Social media is not known for its subtlety, but there is a definite nuance in how advertisers and marketers leverage the “creator economy.” The term “creator” and “influencer” get thrown around almost interchangeably, but a discerning marketer needs to know the real difference.
Simply stated, a creator may be an influencer, but not all influencers are truly creators. As a matter of fact, many creators are not influencers, either.
Content creators create video, audio and other content to develop a following, and/or build a channel. They are publishers unto themselves, developing content on a regular, standard cadence, to an audience they feel responsible for. They are likely more artistic and visionary.
While creators definitely want to monetize their content, influencers only creates content at the behest of money. A traditional influencer is only interested in trading influence for monetization, and while they may have built a following and an audience, it is not for some artistic vision or to advance an idea. They do so solely to make money, and perception is their currency.
Creators are content, while influencers are hype.
To me, an “influencer” strategy lacks credibility unless said influencers are first and foremost true creators.
How do you tell the difference? That’s easy. How often do they publish, regardless of sponsorship? How often is their content sponsored by the same brands versus a rotation of companies? If they stick to their schedule regardless of sponsored posts, product placements or integrations, they are creators and they have a vision. They are still monetizing with ads, regardless of integrated sponsorship. They still make their money.
If you see large gaps in their publishing, or if every video or podcast is sponsored by the same advertisers, they are probably more interested in the money than the vision.
Influencers can ramp up and burn out quickly.
Some creators become massively successful just by the value of their own merits (see Dude Perfect and Mr. Beast). Many of the rest are able to build respectful little businesses and pull in seven- or eight-figure revenue.
I will admit that I haven’t done the exact math, but I am willing to bet there are more successful creators in the world, grinding out a good living, than there are influencers. A creator with a solid content strategy can always outlive the flavor of the month influencer who is simply trying to “Keep Up With The Kardashians."
Influencers like engagement, and creators like authenticity, but you can have one without the other when you are pulling the right volume of eyeballs and representing a highly targeted, niche audience that an advertiser wants to reach.
So the next time you are putting together your social media strategy, and said strategy includes influencers or creators, be sure to slice that onion a little bit more and make sure you know what you really need. Your campaign will be better for it.