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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:

 

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.

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After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month.   May 2022 Overview Looking through the top searched phrases in May 2022, it is difficult not to fixate on the topics that may upset our safety.  From the JIF Peanut Butter recall to the outbreak of Monkeypox to the Cryptocurrency crashes, there were many top queries where information was needed to understand the issue and take proper courses of action.   On the flip side, there are many phrases that reinforce our desire to learn more about events.  The Met Gala was a top queried topic for two days in a row to start off the month. Two horse races and two car races also made the daily top 3 in May - another sign that these annual events are reestablishing their hold on our attention like they did before the pandemic. Lastly, we cannot ignore that the tragic mass shooting events in both Buffalo and Uvalde, TX drove people to Google to learn more. Both events claimed the top queried phrases on the days they occurred and we’ll analyze what Google Trends reported on May 14th and 24th.   Five Wonderful Holidays In Month Number 5 Holidays always propel search volume from users seeking more information about the day.  Here are the top 5 from May: May the 4th be with you - 5/3/2022 - 500,000+ queries Cinco de Mayo - 5/4/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Mother's Day - 5/7/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries Happy Mother's Day - 5/8/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Memorial Day - 5/29/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries  The unofficial Star Wars day starts the list on the 4th, even though Trends reported it on the 3rd.  Mother’s Day gets two appearances on our list. The one on the 7th was driven by clicks to a Google Doodle. Memorial Day finished off the month with a Doodle of its own. The team dug a little deeper into Cinco de Mayo since it also made the list.  Here’s the chart of search interest into this holiday over the last 5 years: With a dip in popularity in 2019, the topic has seen increasing search volume since then. AMP Agency wrote a blog post about Recalibrating Cinco de Mayo with information about the holiday and how we as marketers can promote celebrating the holiday responsibly.  This notion may be driving some increased search interest in the holiday as people seek more information about it.   Top Queried Video Entertainment It was a low month for the number of film titles or TV shows making the daily top 3 in May 2022.  Here are the three queries that made it. Dr Strange - 5/5/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Stranger Things season 4 - 5/26/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Fantastic Beasts - 5/30/2022 - 200,000+ queries The latest installment of the Marvel movie franchise was released near the beginning of the month. We don’t think Dr. Strange will be the subject of the biggest money making film of the summer.  That honor, we predict, will go to Thor. Check out this prediction and more in our Summer 2022 Trends report. The long awaited Stranger Things Season 4 debuted on May 27th and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore started streaming on the 30th.   Met Gala After a cancellation in 2020 and a delayed to September event last year, The Met Gala returned to its typical May timeframe and drove users to see the latest in haute couture. Met Gala 2022 - 5/1/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Met Gala 2022 - 5/2/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries Comparing the daily query numbers to years past, the 5 million plus reported on May 2nd is the largest of the past 4 years.  This event’s popularity has hit a new high if we use search volume as our measure.   News Items Since there were a large number of queries for news items, we decided to include this list in our report for May 2022. 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Vance - 5/3/2022 - 500,000+ queries Jen Psaki - 5/5/2022 - 500,000+ queries Pennsylvania primary - 5/17/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Madison Cawthorn - 5/17/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Beto O'Rourke - 5/24/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries The keyword with the most search volume of this list is Roe v. Wade, which was queried because of a leaked draft opinion that suggests the court will overturn the 1973 decision. It is reported that a decision will be made in June 2022 so we will report on what Google Trends published in our next report.   Crypto Collapse We can mark May 2022 as a month where the value of cryptocurrency took a tumble. Luna crypto - 5/10/2022 - 200,000+ queries Coinbase - 5/10/2022 - 200,000+ queries Bitcoin - 5/11/2022 - 500,000+ queries Each of these phrases is related to a drop in the value of these coins/companies.  We will continue to monitor the trends related to this subject in the months ahead.   NBA Playoffs and Finals The NBA playoffs has been a hot topic throughout the month of May 2022.  Here we present only the phrases that received 1 million queries or more that are NBA related - there are 19 of them: Warriors vs Grizzlies - 5/1/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/9/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Warriors - 5/9/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Warriors - 5/11/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Miami Heat - 5/12/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/13/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Warriors - 5/13/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Suns - 5/15/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/15/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/17/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Dallas Mavericks - 5/18/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/19/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/21/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Warriors - 5/22/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/23/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/25/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Warriors - 5/26/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/27/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Celtics - 5/29/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Trying to stay objective here, but as Celtics fans, we’re totally caught up in the search interest of this topic this year.   What We Call Soccer What the rest of the world calls football is popular here in the States, at least from a search perspective. Real Madrid vs Man City - 5/4/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Liverpool - 5/14/2022 - 500,000+ queries Liverpool - 5/22/2022 - 500,000+ queries Champions League - 5/27/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Argentina vs Italy - 5/31/2022 - 500,000+ queries Since the World Cup is scheduled for November of this year, we predict that month will be filled with football-related queries. You have been warned.   Horse Racing With in-person sports events back to full capacity, the query volumes for the famous horse races in May have recovered: Kentucky Derby 2022 - 5/6/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries Kentucky Derby 2022 horses - 5/6/2022 - 500,000+ queries Preakness 2022 - 5/20/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries We found it interesting that there was a specific keyword about the horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Then again, with online gambling becoming legal in more states, this instance may not be so surprising.   Car Racing Not just horses but also cars, racing was popular in May 2022. 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If you’re curious, the “How Might We…” (HMW) framework for creative problem solving originates back to the work of Sidney J. Parnes, Ph.D, in his Creative Behavior Guidebook published in 1967. Dr. Parnes referred to the framework as “Invitation Stems” or “How Mights”. Dr. Parnes' work also led to the additional questions of “How might I?”, “How might you?”, “How might our team?”, and “How might our customers?”. Today, HMW remains one of the most powerful tools for kicking off a process of “challenge mapping.” “How might we…” is the kind of question that lacks hard requirements at first and can feel unanswerable. However, if you get the right people engaged, the answers that surface will lead to progress.    How does AmpXD tackle HMW Questions? We start by making sure that the whole team understands the question and starts on common footing. Some follow up questions may be necessary. Have we answered an HMW question like this for other clients or internally at AMP?  Can we rely on past experience or will the answer require us to build from scratch?  What perspectives will be required to generate the right answer? Engineering? Design? Content? Business objectives? Next, we assemble the team. The best HMW teams represent all who stand to benefit from the answer as well as those who could help us get there. They are a cross section of the organization as well as users, customers, and subject matter experts. Whether you use an agency like AMP or decide to go it alone, there are a few key attributes that each team member must have. Each team member needs to be open, have broad and relevant expertise, and be fearless about sharing ideas and opinions in public.  The last consideration for a successful outcome is access. The team will need access to: One another Leadership  Information Insight into what is possible.    Now that the team is assembled, what can we expect? Answers! If you’ve done the work to fully understand the question, assemble the right team, and provide access to resources, you can expect progress. Once we have a set of answers to our HMW question, we can start to sift for the right one.  Each answer must be measured against cost and timeline estimates. If you’ve come to the right answer, everyone will know it. If you don’t find the right answer, often you’ll be left with a new, better HMW question to work with. 

  AMP Agency’s Top Trends of Summer 2022 Predictions Report   AMP Agency has published a report as a part of their Search Insights service. This report is available for download and provides audience insights to help inform your marketing and business decisions for the coming season.   AMP Agency’s VP of SEO John Krochune thinks that search interest is a strong indicator of future trends.  “My team and I dive deep into historical search query data, using a variety of tools, to uncover trends. I think this public set of audience data is being underutilized in marketing and we are publishing this report to provide a wealth of information that other sources may not provide.”   The Top Trends of Summer 2022 report has insights on 40 topics across 8 different categories including travel, fashion, and entertainment.  The data presented in the report is pulled straight from Google’s Keyword Planner (US only) and is paired with our analysis of why we think the topic will increase in popularity this summer.   Download our Summer Trends report and learn more about our hot predictions for this coming season.