Despite the relative youth of today’s leading content creators, the influencer marketing space has done a lot of growing up over the past few years. Blogs are still an important channel for brands vying to enter topical conversations, but marketers should pay close attention as the landscape shifts to where people are spending most of their time: that is, on smartphones and within mobile apps.
To learn more about forging partnerships with short-form content creators, we caught up with Claudia Page, VP, Head of Creator Partnerships at Crowdtap, who has been pairing brands with qualified subject matter experts for more than a decade. Prior to Crowdtap, Claudia was the first hire at Sulia.com, where she worked to connect leading brands and social influencers across Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Sulia’s own platform.
We asked Claudia to share with us the most widely-held myths when it comes to the way brands perceive partnerships with content creators. Here are her top four myths, debunked:
Myth #1: Partnering with a content creator is like any other media buy.
It’s easy to take one look at a creator’s massive following and view them as you would any other media buy, but marketers need to keep in mind that there is much more to these types of partnerships than simply buying an audience. Most content creators grow influence by focusing on a specific media vertical and masterfully translating their knowledge and passion across one or many channels.
Before approaching a creator simply because they amass a large social following, consider the topics that have built them trust with their audience, and how those topics are brought to life. Does the creator rely on humor (like Logan Paul), or is their focus more aesthetic (like Meagan Cignoli)? Be sure your brand values and campaign focus fit within the broader vision of the creator before adding them to your short list.
Key Takeaway: Respect content creators as trusted subject-matter experts.
Myth #2: Creators should be given strict creative guidelines that are followed to a T.
Surrendering creative control over branded content can be a scary proposition, but marketers should remember why they partner with content creators in the first place. Popular creators gained their influence by understanding what resonates with their respective audiences across various platforms – and they have maintained their followings by staying true to their established editorial vision.
Communicating expectations is the most important step in any brand-influencer partnership. Provide content creators with a brief that clearly outlines your brand personality and campaign objectives, but refrain from playing the role of art director. Influencers are open to collaborating with brands, but want the freedom to create in their own style.
Key Takeaway: Give influencers legal and brand guidelines, but grant them creative autonomy.
Myth #3: Independent content creators are less experienced publishers.
It might not be innate for marketers to view young, independent content creators the same as they would a major media company, but consider this: 20-something beauty expert Michelle Phan commands a YouTube audience that’s more sizable than the circulation of most major fashion magazines, and beauty influencer Sierra Furtado has almost as many followers as Allure Magazine does across the social web. Influential content creators are business people – publishers in their own right – and therefore deserve equal consideration when it comes to planning for and executing on branded content programs.
One of the biggest mistakes brands can make is to shift timelines around irrespective of the creator’s editorial calendar. Doing this not only affects a creator’s upcoming projects, but it also harms trust. Set realistic milestones from Day 1 to avoid last-minute scrambles that can threaten future partnership opportunities and may have a negative impact the quality of the content is created. For example, Crowdtap works with brands to establish an editorial calendar ahead of reaching out to creators, so that all parties can align on expectations before the program formally kicks off.
Key Takeaway: Treat content creators as you would more established publishers.
Myth #4: Content creators just want money, and are not looking for true brand partnerships.
It’s well-understood that today’s influencers are business people, many of whom create freelance content as their primary source of income. While compensation is almost always part of the equation, at the end of the day, creators are also looking for meaningful and rewarding partnerships. They are writers, artists and culture-shapers that like to connect with brands that they love. When marketers provide additional value – beyond the dollar – the relationship is strengthened, forming a foundation for future programs.
One way to offer incremental value to creators is to amplify their content via your brand’s established paid, earned and owned channels. In particular, pushing branded content with paid media can be a tremendous value add for creators looking to extend their reach to new audiences in social. As another example, at Crowdtap, we provide influencers with the opportunity for increased viewership and subscribers by exposing them (and their content) to our engaged member community.
Key Takeaway: Go outside of your pockets to form true partnerships.
Emerging mobile-social experiences are all about people, so the number one takeaway for marketers is to respect the individual passions and pursuits of partner content creators. Deliver relevant opportunities that will pique their interests and excite their audiences, and demonstrate a level of professionalism that will lead to a win-win for both brand and content creator.