Beyond follower counts -- why brands are shifting from influencers to content creators
Have you ever seen a captivating video or post but hesitated to engage with it or trust the creator when you saw how few followers they had? This dilemma is becoming increasingly common as marketers shift from traditional partnerships with heavy-hitter influencers towards collaboration with content creators. The old model based on follower counts and celebrity endorsements is gradually giving way to a more meaningful and authentic approach based on quality and outcomes. Marketers are realising that it's not just about the number of followers an individual has – it's about the impact they can create.
Let's explore this shift and why it's gaining momentum.
The opportunities and limitations of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing became a buzzword over the past decade as brands partnered with popular personalities on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. The framework was simple: identify individuals who have large followings and incentivise them to promote your products or services.
These collaborations yielded short-term victories for brands:
- Quick visibility and reach: Influencers can offer a massive reach due to their large follower base, exposing a brand to a broad audience quickly.
- Credibility: High-profile influencers are seen as experts in their respective fields.
Despite the success of this strategy, marketers began to confront several shortcomings:
- Expensive partnerships: High-profile influencers demand unrealistic fees for their endorsement. Brands often found themselves paying large sums with no guaranteed return on investment.
- Inauthenticity: Many influencers were criticised for promoting products they didn't genuinely use or believe in.
- Temporary impact: Influencer marketing often resulted in short-term gains and did not establish a long-lasting connection between brands and their target audiences.
- Saturation: As influencer marketing became more popular, social media platforms became saturated with sponsored content, leading to reduced visibility and engagement.
The rise of content creators
Content creators, on the other hand, are individuals who prioritise creating valuable, original and engaging content over their follower count. They are driven by passion and creativity, rather than solely by profit. This shift is notable for several reasons:
- Authenticity: Content creators are often regular people who are genuinely enthusiastic about a particular topic. When a content creator endorses a product or service, it's seen as a personal recommendation, not a paid advertisement.
- Cost-effective: Working with content creators is often less expensive than collaborating with high-profile influencers. Many content creators are willing to partner with brands in exchange for product samples or reasonable compensation.
- Long-term relationships: Content creators are more likely to build long-term relationships with brands, becoming loyal advocates and enthusiasts.
- Impact over follower count: Content creators can be nano, micro, or macro, and the focus is on their impact rather than their follower count. Brands understand that a content creator with a small but engaged and relevant audience can have a more significant impact than a high-follower-count influencer with a less engaged audience.
How to choose between content creators and influencers?
You might be wondering what the right course of action is – should you halt your collaborations with influencers and shift to content creators? In the realm of marketing, decisions are rarely black and white. To determine whether Content Creators or Influencers are the better fit for your brand, you'll need to assess the following factors:
- Goals: Start by defining your marketing objectives. Are you looking for a short-term sales boost or long-term brand advocacy?
- Audience relevance: consider who your target audience is and which group, content creators or influencers, resonates better with them.
- Budget constraints: Assess your budget and what you can allocate to your marketing efforts. Content creators are generally more budget-friendly, while influencers can be costlier.
- Track record: Research the track record of potential partners. Look at their previous collaborations and the results they've achieved for other brands.
Ultimately, the choice between content creators and influencers depends on your unique brand, goals, and budget. As the marketing landscape undergoes continuous transformation, brands that emphasise the significance of impact over follower numbers and authenticity over superficial glamour are more likely to succeed. The rise of content creators show that the way brands and consumers relate to each other is changing. It emphasises how valuable it is to build connections that go deeper than mere influence.
About the author
Heba Al Nabulsi is an international social media and communication consultant, and founder of the #LetsTalkSocialWithHebz community.
ISOC course links
This content relates to the following short courses at the International School of Communications, available live online and also face-to-face at our training centres in London and Dubai:
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