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How to take a content-led approach to your creator marketing strategy
October 11, 2023
As we think about the evolution of the creator economy, we’ve reached an important tipping point in specifying exactly what value creators deliver.
Ask yourself this question: are you hiring creators for the audience they bring, or the content they make?
The fact that we’re referring to the category now as 'creator marketing' rather than influencer marketing should provide a pretty good hint at where we’re focusing our attention.
Audiences of course are important. Whether it’s a big audience, or a focused and relevant audience, there needs to be an audience to engage with.
But a content-led approach to creator marketing can scale beyond the audience of the creator that originates it. That’s precisely the benefit of social media. Content can very quickly gain traction across platforms and attract attention from a wider audience than just the followers of the individual creator.
It’s that impossible–to-predict lightning in a bottle we’re all chasing and hoping for. Yet too often, brands can get caught flat-footed when it finally does occur. That’s because they’re looking in the wrong places.
For starters, brands often spend too much time monitoring the content they’ve created, rather than monitoring the broader landscape of content and creators for signs of high-performing content that mentions their brand or products. Remember, in all likelihood, the most valuable conversations about your brand on social are generated by someone else talking about you.
This is more than just searching for that one, elusive individual post that might catch fire. Sure, we all know that lightning can strike at any time, and it’s important to be aware and responsive to when that happens. The bigger thing to track are the storms themselves.
Rather than just searching for single posts, look for the creators generating a groundswell of conversations and engagement with followers about your brand, products, or industry. These are the creators who are driving share of influence worth engaging with. This is what will set brands apart, and is something they can influence more directly.
Monitor and measure
That’s why brands should be constantly monitoring social networks for any mention of their brand or products, and then watch very closely to see how those posts and creators perform.
Don’t concern yourself too much about how many followers the creator in question has, because any piece of content has the potential to scale far beyond the limits of any one individual’s follower count. This is particularly true for content-first platforms like TikTok (a feature other platforms have already started to emulate).
For instance, pay close attention when the engagement rates for something a creator publishes about your brand or product are disproportionately larger than that creator’s average stats. That’s a sure sign that it’s outperforming, which alone is a positive development to support, and perhaps on the cusp of gaining traction on a broader scale. Also look for content driving more Earned Media Value when compared to other posts from creators with similar sized audiences. Both are statistics you can track and manage using CreatorIQ
Remember that performance statistics are relative, not universal. Performance is brand-specific, so the goal is not to find the creators with the best-performing content in general but rather those that create the best-performing content that drives value for your brand.
That requires an understanding of the outcome you’re trying to achieve. Brand awareness? Content creation? Sales? The secret sauce to finding the best creators to work with is to match the community you want to reach with the goals you’re trying to accomplish and then identify the creators to combine the two.
Treat creators who talk about your brand/products as "direct intent" leads. Every post gives you an opening for a deeper relationship. Minimally, your team should be interacting with that content, thanking the creator for the post, and ideally adding them to your gifting and seeding community. Then, evaluate the relationship from there.
We’ve found that on average, brands are only activating ~20-25% of the creators who post about them, based on an analysis of activity on our platform. So, it is actually likely that the conversation could start "unannounced."
It’s also worth monitoring any business results such posts deliver. Is there any indication the content is increasing search engine queries about your brand/product (indicating a lift in desirability)? Is it driving more traffic to your website (indicating consideration), or even driving sales (conversion)?
Following these steps will allow you to quickly find the creators talking about you, follow the content they make about your brand, and then engage with them immediately once you recognize the signs of an uptick (or even earlier if you choose).
The most influential creators influence not only their followers, but other creators as well. This “Pied Piper” effect creates waves so powerful that they drive other creators who follow them to share, discuss, and create derivative content of their own.
Support and amplify
Once a creator's content has started to bubble up, it’s your job as the benefiting brand to harness and support it. You can support this momentum in several ways.
For starters, secure the rights to the creator’s content so you can reuse it in ad media buys. Then make those ad media buys to extend the content to your followers, as well as retarget to like-minded communities and expand your audience base.
Also, make sure the creators jumping on the bandwagon have similar rights they need to create follow-on content, images, music, etc. Taken together, be sure you’re both amplifying the original post and supporting the creation of similar posts so more eyeballs will see it.
But that’s not all. Once the initial moment has passed, follow up with the original creators and add them to your creator marketing family. That’s more than just paying them for #ad promoted posts. Engage them with an affiliate marketing program, paying them for every sale they generate for your products. Or recruit them into a formal brand ambassador program, where you can deepen your relationship with them over the course of months or even years rather than just pay for a one-off campaign.
These steps result in a more layered strategy that uses a popular post as the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship as opposed to a one-off transactional exchange.
- Creators are better at making social content. They know their audience and what works on the platform better than you.
- The best partnerships include more than social media posts. Use content created for social in other formats: TV, out-of-home, etc.
- Partnerships serve multiple purposes: take a layered approach with multiple creator sizes, different communities, and different platforms.
- Fair and respectful collaboration is non-negotiable: treat fairly or risk harming brand reputation.
Among the challenges in defining and tracking the value of social conversations is the unpredictability of a conversion’s origin. It's easy when you know when a conversation will start, such as the day and date of a planned creator campaign developed in advance. But often, the most valuable conversations are first generated by someone else talking about your product.
Discovering and reacting to those unplanned moments is essential, as they allow brands to quickly find new creators to engage with. After all, the creator is the foundation of this success.