Despite the relative youth of today’s leading content creators, the influencer marketing space has done a lot of growing up over the past few years. Blogs are still an important channel for brands vying to enter topical conversations, but marketers should pay close attention as the landscape shifts to where people are spending most of their time: that is, on smartphones and within mobile apps.
The new generation of creators wields more power than its blogging predecessors, since personalities – not publishers or brands – dominate emerging mobile-social spaces like Snapchat, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram. They’re also creating and sharing content that is predominantly consumed by Millennials: short-form formats such as video, images and text.
Here are some best practices for brands looking to partner up with today’s crop of influential content creators:
Respect content creators as trusted subject-matter experts
It’s easy to take one look at a creator’s massive following and view them as you would any other media buy, but marketers need to keep in mind that there is much more to these types of partnerships than simply buying an audience. Most content creators grow influence by focusing on a specific media vertical and masterfully translating their knowledge and passion across one or many channels.
Before approaching a creator simply because they amass a large social following, consider the topics that have built them trust with their audience, and how those topics are brought to life. Does the creator rely on humor (like Logan Paul), or is their focus more aesthetic (like Meagan Cignoli)? Be sure your brand values and campaign focus fit within the broader vision of the creator before adding them to your short list.
Give influencers legal and brand guidelines, but grant them creative autonomy
Surrendering creative control over branded content can be a scary proposition, but marketers should remember why they partner with content creators in the first place. Popular creators gained their influence by understanding what resonates with their respective audiences across various platforms – and they have maintained their followings by staying true to their established editorial vision.
Communicating expectations is the most important step in any brand-influencer partnership. Provide content creators with a brief that clearly outlines your brand personality and campaign objectives, but refrain from playing the role of art director. Influencers are open to collaborating with brands, but want the freedom to create in their own style.
Treat content creators as you would more established publishers
It might not be innate for marketers to view young, independent content creators the same as they would a major media company, but consider this: 20-something beauty expert Michelle Phan commands a YouTube audience that’s more sizable than the circulation of most major fashion magazines, and beauty influencer Sierra Furtado has almost as many followers as Allure Magazine does across the social web. Influential content creators are business people – publishers in their own right – and therefore deserve equal consideration when it comes to planning for and executing on branded content programs.
One of the biggest mistakes brands can make is to shift timelines around irrespective of the creator’s editorial calendar. Doing this not only affects a creator’s upcoming projects, but it also harms trust. Set realistic milestones from Day 1 to avoid last-minute scrambles that can threaten future partnership opportunities and may have a negative impact the quality of the content is created. For example, Crowdtap works with brands to establish an editorial calendar ahead of reaching out to creators, so that all parties can align on expectations before the program formally kicks off.
Go outside of your pockets to form true partnerships
It’s well-understood that today’s influencers are business people, many of whom create content as their primary source of income. While compensation is almost always part of the equation, at the end of the day, creators are also looking for meaningful and rewarding partnerships. They are writers, artists and culture-shapers that like to connect with brands that they love. When marketers provide additional value – beyond the dollar – the relationship is strengthened, forming a foundation for future programs.
One way to offer incremental value to creators is to amplify their content via your brand’s established paid, earned and owned channels. In particular, pushing branded content with paid media can be a tremendous value add for creators looking to extend their reach to new audiences in social.
Emerging mobile-social experiences are all about people, so the number one takeaway for marketers is to respect the individual passions and pursuits of partner content creators. Deliver relevant opportunities that will pique their interests and excite their audiences, and demonstrate a level of professionalism that will lead to a win-win for both brand and content creator.
Claudia Page is the vp, head of creator partnerships at Crowdtap.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.