharge your brand strategy. To achieve impactful business results, you need to remain creative and relevant when brainstorming creator collaborations.
Here are five ways to make your creator strategy stand out:
1. Use creators to strengthen your brand community
According to our Creator Economy Report, “Successful creators don’t just churn out content, they inspire communities. They bring people together around shared interests, hobbies and identities.”
Use creators to help strengthen your brand community. Your brand community consists of the people who follow your social content, and advocates for your brand’s services and products. Essentially, they are fans so they enjoy seeing anything your brand does. Pay attention to creators who are already thriving in your community and identify how you can collaborate with them.
2. Follow the trends
As a marketer you need to stay on top of industry trends. Sign up for newsletters, listen to podcasts, follow top creators and publications who center creator marketing content. The information you receive could ignite the spark you need for your next partnership.
3. Consider hiring a creator relations manager
A creator relations manager is an emerging role, but it could help your brand significantly. Their sole focus is finding and securing creators. They also cultivate relationships and can manage a creator program budget, if you’re looking to go that route. Creator relations managers have a pulse on the creator economy and may be able to identify unique opportunities.
4. Empower diverse creators
Collaboration with diverse creators has become more important than ever as more consumers want wider representation and desire to purchase from brands who align with their values.
For example, partnerships with Latinx creators like Vanessa Sirias illustrate the value diverse creators bring to the table. Her collaboration with Cheetos for the #DejaTuHuellaFund resulted in over 125 million views on TikTok.
Diverse creators not only encompass creativity, authenticity and cultural competence, but they can help audiences relate to your brand across social media. However, note that only looking to creators from marginalized communities once or twice a year comes off as ingenuine.
Plus you’re limiting your reach, especially when it comes to connecting with existing and new audiences. Adding a rainbow flag to your profile page during Pride Month or a single Black History Month post isn’t going to cut it. Build a list of diverse creators you would like to work with and build a rapport with them so you’re prepared when it’s time to launch a campaign.
5. Don’t count out smaller creators
Leaning on smaller creators is another great way to incorporate creators into your content strategy. Micro-creators may have a small audience, but they’re just as valuable, if not more valuable to brands depending on the niche and industry.
Smaller creators typically value creation, so you can expect high quality content. Plus they’ve gained loyal followers who trust their opinions and are likely to be influenced to use your brand.
Creator marketing just makes sense
Similar to the early days of YouTube gurus and belly laugh-inducing Viners, the new creator economy is just getting started and will continue to evolve.
If you want to learn even more ways to maintain creativity while building your creator marketing strategy, read our Creator Economy Report.
Creator marketing FAQs: Building a foolproof strategy
Who should drive the strategy: creators or the brand?
This will vary depending on your brand and industry, but understand some of the most successful brand-creator partnerships happen when brands lean on creators’ expertise.
Brands need to give some control to creators to reap the full benefits of these partnerships. Although creator content is paid media, it’s not owned by the brand. Give creators the opportunity to create something special and try not to impose too many restrictions. The entire point is to leverage their unique personality and talents to amplify your campaign.
Our data shows that most brands give broad or very broad directions to creators during collaborations:
How specific is the direction you give creators when they collaborate with your brand?
- 18% Very broad
- 26% Broad
- 18% Neither broad nor specific
- 27% Specific
- 14% Very specific
Two good rules of thumb: (1) Avoid asking creators to imitate your brand voice and (2) don’t ask them to post too many times. Data from The Sprout Social Index™ shows 81% of consumers will unfollower creators if they post sponsored content more than a few times per week.
When should an SMM or marketer reach out to a creator for help?
Some 57% of brands collaborate with creators monthly, but there isn’t a one-size fits all approach for this either. The cadence you use for content creators depends on your goals and resources. You also want to give yourself time to strategize and execute. Don’t just use creators for the sake of it.
How can SMMs report on creator collaborations and prove ROI?
To illustrate the best return on investment from your creator collaborations, consider your goals and budget.
Often the most popular (and affordable) option is story posts. However, there’s a smaller time frame to generate impact. Plus, to earn conversions you’ll need links, which can cost more. Weigh the pros and cons of pricing against the content’s longevity and your campaign goals.
Also consider alternative structures, like affiliate marketing or gifting products or services, to supplement financial compensation. However, beware of your approach and also consider the creator’s interests as well. Is what you’re asking them reasonable for what they get in return?
How do you choose the right creator for your brand or campaign?
There’s a lot that goes into finding the right content creators for your brand.
We recently teamed up with Glewee to understand how brands can find the right creator and measure the impact they could have on their bottom line.
We found that follower count and engagement are good metrics to measure potential impact. However remember that getting your ad content in front of the right audience is more important than the magnitude of how many people see it.
Glewee created the below minimum follower threshold for each platform, so you can gauge who’s a good fit based on the average size and engagement rate they should have to make an impact.
Again, keep in mind these benchmarks are just a starting point, not definite determinations of success. Smaller creators can have strong audience loyalty too, plus some content may not perform as well on certain networks.
How can brands working with popular creators differentiate themselves from previous partnerships?
If you want to differentiate yourself from other popular brand partnerships, creativity and innovation are key. Review the creator’s previous collaborations and think about how you can stand out. You can lean on the creator’s expertise as they have a grasp on what resonates with their audience and will have interesting content ideas, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box too.
If you’re looking to connect with a new audience, consider creators within that niche. For example, if you’re building a video game brand for Gen Z gamers, consider working with a metaverse content creator.