There are two notions about the creator economy that it’s time to debunk.
- Creator = influencer. It doesn’t.
- Founder/CEO = creator, and vice versa. These are different types of work that require different sets of skills.
It’s true that there are plenty of creators out there who are influencers—in the sense that they can drive revenue for brands through sponsored content as well as truly influence online trends— as well as a lesser number of savvy founders who also work well in the creator space.
But as the term “creator economy” has circulated, and as the concept of “creator” has overtaken “influencer,” the hype, in many cases, has supplanted the reality. And in addition to giving many business owners the mistaken idea that they have to not only run their business, but somehow develop their own unique content as well—not to mention the number of creators who have decided it’s time to open a business, despite having no business knowledge—this development has also led to many businesses paying creators for content that won’t actually generate sales.
So what’s a brand to do in this new creator economy? Let’s take a closer look.
Why aren’t all creators influencers?
The confusion between the terms “creator” and “influencer” has arisen partly because “influencer” has fallen into some disrepute in the past few years.
Despite influencer marketing still being a legitimate, effective marketing strategy—as proven by research from the Harvard Business Review and Hubspot—the term influencer has also evolved in offline circles to indicate social media personalities who care more about making money from brand partnerships than they do authenticity. In fact, even influencers themselves have had trouble with the term as far back as 2018.
“Creator” on the other hand, is a much broader and more generative term. Creators can create any type of content, for any purpose, ranging from inspiring social activism to reveling in the simple joy of creating.
They can also, of course, influence people to make purchases or switch brands through their content. And here’s where the confusion arises: every influencer is a creator, but not every creator is an influencer.
What does this mean for your influencer marketing?
What this means for your brand is that you’ve got to be selective about the creators you partner with. Look at their content with a strategic, critical eye: do they have a unique point of view? Or does it feel like they’re trying to sell something? Are they going along with the latest iteration of the Instagram aesthetic, or does their content actually feel authentic?
Once you’re ready to initiate a conversation, you’ll want to get some real numbers. Ask them questions like:
- What is their history of success with other partnerships?
- What are their engagement rates?
- What kind of feedback are they getting from their followers?
One important thing to remember is that today, the number of followers doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the followers feel about that creator. As Seth Godin himself says, forget about reaching as many people as possible—instead, focus on reaching the smallest viable audience and creating a community of those people.
Why not all founders are creators
Let’s move on to Myth #2: Just because you founded a business, you have to get online and start making content.
While your brand does, indeed, need to be online and making content in order to stand out and reach your customers, it’s ok if you’re not the face of your brand—at least when it comes to content creation.
Do-it-all creators like MrBeast, who runs a massively popular YouTube channel along with an equally massive business empire, are the exception. Most people cannot be a massive success in both areas (and certainly not alone—no one who wants to create either a content empire or a business empire can do it as a solopreneur).
If you’re not the type of person who wants to create weekly YouTube videos or host a podcast, that’s ok. Focus on what you’re good at, and find others within your organization who can serve as your thought leaders and content creators.
This is also where strategic influencer marketing comes in. Partnering with outside influencers can help build your audience in ways that your internal marketing just can’t. Businesses today, especially B2B businesses, need that third-party credibility in order for customers to feel good about engaging with them.
As we often say, B2C customers are trying to avoid regret; B2B customers are trying to avoid blame. If a buying team makes a purchase with a B2B company, it’s likely a substantial purchase intended to be in use for some time, like equipment or software, and it will affect the entire business.
If the brand they chose turns out to be less impressive than they thought or doesn’t live up to their promises, that buying team has to explain their choice and figure out a remedy. Authentic takes on your brand from experts—i.e. influencers—in their specific industries can go a long way toward making your potential customers feel more confident about what you offer.
Be strategic about your B2B influencer marketing.
Engaging effective influencers for a B2B marketing campaign requires significant time spent on strategy—perhaps more today than ever before- as the confusion between a creator and an influencer has made it more difficult to discern which partnerships might yield real results.
For the best results, it’s a good idea to engage several different types of B2B influencers. One is the expert, a person who is a thought leader in your industry and has extensive experience and achievements within your industry to give them credibility.
Another type is the practitioner—this would be someone who works in your industry right now, and has experience, pain points, and desires similar to your target audience.
Finally, don’t overlook your internal influencers. If you have an employee or executive who writes articles for industry blogs or posts heavily about your industry on their own social media channels, make sure you’re engaging with them both online and offline. Lifting them up through your brand channels will not only benefit them and their audience, but it will also help you showcase your internal talent.
The creator economy has lots to offer brands, but only if you can separate the hype from the reality, and the creators from the true influencers.
If you’d like to jump into influencer marketing but don’t know where to start, get in touch.