The ‘influencer’ title is quickly becoming a term of the past, but that doesn’t mean influencer marketing is slowing down any time soon. In the last 2+ years we have seen massive changes facing the influencer marketing industry due to the impacts of the global pandemic and great resignation, both of which have been catalysts for the creator economy boom. For people who were stuck working from home in the early stages of the pandemic, their consumption of online content increased by unimaginable levels, creating a need for more production. Additionally, while working from home and re-evaluating their careers, many of these individuals saw opportunities to work outside of their typical 9-5 jobs and generate more streams of income to keep up with rising costs of living.
According to a pre-pandemic 2019 survey from Morning Consult, Americans were already hot on this trail. Eighty-six percent reported that they would post sponsored content for money, and 54% would become an influencer given the opportunity. With the lure of a potential six-figure income, more and more people have considered or are considering joining the creator economy.
Brands and social media giants have taken notice as investments in the creator space totaled $5 billion last year alone. Even in the wake of a recession, brands are not slowing down their investments in and focus on this space as consumers continue to rely on influencer recommendations over “clickable and shoppable” ads when it comes to product purchase. Additionally, the competitive nature between social media platforms has added even more fuel to the fire as they attempt to gain users and market share.
TikTok was a leader among competitors with the development of their Creator Marketplace and Creator Fund, but even now they are continuing to increase creators’ ability to monetize with the announcement of their ad revenue sharing program TikTok Pulse. YouTube launched their creator solution BrandConnect in 2020 and more recently have been pushing creators towards YouTube Shorts, after seeing an increase in the percent of users favoring videos running under 1 minute. In response, Meta has focused efforts on rolling out new monetization tools for creators including the launch of their own Creator Marketplace, a hub designed to help brands discover and reach out to creators and to manage partnerships. As these platforms continue to evolve to support the creator economy, marketing agencies and brands will need to adapt as well to keep up with creator expectations. This means keeping a pulse on constant social platform changes, rethinking influencer management processes and payment models, to continue building strong relationships with influencers as partners promoting their products.
With this rapid evolution, there has been backlash by both creators and content consumers alike as social media platforms themselves are changing, too. As the number of TikTok users continues to increase, Instagram has started to replicate popular platform features to compete, including video-first content with the focus on Reels and adjustments to the algorithm to prioritize content over people. This has caused frustration among users who expect to see updates from their friends and family on Meta platforms. Additionally, content creators are dealing with burnout from the high demand for more social content. Content creators know they must produce content daily and source frequent audience input to make sure they have engaged viewers who can help support their ability to monetize on social platforms.
The relationship between creator and audience has become more co-dependent, and younger creators are experiencing negative impacts on their mental health. English professor Barrett Swanson published an article “The Anxiety of Influencers” after spending time with college-aged TikTok creators. His takeaway, “TikTokers know that their fame will likely fade unless they work very, very hard to cultivate themselves into something solidly monetizable. They seamlessly toggle between their two identities — the real person and the online persona — and speak with a kind of cynicism about tying their livelihoods to a platform that could disappear in an instant. It all feels like stuff they shouldn’t have to think about, not yet.”
So, with the rapid change and the rise of the creator economy, how can brands and marketing professionals properly prepare themselves? The solution comes in two-fold: equipping ourselves to be adaptable as influencer marketers and supporting creators along the way.
Following are three tips to help you get there:
- Stay informed. With TikTok and Meta driving the creator economy forward, do your part to stay up-to-date on platform announcements and Creator Marketplace innovation to better understand what creators expect so your programs can compete.
- Community Management is key. If the traditional influencer is changing, that means the way you source your brand partners should be changing as well. Lean into social listening to see who is authentically talking about your brand or industry to create organic relationships and increase your pool of content creators.
- Lead with empathy. Content creators are struggling with this transition as well. Focus on creating long-lasting, meaningful relationships with creators and seek mutually beneficial opportunities. Be more understanding when your creators need flexibility in their schedules or adjustments to their rates. The stronger the relationships you create with your partners will allow for messaging to feel more authentic and increase opportunities for future collaborations.