Our industry is ever-changing. Get insights and perspective from our experts as we share our knowledge and experience on how to successfully navigate the marketing landscape.
The word “creator” has existed for centuries. It’s been applied to godly figures, amateur artists, and social media mavens alike. In the 2021 marketing landscape, “creator” is everywhere. At AMP, we’re seeing more and more influencers identifying as “creators” instead of “influencers.” Social media heavy hitters like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have recently developed services and tools dedicated to creators (e.g. TikTok Creator Portal, Instagram Creator Studio, Facebook Creator Studio, and the YouTube Creators Channel). The creator economy is said to be worth just over $100 billion dollars, according to a Forbes article published last month. But what exactly is a “creator”? How did these individuals become such a core part of the contemporary marketing scene? And most importantly, how can your brand build partnerships with creators who your target audience connects with? In this blog post, we’ll explore the rise of the creator, as it pertains to our industry, and share insights to help you find the right partners. What is a creator? The term itself is a matter of much debate. Different social media platforms have their own definitions. A 2019 eMarketer article highlights a few: YouTube has essentially used the same definition for years, but it segments creators into “established” and “aspiring” to account for varying follower counts. Facebook considers any entity that builds community by publishing content on Facebook to be a creator, whether an individual video creator, publisher or media company. Instagram considers influencers and creators to be one and the same. The company says it uses the term creator because that’s how many of its partners see themselves. Twitter defines a creator as any entity that produces content. It further divides the term into “artists” (known for their skill at creating a particular type of content) and “influencers” (known for their voice or their thought leadership in a particular community). Some people seek to define creators by comparing them to influencers. One measure of comparison is looking at the different content they produce. In a 2021 blog post, the video creation and monetization platform Curastory states: Working with a creator and working with an influencer will produce very different marketing results. Influencers will influence how their followers dress, what makeup they should wear, or what products to buy. Creators, on the other hand, create content that gets people engaged — how-to guides, a-day-in-the-life, tips, tutorials, etc. At AMP, we also find it helpful to consider creators and influencers together. The terms have a number of similarities: They both produce content, partner with brands, and tend to have large followings – yet their function and the purpose that drives them is not quite the same. Anna Tremblay, AMP Senior Manager of PR & Influencer Relations, explains: We interface with so many influencers, and very few of them refer to themselves as influencers. I almost think of it less as a title — like influencer or creator — and almost like a function. These are all people who create and post content, but they can do it for the purpose of creating or the purpose of influencing. And sometimes those needs collide, especially when working with a brand. I do think that TikTok, in particular, has ramped up the use of the word “creator” because that is how TikTok has branded their own influencers.” How did creators become such a core part of the contemporary marketing scene? A 2019 article from The Atlantic suggests that the term “creator” began to gain popularity in 2011. Around that time, Next New Networks — a multichannel network that was later bought by YouTube — developed a program for YouTube stars called New Next Creators. This language, as well as the concept of creators, became a major focus for YouTube. The Atlantic article says, “YouTube was so successful at pushing the term creator that other platforms soon co-opted it.” However, other sources portray creators as a newer part of the social media landscape. A 2021 New Yorker article dubs creators the successors of influencers: The influencer is a fading stock character of the Internet’s commedia dell’arte. The cliché of the influencer emerged, during the twenty-tens, from multimedia-rich platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, where the goal was to forge as curated and polished an image as possible. Influencers were social-media users as celebrities, with much of the vanity and purposelessness that the comparison implies. By now, the connotations of being an influencer are mostly negative—edited selfies, vapid captions, faux relatability, staged private-jet photos, and unmarked sponsorships. Accordingly, social-media platforms are embracing a new buzzword as a successor: “creator.” “Creator” is a term with a more wholesome air, conjuring an Internet in which we are all artisanal blacksmiths plying our digital craft. *Side Note: We disagree that influencers are fading characters on the scene, and believe that there’s a time and place for brands to successfully work with both influencers and creators. While it is difficult to nail down the exact origins of “creator” in the marketing industry, we can speak to the key factors that have contributed to their current popularity in this landscape. Factor 1: Creators speak to consumers’ desire for authenticity. Today’s consumers crave authenticity. More brands are ditching the airbrush and speaking out on social causes. Fewer consumers are expecting perfection from ads. And this lust for realness applies to creators as well. When done correctly, partnering with a creator can give your brand campaigns an air of authenticity. Creators can take your products and show their audience how they uniquely connect with them. It’s high-quality branded content with a personal flair. At AMP, we love partnering with creators who are genuinely passionate about our clients’ products. For example, in 2020, we joined our client Maruchan to partner with influencer foodies like @foodieonfleek. These creative partnerships yielded elevated recipes with a Maruchan product base, and naturally resonated with both the creators’ followers and our client’s customers. Factor 2: Content consumption is a significant part of 2021 life, and creators develop content. As the pandemic continues, and the Delta variant raises COVID-19 precautions and fears, many people are still working from home and opting for at-home activities. Even if the world is more open than it was a year ago, many people still depend on virtual entertainment and social media to relax and engage with others. Creators provide an emotional escape or moment of connection for viewers, and brands can leverage these interactions to connect with consumers. Factor 3: Short-form video content has gained huge popularity among creators and brands alike in recent years. Short-form video content is video content with a brief duration, although how brief depends on the platform. A 2021 blog post by the software company HubSpot explains, “A video up to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length is considered short-form. But there's no universal number that everyone has agreed on.” And it’s worth noting that these time limits shift based on trends. For example, TikTok recently increased its video time limit to three minutes (the previous limit was 60 seconds). Unsurprisingly, competitor Instagram Reels soon after increased its limit from 30 seconds to 60 seconds). In recent years, we’ve seen a variety of social platforms pop up that are dedicated solely to short-form video content (e.g. TikTok, Musical.ly, Vine). Similarly, many of the other major social platforms have leaned more into short-form content (e.g. Facebook and Instagram rolled out their Story features). This is great news for creators, who are essential to the success and content creation of these apps. It’s also great news for brands. AMP Senior Engagement Strategist Kaitlyn Feniello says: Even before TikTok and Reels were a thing, advertisers have been talking for so long about how videos need to be short in order to get your attention. In the paid social space, you have .25 seconds to grab someone’s attention on an ad before they move on. People have always known that these videos need to be shorter. There’s also something to be said about YouTube videos and these longer form videos that people are watching like TV. But I think that’s the difference. If there’s a video that you’re willing to watch for 30 minutes, that’s more like the mindset of watching TV versus consuming content on TikTok. If TikTok’s spot as the #1 globally downloaded app in 2020 is any indication, short-form video content is here to stay. And brands shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to create their own short-form video content. So, how can your brand find and hire a creator? And how do you make sure the partnership is a good fit? The Internet has a variety of free and paid options for locating creators and influencers: Free options: TikTok Creator Marketplace Upfluence Chrome extension Check out the TikTok Discover page Peruse the Instagram Explore page Search the YouTube Trending page Explore hashtags on relevant social media platforms Do a Google search for top creators in your industry, then follow them on the social channels that your brand uses Paid search programs: Grin Tokfluence Tagger Media You could also partner with a marketing, social media, or influencer agency to help you build strong partnerships with creators. If you’re interested in going down this route, AMP offers influencer marketing services and we’d love to talk to you about working together. Feel free to contact us with any inquiries! Finally, here’s a quick summary of list of DOs and DON’Ts to help you find a creator who resonates with your target audience and fits with your brand: DO... Look for creators who have an authentic personal brand. Consider if the creator you want to partner with reflects your brand’s values. Seek partnerships with creators who have significant followings on the platforms your brand wants to leverage. When asked which types of creators and partnerships work best for different platforms, AMP Engagement Strategist Rashida Hull said: It depends on the campaign you’re trying to do and where the campaign is going to live. Ideally, if you have an influencer that is on TikTok and Instagram, and has a huge following on both platforms, and you’re going to do a campaign on both platforms, it really works. But I’ve run into a situation where a client wanted to use an influencer for TikTok but they only had their content on Instagram… it doesn’t really work. Explore options for TikTok partnerships. Aside from it’s incredible popularity, TikTok also has made it far easier for creators to be discovered. Tremblay says: TikTok is a huge game changer for influencers. Period. End of discussion. And it’s because discoverability on that platform is unmatched by any other platform. We have seen the growth of so many Instagram influencers due to their presence on TikTok. Consider both short-term and long-term partnerships. While a short-term partnership can drive excitement and buzz around a new campaign, a long-term partnership has the benefit of building a strong public association between the creator and your brand. Make short-form video content a part of your marketing strategy and consider which creators can make high-quality videos for your promotional efforts. DON’T... Focus exclusively on follower size. Many brands are finding success working with micro and nano creators. Niche, loyal audiences can yield greater trust and affinity among potential customers. Partner with just any creator. A good brand partnership with a creator should make sense. If something seems odd or off about the pairing, your brand can come across as inauthentic or out of touch. Make sure to research your creators and consider doing a smaller test campaign before diving into long-term partnerships. View creator partnerships as a one and done deal. The marketing landscape, and the role of creators in it, is ever-changing. Make sure to stay on top of trends in content and platforms, so that your brand feels relevant to today’s consumer.
In the Era of “Finstagram”, Snapchat Remains a Haven for Authentic Social Sharing As marketers and brand strategists, we get a lot of questions about specific channels and how best to use them. Recently, we’ve been hearing the same set of questions quite frequently: “What’s the deal with Snapchat?” “Is Snapchat dead?” “Why are they still around – who is even using them?!” Surprisingly, Snapchat is not dead. Yes, you heard that right – the app is still alive and thriving. 53% of all internet users aged between 15 and 25 years still actively use Snapchat. More fascinatingly, among this population, Snapchat is their most popular app, closely followed by Instagram. The average daily active user opens the app’s camera more than 30 times a day, spending at least 30 minutes on the app. Users turn to the app for playful and silly content with their friends. 95% of Snapchatters say the app makes them feel happy, more than any other app tested. This begs the question: How are so many people (in a coveted target demographic) using this platform and yet, so many people keep asking if it’s dead? The Answer: The reason people think it’s dead is actually the reason people like using it. It’s relatively free from advertisements and brands, it’s harder to track people and it offers a more authentic place to be yourself with your friends. So, Why Snap? Think about the last time you were scrolling through Instagram. You see a post from your cousin, then one from your college friend, and then an ad about the shirt you were browsing 30 minutes ago. Nowadays, it seems like scrolling through social media has become a new form of never-ending advertising. Now, enter Snapchat. Unlike other social platforms, Snapchat allows users an escape or ability to hide from targeted media, which is attractive to a subsection of consumers and, in our opinion, is the reason Snapchat is still very relevant for Gen Z and younger Millennials. With Snapchat, users are able to directly share videos and images with their closest friends and choose how and when to share moments to a wider friends list. (Yes, we know Instragram added the close friends function in stories but it’s somehow not the same). Unlike Instagram or Tiktok, Snapchat users don’t appear to feel the pressure to look a certain way or feel a certain way about the amount of content they receive or share. Users are more likely to express their authentic self, not constantly comparing themselves to others based on post engagements or feed aesthetics. Snapchat also eliminates the surrounding influencer persona which surfaces on other platforms and removes the constant barrage of paid media. In other words, on Snapchat you don’t feel like you’re constantly being sold something. A Refinery 29 article points out “A big part of Snapchat’s appeal is the lack of commitment it takes to enjoy it: Stories fade after 24 hours, messages disappear, and, even if you leave Snapchat, you can always connect with people via at least three other platforms”- users do not have to feel pressured by the living content aspect of other platforms. Essentially, Snap is a “cleaner” more authentic experience free from influencers and brands and that’s exactly why people like it. Does this mean brands should avoid Snap all together!? By no means is Snapchat an untouched platform by brands. Brands do have targeted ads on Snapchat however, these don’t interrupt the way users engage with the app. Users only see sponsored content when looking through the wider audience stories and they know that’s the only place they’ll see ads. Brands that use Snapchat well have become skilled at hiding their ads amongst other organic stories so much so that users sometimes don’t know they’ve clicked through a paid placement. TEVA, Sam Edelman and The New York Times are all currently running promotional campaigns on Snapchat in which users would briefly tap through the ad as if the brand had its own Snap story. Additionally, through its filter feature, brands have been able to promote new products or promotions, however these filters can be seen as “tired” for Snap's core consumers. What Should a Brand Do? How Should They Think About Snapchat? Be Purposeful & Authentic - Snap requires a lot of attention, strategy and dedication to do it well. Think About One to One - Snap is all about direct interaction. Think about adjusting your brand voice to be personified - help people feel like they’re talking to the people behind the brand, not a nameless faceless logo. Don’t Copy & Paste Other Social Strategies - If you’re thinking about getting involved with a Snapchat presence - be prepared for a slow, long road. You can’t reuse your Instagram or TikTok strategy on this platform. Get to know how it works and then act accordingly. Community before Mass Reach: “Going Viral” isn’t so much of a thing on Snapchat so it’s less about mass appeal and more about relationship building with a passionate group of friends and fans. When in Doubt, Don’t - If you’re on the fence about jumping into Snapchat or reigniting your Snap presence, it’s better to be smart than be fast. No one is going to fault you for not having a Snap presence but there could be negative consequences if you do Snap poorly. A Parting Thought From an advertising standpoint, brands can capitalize on the fast FOMO opportunities that Snap creates to promote new products or campaigns. At the same time, brands should strategically think about how to speak to consumers on the platform, especially when knowing most users turn to the app for playful and silly conversations with their closest friends. As both a user and a strategist, Snap allows me to feel free of the social pressure felt across other platforms. However, if I were to advise a client interested in Snap, I would advise to proceed with caution as authentic social sharing seems to be harder and harder to replicate as for brands these days. Brands are always welcomed to create a presence on Snapchat, although enticing to try to reach target audiences, the level of attention, dedicated resources, content curation and focus required to authentically join that space remains high. Brands looking to engage may need to weigh the risks vs the possible rewards before launching campaigns on the platform or face potential blowback as consumers feel their “brand neutral space” becomes invaded.
Marketing is a multifaceted field filled with strategies, creative executions and everything in between. While all of this is important to the success of a brand, it’s also crucial that every brand maintains strong relationships with consumers – especially during uncertain times such as these. One of the best ways to help your brand’s audience feel heard and understood is by developing effective community management. Here are three ways you can leverage community management practices to successfully respond to consumers in today’s landscape. Above all, have empathy Marketing is a multifaceted field filled with strategies, creative executions and everything in between. While all of this is important to the success of a brand, it’s also crucial that every brand maintains strong relationships and communication with consumers – especially during uncertain times such as these. One of the best ways to help your brand’s audience feel heard and understood is by developing and maintaining effective community management. Here are three ways you can leverage community management practices to successfully respond to consumers in today’s landscape. Establish approved FAQ guidelines to respond to common questions and comments Many people are grappling with the same questions right now as we navigate unprecedented times. To properly address them in an informative and understanding manner, it’s important for your brand to work with internal stakeholders to create FAQ guardrails your internal team can use when answering common questions. This will help ensure consistency in your brand’s position and enables you to meet your customer’s needs more quickly by providing them with an answer. Once these answers are in place, it’s important to continually reevaluate and adjust them when necessary. As news develops and situations change, your responses should, too. This will help ensure that your customers are receiving the latest and most accurate responses. Take a look at Apple & Eve, a brand who prepares and approves responses to common questions they receive. By crafting well-thought-out, clear answers to questions such as these, Apple & Eve is able to give consumers the information they seek with honesty and accuracy. Along with developing FAQ guidelines, establishing an escalation process is a helpful tool for managing consumer comments effectively and appropriately. Unfortunately, threatening or worrisome comments from consumers happen every day. Now that we’re living in uncertain times, heightened confusion and stress could add to these types of responses. Having an escalation process in place can enable brands to flag moments where consumer comments are a cause for concern and find ways to respond effectively and appropriately. Proactively find ways to connect with your audience As long as brands exist, consumers are certain to have questions for them. While engaging with your direct consumer base is important, it’s also beneficial to seek out opportunities that enable your brand to connect with people outside of your community. By finding ways to have positive interactions with new audiences, your brand can raise awareness in an organic way. For example, coffee brand Lavazza followed relevant coffee hashtags to find new people on social to engage with and influence their at-home coffee routines. This approach allows brands to remain true to their purpose and current audience, while finding natural places on social to join in conversations with new consumers and add value. All in all, by remaining empathetic, creating guidelines to respond to consumers appropriately and seeking out new ways to start conversations outside of your typical consumer base, your brand can build and maintain strong connections with consumers. Learn more about our social media marketing service.
To be completely candid, life is weird right now. We’re all living at a greater distance from one another than usual, and we’re spending more time in digital spaces than real ones. Needless to say, our sense of normalcy is shifting – which means our approaches to social should shift, too. Here are three tips for how you can adapt what your brand is doing in the social space to effectively and appropriately respond to what’s going on in the world. Customize your approach, strategy, content and tone to the current media climate based on your unique brand and industry position When thinking through how to adapt your brand’s messaging and strategies to current events, it’s important to first acknowledge who your brand is on its own. Whether you’re a forward-focused tech company, a whimsical plant shop or an edgy clothing store, you have both a personality and knowledge about your audience that is unique to your brand and your brand alone. So take a moment to think about what that is in your case. When you have a clear sense of who your brand and you put what you know about your audience at the forefront, you can more confidently navigate the current news climate and new cultural norms to inform your communication approach. Think about your brand’s mission, values, and place in the industry. Consider how your audience perceives your brand generally, and during these unprecedented times. Determine what unique value your brand has to offer -- if it has something meaningful to offer right now -- and ensure communication of that value is consistent across all places you show up, like your website, the press, social media, and more. As the news and culture climate shift, people swarm to social to continue the conversation, so it’s important to maintain a united front made of clear and consistent messages from your brand. Coffee brand Lavazza is using social to share that they’ve donated over 50,000 bags of coffee to healthcare and public safety workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The brand has also adapted their messaging to reflect an at-home focus, encouraging users to showcase their at-home coffee set ups and ask their coffee questions to create opportunities for two-way engagement. Putting insights about their audience at the center, Apple & Eve adapted their content pillars to meet new needs. For example, the brand is sharing recipes, activities and crafts parents can try at home with their kids on their Instagram. By leaning into crafts made from materials most parents already have at home and providing fun activity ideas for kids, the brand was able to adapt their social messaging to current stay-at-home lifestyles with a small adjustment to their existing strategy on their social channels. Vagisil chose to focus content on thanking essential workers, given their brand’s women’s health-related mission. Maintaining their illustrator-style Instagram posts, the brand was able to create content directly related to Coronavirus while weaving in their signature brand style and remaining true to their core values. This shows that while much is being talked about regarding Coronavirus, brands can find their unique voice and value in the conversation. Leverage social listening and monitor competitors to keep an accurate pulse on the landscape Once you’ve determined strategically how to pivot your messaging, it’s equally important to keep a continual pulse on the cultural landscape to ensure what you’re sharing is timely and well-received. That’s why on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis, you should actively participate in both news monitoring and social listening. Doing so will cue you into what people are talking about, how they’re talking about it, and continue to identify where your brand’s voice may be able to add value. A message that feels appropriate to post or respond with one day might need to be reevaluated the next within the ever-shifting news and cultural landscape. Helpful tools like Sprout, NetBase, and Google Alerts can help inform your content reevaluation cycles. It’s also important to note that right now, every brand is facing the challenge of navigating the new terrain that is COVID-19. So just as we should all keep up with what is being shared in the news and by consumers on social, it is imperative that your brand also tracks competitor activity in your industry as another input for understanding the current landscape. By tuning in to what other brands are doing, you can learn from their successes and missteps and better understand what consumers may be seeing or needing from brands like yours -- most importantly helping you identify the whitespace for your brand. Experiment with new social formats and content types At the end of the day, this is new territory for all of us. We can plan and strategize to the best of our abilities, but one of the most sure-fire ways of determining what resonates most with your audience on social media is through experimentation. Now, especially, is a time to be understanding, empathetic and real with the world on social. Leaning into more raw, authentic content that feels less polished and more organic is a strong way to reach audiences in a time where we’re all looking to connect and relate. Take late night show hosts for example. Many hosts have ditched highly produced segments to embrace DIY iPhone videos recorded at home. Instagram is one platform that touts many tools brands can use to test out a more real and raw approach, and at the same time engage with and learn about your audience. Most notably, this includes Instagram Stories. From adding stickers and GIFs to stories to allowing polls, questions and countdowns, these various tactics can help brands feel more authentic on their social channels and create a two-way dialogue. Additionally, Instagram Live and IGTV are other ways your brand can create longer-form content that enables connection with viewers on a deeper level. By experimenting with new social formats and content types, you can not only try new approaches and tactics to leverage on social during this difficult time, but determine what your audience most positively responds to. The proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the engagement. We hope these three tips help you navigate shifting social for your brand. If you want to dig into any of them further, or would like to chat through other questions your brand is facing, drop us a line. Learn more about our social media marketing service. Also, check out our guide to COVID-19 community management.