As part of the Alpha Foundations program, we are frequently given the opportunity to dive deeper into trending topics in specialist areas, and an ever evolving area is content and social media. This is an area that sparked interest for me and the rise of the creator economy is a topic I felt compelled to share my learnings on.
As we become tired of the same sponsored influencer posts, we can’t help but ask if the age of the influencer is over? The rise of the creator economy is an answer to this question. A reaction to highly-produced influencer marketing, the creator economy is shifting consumers’ expectations of social media content, forcing brands to follow suit.
What is the Creator Economy?
It might sound like just another buzzword, but the creator economy is here to stay. The creator economy is a group of content creators who have monetised their social media following and built an influential brand around their passion. The popularity of platforms like Patreon has only accelerated the creator economy, granting creators the opportunity to make a living without relying on ad revenue.
At face value, the creator economy looks like a new and shiny model of influencer marketing. While in many ways the two concepts are similar, the key difference is the shift towards authenticity. Whereas influencers of days past would post highly-produced content, the hook of creators is authentic, accessible content from a place of passion. Their posts are often the result of unbridled enthusiasm around a niche, connecting with a like-minded audience who appreciate the authentic nature of their content.
The growing influence held by members of the creator economy is a result of content-creation culture expanding in the past decade. As we’ve watched our favourite creators turn their passion into a financially secure lifestyle, our desire to follow suit has grown. In a world where children want to be YouTubers when they grow up, the desire and ability to make content have grown among Generation Z. When combined with the experience of working with the TikTok algorithm to establish the formula for virality, you have the perfect storm to accelerate the creator economy.
The popularity of these creators coincides with the shift towards unpolished, ‘lo-fi’ content across social media feeds. This change has seen an uptick in user-generated content (UGC) and businesses posting more meme-based content.
The Creator Economy’s impact on digital marketing
The emergence of the creator economy has informed a shift from pure engagement to more of a focus on entertainment on social media. Consumers are seeking individual personalities rather than faceless businesses. Consumers want to feel heard by brands. For brands, that’s easier said than done.
Creating branded content that is both culturally relevant and engaging is challenging. Paired with the breakneck speed of social media trends, brands are struggling to keep up. As demand for content becomes more personalised, brands that are turning to smaller creators are reaping the benefits. Creators are managing these social media expectations with ease. They are already ‘in the know’ about whatever is trending and are native to the TikTok or Instagram community. Armed with this knowledge, the creator economy has enabled these creators to be the face of businesses online.
Why should brands embrace the Creator Economy?
This shift from attention to engagement is changing buying psychology. It’s motivating purchase behaviour and inspiring social media activity around a trending product or brand.
As customers are looking for confidence in their buying decision, seeing someone like them share and talk about product instils confidence in their buying decision. By utilising creators, either through UGC or on an owned account, brands can showcase their association with trending moments and people, thus instilling confidence that they’re in the know.
Consumers are looking for authentic brand experiences, and working with authentic TikTok creators as the face of a brand is proving to be effective. Trends like the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon demonstrates how people-first content performs on social media, as niche products and brands turn into an overnight sensation off the back of a viral TikTok. These creators are adapting brand messaging in a TikTok-native fashion, creating connection through authenticity. The businesses that are employing this strategy are capturing attention and winning the long-term game of brand perception among Gen Z.
Brands that are leveraging the Creator Economy
Audiences want variety, cultural relevance, and rapid-fire delivery of their content. Several brands have successfully met these demands by placing creators at the forefront of their social media strategy.
One only has to look to DuoLingo’s success on TikTok to understand how embracing the lo-fi sensibilities of the creator economy pays off. The language education company has turned heads by producing videos so organically tied to Internet meme culture that only someone who is a part of that community could have produced it. DuoLingo’s social media management may be in-house for the brand, but they are firm disciples of the creator economy and its push towards online authenticity. The personal flair of their content takes those ‘in the know’ trends and translates them into branded moments.
How can your brand tap into the Creator Economy?
Adopting the creator economy in your organic social media strategy is a gradual, albeit rewarding process. Alpha Digital’s creative team are here to consult, strategise, and execute your organic social media activity. Get in touch for more information.