As the number and reach of influencers continues to skyrocket, a golden age for creators is upon us. They’ve adapted through the pandemic to impact consumer preferences, behaviors, and actions—and as many brand marketing budgets have tightened, influencer marketing has emerged as a valuable, efficient alternative to expensive, production-heavy ad campaigns.
To ensure its longevity, it’s important to effectively support the key players that make influencer marketing a success: the creators. Content creation is a serious, legitimate enterprise—a full-time job for many—and deserves to be treated as such.
“If you want quality, meaningful content, that takes time to do,” says Justin Smith, Senior Director of Influencer Integrations at BEN. “There’s so much work that goes into it. And a lot of creators aren’t working with a massive production team, they’re often just working on their own.”
Creators deserve to be compensated for their labor—and both brands and platforms have a role to play to make sure that happens, to the benefit of the entire influencer ecosystem. Brands have to understand that fair compensation will lead to better creative products, while platforms that offer monetization capabilities can contribute to a cycle that can uncover new creators as potential partners for brands.
“The more support the creators get, the more people will want to create. The more they create, the more views they’ll get, and the more opportunities that provides for agencies and brands,” says Smith.
Protecting creator value is essential to creating a thriving influencer ecosystem—one where creators are supported, brands get ROI through authentic audience connection, and social platforms build networks of engaged users.
HOW—AND WHY—BRANDS SHOULD WORK TO PROTECT CREATORS
Creators make money in a variety of ways, but close to 80 percent of them rely on brand deals to earn a living—three times as much as every other source of income combined. So while creators are leaning on brands to make a living, brands need creators to be able to reach their audiences through influencer marketing.
“It’s symbiotic. Without the brands, creatives aren’t going to get paid, and without the creators, who’s a brand going to sponsor?” says Alec Wagley, Senior Director of Influencer Integrations at BEN.
“Brands need to be willing to invest in creators for what they’re worth and not expect them to do it for free.”
The creator-brand partnership relies on a successful integration that can reach ad-wary consumers. It’s challenging to deliver branded content that’s authentic and nondisruptive, but creators—who enjoy tremendous audience loyalty—know what their audiences will respond to. By giving the creator the support to produce messaging that will resonate with their audiences, brands get more natural content that leaves consumers with a positive impression.
Ultimately, both sides need to be happy for influencer marketing to work effectively. This is a key advantage that an agency like BEN can provide, with dedicated teams serving both brands and creators to make sure each party is satisfied with the partnership. A common task for BEN teams? Educating brands on how much they should pay creators for what they’re asking them to do.
“Creators are artists. Brands are looking at ROI and driving dollars. It’s important for us as protectors of the creator economy to sit between both of them and understand how both sets of priorities can work together,” Wagley says.
Platforms Start to Prioritize Creator Investment
It’s not just brands who are responsible for ensuring that creators are able to succeed: the social media platforms where influencer marketing takes place also have a role to play in supporting the creators who attract users. Platforms have a built-in incentive to invest more in creators to ensure the health and growth of the influencer ecosystem. “The more the platforms invest back into their product, the more it shows they believe the product is going to continue to grow,” Smith says.
Platforms are increasingly coming to this realization and implementing tools to pay creators directly. While Patreon, OnlyFans, and Ko-fi are structured around giving audiences a way to pay creators, industry heavyweights including YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat have started launching tools like marketplaces and digital shops to compensate influencers. Facebook has launched a $1 billion investment in creator funds, and TikTok expects its Creator Fund to grow to the same amount over the next 3 years.
With these investments comes the hope that more creators will arrive on their platforms. Creators will gravitate toward channels that make it simple and intuitive for them to monetize their content. And with a lower barrier to entry for creators, brands will have access to more potential partnerships to get their products into the hands of engaged audiences.
Brands, Creators, and Platforms, All Working Together
Ultimately, investment in creators is essential for reaching the goals of brands, influencers, and platforms. The creator wants to build engagement with content that feels authentic to their followers. Brands want engaged audiences to connect with their offerings, and platforms want to grow their user bases. Investing in creators is a way to help accomplish all these goals while protecting the influencer economy—and ensuring it thrives.
“At the end of the day, BEN works to deliver content that is going to serve the audience well and is going to get the engagement that both the brand and the creator are looking for,” Smith says.