The challenges of being a creator: What brands need to know and why

By Alec Wagley 11/15/2021

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The influencer marketing industry is growing at a breakneck pace. Research suggests over 50 million individuals around the world consider themselves creators. And in 2021, influencer marketing spend is expected to increase by more than 30% as more brands see the channel as a viable investment to grow their business.

Despite increasing investment in the sector, and despite the veneer of influencer marketing—the stories of creators making millions from just a few posts—most creators have to work incredibly hard for consistent income. In my experience, I’ve seen how for many creators, the demands of the industry can translate into long hours, strain, and burnout.

Brands are competing for limited audience attention at a time when many consumers don’t trust brand advertising. Influencer marketing has helped solve this challenge by delivering product messaging to targeted audiences via a trusted source. So as the creator economy continues to grow and influencers gain more prominence in brand marketing, it’s critical for brands to shift their mindset around working with creators. 

Influencer marketing isn’t like putting up a billboard (or a digital ad on Facebook or Google) and hoping the right person sees your ad. It relies on real people to authentically connect with their followers. And real life happens to real people—even if many creators’ online personas rarely paint a full picture of what they might be going through off camera. Like at any other job, creators face stress that can impact their job performance. 

To get results that are impactful for creators, brands, and audiences alike, brands need to start with the understanding that they are working with human beings who have schedules, families, emotions, and human needs, and then fold this empathy into the ways that marketing campaigns are developed and executed.

An important first step in a successful influencer marketing campaign is for brands to acknowledge that being a creator is hard work. Creators are often doing the same level of work that would go into producing a TV show by themselves, sometimes daily, without significant support from a crew or a robust team.

Broadly speaking, the challenges creators face fall into two categories. Some of the challenges are external: Platforms are constantly updating their terms of service or modifying algorithms, sometimes leading creators to unknowingly violate rules and face consequences like suspended or demonetized accounts. And while it’s easy to think that influencers speak only to a cultivated, engaged, dedicated fan base, plenty of creators face abuse from online trolls (a problem that has been on the rise since the pandemic began). Many fear that an audience backlash—even from an unintentional misstep—can permanently damage their reputation. 

But many of the challenges are more personal, a natural consequence of a job where people place themselves under public scrutiny. There’s the pressure to constantly upload content, sometimes even multiple times per day. The more success a creator has, the more this pressure can increase, as audiences demand more of the same popular content. Creators have to search for new ideas for posts, and then wait for each post to be validated with views or likes. 

Understanding common challenges creators face

It all adds up to take a real toll on creators’ mental health, leading to burnout, loss of creativity, anxiety, and depression. One recent survey shows that 93% of creators have experienced stress that has negatively impacted their lives, and 45% say they have experienced emotional lows since becoming a creator

And ultimately, many creators are facing all these obstacles alone. The wider toll that the pandemic had on workers of all types has been well documented. Influencers had to adapt to changing circumstances like the rest of us, all while brands shifted dollars away from traditional advertising to increasingly tap into influencer marketing, relying heavily on creators. Even before the pandemic forced creators to learn how to create content out of their own homes, many creators operated alone, with one person responsible for all aspects of scripting, shooting, editing, and producing their content. 

So how can brands take this knowledge and still craft successful campaigns while respecting the pressure creators often find themselves under?

3 strategies for brands to build empathy into their influencer campaigns

Even the most sympathetic brand partner might still be thinking: Of course I understand that my creator partners are people. I know that circumstances change, and a creator might need an extension or to drop out of a project. But I still have campaign deadlines, KPIs to meet, or a specifically timed product launch! 

So what does empathy in action look like for a brand?

Start by finding the best match for your campaign
Remember: The right creator for your campaign is not necessarily the influencer with the largest following. Finding creators who are a good fit for your brand can not only naturally help spark enthusiasm and creativity from the creators, but also makes it easier to avoid delays associated with aligning content to the brand’s vision. 

For example, our team at BEN recently worked on an influencer marketing campaign with a fintech brand. The timeline was tight: if we didn’t complete the campaign in one month, the brand would’ve lost their budget. But the brand also had very specific parameters for how influencers should position the product. By investing time in finding the right creators for the brand’s message, there was almost no back-and-forth between the brand and the creators about the content—ensuring the campaign went off without a hitch for all parties involved.

Make sure the campaign is scaled appropriately 
If you’ve scaled your campaign correctly, you’ve likely cast a wide net to find creators that can connect with the right audiences to meet your marketing goals. Working with a range of creators helps make sure the loss of any single influencer won’t jeopardize your key deadlines or prevent you from hitting key goals, if a creator needs to back out or extend their timeline due to extenuating circumstances. 

Encourage transparent communication with your creators
Brands and creators alike can be more open about “how the sausage is made” by having honest dialogue about the process of working together. Set appropriate expectations about what you’ll need from creators to consider the project complete. If brands set an example of being transparent about timelines and urgent requests, creators are more likely to reciprocate with honesty about any issues that arise on their end, potentially opening the door to deadline extensions or opportunities for future partnerships. 

Bridging the distance between creators and brands

Another way to inject empathy and reduce stress in influencer marketing campaigns is to work with a partner who sits at the intersection between creators and brands—and who has experience problem-solving when the unexpected occurs. These types of partners are looking out for the interests of everyone involved: ensuring creators are supported, enabling brands to meet their goals, and connecting audiences with authentic branded content. 

Agencies like BEN have built deep relationships with creators over time. This means we’ve put out all kinds of fires. We not only know a range of creators to help brands cast a wide net that fits their brand, but we also have developed the trust needed to have tough conversations when creators are operating under extreme stress, to help honestly facilitate solutions to problems.

The creator economy depends on creators. Brands can play a key role by supporting them, being understanding of challenges that may arise, and facilitating transparency with their influencer partners.

BEN can help brands with influencer marketing campaigns that approach creator partnerships with empathy and compassion

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Talk to BEN’s Influencer Marketing and Product Placement teams about how we can help you achieve your brand goals.
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