Social Content Creators Gain Influence

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In just the past two years, the number of social media content creators has more than doubled, prompting Forrester Research to call the modern marketing landscape a “creator economy.”

Forrester’s data shows that there are roughly 300 million creators worldwide today, with more than 165 million of them having joined the field since 2021. This has created serious competition for the attention of consumers, according to the research firm, which also found that nearly half (47 percent) of younger consumers say social media influencers/content creators provide the key information they see about new brands or products.

“The creator economy grew exponentially over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing down,” Forrester said in its report.

These creators are responsible for the fast rise of TikTok, which was the most downloaded app of 2022, according to Forrester. Now almost half of Americans use the app at least once a month.

Content creators today are also the driving force behind many purchase decisions, especially by younger consumers. Citing a survey from gen.video, Forrester said that more than half (53 percent) of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 have purchased products after watching YouTube videos about them.

One success story of note is Aerie, whose cross-over leggings sold out eight times after a viral TikTok video. Feta cheese also sold out at numerous grocery stores and became the top search term on Instacart after a baked feta recipe went viral.

Social media is re-creating demand that older marketing campaigns did decades ago, Forrester concluded.

At the same time, though, creators can also dissuade purchases by advising consumers not to buy products altogether or offering them cheaper alternatives to popular products or services. Forrester refers to this trend as “#deinfluencing.”

These content creators are changing the marketing landscape, with marketers now needing to adopt “a multidimensional strategy to compete for attention in this creator-led world.”

Forrester is encouraging marketers to work with creators to their mutual benefit. The collaboration can take a number of forms, including affiliations, ambassadorships, product collaboration, and sponsored content creation, all with different responsibilities and expectations for creators and marketers.

“Creators are the new publishers in your media plan,” said Forrester principal analyst Kelsey Chickering. “Giving up control might feel daunting, but creator marketing is more familiar than you think.”

Chickering noted that when the media landscape started to become fragmented, marketers invested in content partnerships with publishers; they collaborated to build content and distribute it on their media properties to get in front of engaged audiences and borrow credibility. They tapped into publishers’ knowledge of their audiences and what would appeal to them.

Modern content creators deliver on similar goals, and marketers should apply this proven strategy to the creator marketplace to develop engaging content faster and at a lower cost, Chickering said.

Many companies are already working closely with creators, Chickering added. “The brands that are successful develop strategies that are multidimensional and are rooted in collaboration. There are a lot of different ways that brands are partnering with creators that would suggest that they see creators as valuable parts of their marketing teams.”

Some organizations have gone so far as to hire creative directors to be integral members of their teams, Chickering said. “Brands will continue to open their minds to the ways that they can use creators, beyond just hashtags on Instagram, and consider all of the different types of [key performance indicators] that influencers and creators can help them with.”

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