CommonSense Blog

Influencers vs. Creators: How the Landscape is Changing

By Angel Hakim | Aug 03, 2015

Let this soak in: U.S. teens trust online talent more than Hollywood stars. In fact, a Variety survey found 8 of the top 10 stars that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities.

The rationale for their stardom (and flocks of fans) is simple: these icons are authentic. According to the Variety survey, which was talked up and displayed at every angle during VidCon 2015, YouTubers are 90% more genuine to the every day American. And, before you write them off as fluff, bear this in mind: their followers don’t just follow. They listen to them. A YouTuber’s average engagement is 6.7%, compared to an average engagement of 1% for brands. As one enthusiast on-site at VidCon said, “I trust YouTube’s recommendations over magazines. I will make a list of products they mention and buy them.”

Chances are, you’ve worked on or alongside a campaign that includes influencer partnerships. Taking a look at these impactful stats, it’s time to truly understand this landscape and how these partnerships can be the most beneficial for your brands.

Know Who You’re Working With 

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, when it comes to talent.

  • A creator consists of individuals who produces content for YouTube, although it should be noted platforms like Vessel are beginning to take off and spurring their own set of creators. In addition to being the on-camera talent, they produce, edit and promote their videos across their social platforms, which typically see a very high reach.
  • An influencer consists of bloggers and individuals with social specialties (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Vine) that may not have a YouTube presence. (It should be noted that just because they are not creators does not make them any less valuable!)

Knowing “social talent” is not a category anymore is also important. Many creators have gone offline to garner book deals, television roles and cosmetic lines.

Think Bigger Than “One and Done”

With so many brands tapping into this space, brand deals are thrown to this genre of talent left and right. More and more, creators are maintaining a defensiveness about their content and what they love. Being approached by so many brands, they reserve the right to do what is most authentic, and are able to truly tell a story versus a one-off opportunity. When strategizing the best programming for your client(s), think about the ways these creators can work beyond video integration.

Creating with the Creators

Talent, whether it’s a Hollywood actor or creator with 3 million followers, ultimately aims to do one thing: tell a story. Creators are in a unique position to break the barrier between themselves and their audience, whereas traditional celebs are much more unattainable. Experimentation is key to unlocking success with creator programming. Overheard at VidCon, creators underscored the importance of working with brands that allow them to be themselves while organically incorporating brands. Creators don’t just share a product review, for example: they may do an unconventional road test, take it on the streets or do a comedy bit about it. It’s their voice that makes their followers listen, so it is in a brand’s best interest to work with the creators, not direct them.

Where do influencers fit into it all? They absolutely still have a role in marketing success, but, like with creators, it’s time to refresh the approach. Several bloggers, for example, have been churning out content for longer than some YouTube channels have existed; and in their right, they deserve the same respect. As platforms like Snapchat and Vine have become an integral part of many social media portfolios, it’s advised to keep an eye on the top performers spanning those channels. But it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, so the first question must be, “What are we trying to accomplish?” From there, consider new ways to partner and create.

Online video is succeeding, and with other platforms on the horizon, it shows no signs of stopping. For marketing professionals, accepting the power of creators is the best approach. And it’s okay to admit you watch Jenna Marbles videos before you go to sleep.