Gone are the days when someone can’t recite the name of at least one influencer. Today, influencers act as product connoisseurs, constant sources of inspiration, and always-on sources of entertainment. Their scandals are even making mainstream media headlines. Yet as marketers, the terms influencer, content creator, and celebrity are often thrown around without people truly knowing the difference. Believe it or not, “influencer” and “content creator” are not synonymous. There is a difference, and even the best marketers are guilty of confusing the two.
That’s not to say that influencers are not content creators and vice versa. In fact, there is oftentimes a huge overlap in the two. Yet, understanding the key differences (and similarities) between the two will allow you to understand and plan whose partnership will help you to meet your business objectives.
Who are content creators and why should you work with them?
Anyone with a smartphone has the ability to take a selfie or quick pic of their brunch. But content creators take their visual creativity to a whole new level. The key characteristic that all content creators have in common is, well, they create high-quality content. Content creators are the photographers, creative directors, writers or videographers who are well versed in creating professional-quality content that gets people engaged.
Content creators don’t necessarily have the largest following. You may not see them on the steps of the Met Gala or with their own MTV reality shows. They may not sell merch with their faces on it, and people may not follow them solely for their charming personalities. However, content creators can have a large following. Take one of our personal favorites, @escapingyouth. With her surreal photography and editing skills, there’s no wonder she has more than 230K followers on Instagram. While her audience may not follow her strictly for product reviews and testimonials, as a brand, if you were to repurpose some of her out-of-this-world creative content on your own marketing channels, it is sure to generate engagement.
On the other hand, there’s another talented photographer, @austin_douglass, whose audience of 5,052 followers is modest in comparison. Although his following is small, his engagement rate is extremely high (30%) – This photograph received more than 1,600 likes!
So why work with content creators? For brands who need to source content for their website, emails, print, paid ads, or social, these individuals are your go-to. Content creators make beautiful, professional-quality content that is aspirational yet authentic. Plus, the content they create is a fraction of the price and 8 times more engaging than brand directed content. Building a community of content creators can be the cure to your brand’s content shortage.
Who are influencers and when should you work with them?
Now, let’s move on to the all familiar influencer. Influencers are the famous vloggers, comedians, storytellers and product reviewers of the social media world. While influencers’ content might not be the most beautifully crafted, they make up for it with their ability to capture their audience’s attention and ultimately influence purchase decisions. Influencers are micro-celebrities in their own right, but consumers are seven times more likely to trust someone they follow on social media over a traditional celebrity. Why? Because influencers are real people who’ve marketed their personal brands through social media to build a following.
Let’s take macro influencer @JennaMarbles, for example, who could quite literally post anything and her 5.2 million Instagram followers would engage. This amazing selfie got 555K likes.
What qualifies someone as an influencer doesn't rely solely on their follower count, but their ability to, you guessed it, influence their audience. Micro influencers (those with under 100K followers) are tastemakers in their space, sharing invaluable recommendations and tips with their dedicated audiences. @Maddie_elaine_beauty shares “shelfies” with her 11k skincare and makeup addicted followers who in turn leave her hundreds of comments asking for her opinion on the latest beauty releases.
Now, don’t get us wrong, influencers more times than not are content creators as well. But their expertise is in generating awareness and driving click-throughs in content such as ads and social media post because they are recognizable by a large group of people. If you are a brand looking to drive sales, web traffic, or brand awareness, working with influencers might be your best bet.
Why does this all matter?
The key distinction between influencers and content creators is how brands can leverage their relationship with each type of partner. With content creators, leverage their creativity and ability to curate engaging images and videos to fuel your own marketing channels. With influencers, leverage their dedicated audience to build brand awareness and trust.
If your brand is looking for content and distribution, the answer is simple. Work with influential content creators who:
- Create high-quality content
- Have high engagement rates (over 3%)
- Have built a dedicated audience and positive comment sentiment