Content creators vs. influencers: Which one is right for my business?

Dan Morrison
Dan Morrison
A woman's silhouette is shown in front of a ring light. Next to her a man is backlit by a circular light.

You may have heard the buzz about creator marketing, and wondered to yourself how it differs from influencer marketing. Well, if that’s the case, you’re not alone! Most marketers agree that the online creators movement is in full swing, but not everyone agrees on the exact differences between digital content creators vs. influencers. We sat down with Hannah Cameron from #paid to share her two cents on what the difference is, plus why virtually any brand can benefit from creator marketing. 

What are content creators? 

Creator marketing, as its name suggests, involves hiring a creator to produce content for your brand. Whether that’s copy, imagery, or video creation (or a combination of all three), content creators work with brands by crafting assets from ideation all the way to delivery.

"Think of content creators as an extension of your brand and your team."

- Hannah Cameron, #paid

How does that differ from influencer marketing, you might ask? “Think of content creators as an extension of your brand and your team”, says Hannah. “With influencers, you’re typically getting someone who copies and pastes your content, but with creator marketing, you’re getting bespoke, whitelisted content creation,” she explains. Simply put, there’s a lot more that can be gained from a partnership with a creator vs. an influencer—on both sides of the equation!

“A creator relationship is a long-term one; it’s not one-and-done”, Hannah adds. “Once you find a great brand content creator, it’s best to spend some time and energy nurturing that relationship,” she explains. Not only that but going the creator marketing route can be a lot less expensive compared to a creative agency or even influencer marketing. Plus, since these creators have already found their content niche and have spent time building a loyal audience, engagement tends to be high. “Creators’ content has some of the best performance metrics out there—like engagement—because they’re more connected to their audiences,” Hannah says. 

What kinds of content do creators make?

When it comes to creator marketing, the sky really is the limit. Creators can create all sorts of content—ranging from social media to branded imagery to videos—which can then be repurposed on your website and for marketing collateral like ad creative. Unlike influencer marketing, you own the content provided by the creator, meaning it’s really up to you on how to get the most out of it! Keep in mind that some creators do specialize in one channel over the other, such as social media content creators or YouTube content creators.

“Think about areas or channels that could benefit from improved copy, images, and video,” says Hannah. “Those are all places where you can repurpose creator content; if you start to think of the content beyond being just an ad, you'll realize the possibilities are pretty limitless,” she adds. Many brands now hire video content creators to create commercials for their products, typically at a much lower cost compared to more traditional routes.

Which businesses are best suited to content creators vs. influencers?

The beauty of creator marketing is that it applies to virtually any brand. “It’s amazing, I’ve seen it work for every type of business—even tax companies,” says Hannah. “A good rule of thumb I go by is when you see B2B businesses picking it up, then you know everyone can benefit from creator marketing,” she adds. Creator marketing, it turns out, isn’t limited to selling products: it can be used for messaging, brand awareness, and even hiring.

"Creator marketing, it turns out, isn’t limited to selling products: it can be used for messaging, brand awareness, and even hiring."

A great example of how creator marketing can benefit any type of campaign is the COVID-19 vaccine. “We’ve seen creator content used to bust down the stigma of the vaccine with some really powerful messaging—it’s been incredible to witness,” explains Hannah. 

How do content creators encourage repeat customers? 

The reason content creators are so powerful, according to Hannah, is because of their audience. “These individuals have spent a long time cultivating and then nurturing a following,” she explains. “Usually creators pitch themselves to a brand—so they’re already familiar with your brand story and have an audience that matches that,” Hannah adds. Unlike influencers, who aren’t necessarily invested in your brand, creators tend to be more authentic and have a niche audience that’s already aligned with your company’s values.

"Creators tend to be more authentic and have a niche audience that’s already aligned with your company’s values."

- Hannah Cameron, #paid

In addition, creator marketing works on several stages within the marketing funnel. “As opposed to influencer marketing which tends to focus on top of funnel brand awareness, creator marketing can be integrated at every stage of the funnel—including those middle funnel repeat customers,” Hannah explains. 

What are some creator marketing best practices? 

Hannah recommends some easy tips and tricks when working on marketing with a content creator to ensure both parties are getting the most out of the partnership.

Tip #1: Find content creators with the right audience for your brand

Creators have niche audiences that can be leveraged to your advantage, as long as the audience is a right fit for your brand. So, seek out content creators with followings that align with you and your business. “Instead of starting from scratch, you’ll be leveraging a specific audience they've already built, so you want to take the time to make sure you’re talking to the right people,” says Hannah. 

Tip #2: Don’t limit them creatively

Once you’ve selected a creator who speaks to the right audience, it can be tempting to want to be involved in every step of content creation. “In my experience, limiting a creator’s creative liberty has always been a misstep,” says Hannah. “Just like anyone on your team internally, you’ll want to give this individual space to do what they do best,” she adds. 

Tip #3: Always use a platform

The nature of the brand-creator agreement will depend largely on the relationship. Some brands and creators do one-year contracts, while others will be campaign-specific. “Regardless of the relationship, it’s best to protect yourselves and the creators by using a platform,” Hannah advises. Platforms like #paid do all the heavy lifting for you in terms of contracts and agreements, so you can focus on growing your brand and your creator can focus on crafting compelling content. 

What’s the future of creator marketing? 

One of the biggest trends in marketing to emerge from the pandemic has been live streaming and shopping in which your brand has the opportunity to reach out to a live audience. Hannah believes the future of creator marketing lies in platforms with live audiences, such as Twitch. “One of the biggest trends we’re seeing right now is livestream selling on Twitch,” explains Hannah. “Brands are creating customer items that can then be sold through live streaming, not unlike QVC!”, she adds.

"Content creators are the new influencers."

- Hannah Cameron, #paid

Hannah also believes creator marketing and brands will start working on more and more collaborations. “Consider sneakers from Nike or a line of lipsticks from Sephora: creator marketing essentially acts as a free distribution channel for those products,” she says. As a result of these collaborations, not only will you be tapping into an audience that’s ripe to become customers, but your brand awareness will go through the roof.

The opportunity with creator marketing is huge, and brands are starting to realize that. “Simply put, content creators are the new influencers”, Hannah says. But global industry trends take time to come into full effect. As creator marketing gains momentum, one thing has become clear: the sooner your brand leverages this channel, the sooner your content will elevate your business above the competition.

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