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Creators Are the Future. Here’s How To Work With Them

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If you are reading this, you’re likely aware you need to invest in creator talent to curate a more relevant brand presence. You also realize that there is no clean-cut playbook to building creator relationships with creators and, moreover, effectively working with them.

Creators are becoming a high-demand resource as brands are in dire need of “creative directors” that can curate an online presence that’s authentic, purposeful and relatable. And for a reason — they are unique entities that extend beyond vanity likes and views. They are creative production powerhouses invested in providing valuable content to their highly engaged communities.

The role of a creator has evolved quickly over the past few years. We’ve observed the slow death of the Kardashian-esque “influencer” — and the rise of a more approachable “creator” (think: MrBeast, Dylan Mulvaney or Alix Earle) has been the response to the large-scale rejection of influencer figures. In a way, influencers have morphed into creators — at least those who’ve embraced this major shift in user expectations — as authenticity, raw aesthetics and niche communities become the new staple.In other words, users are tired of associating influencers with unattainable lifestyles and unrealistic expectations — and the creators are here to fill the need for connection and community where influencers fell short. And brands need to keep up, whether they like it or not.

Not only have the expectations changed, but the path to becoming a creator has become more accessible than ever. Compelling storytelling skills, a niche perspective and a smartphone with a camera are virtually the only qualifiers for anyone to dip their toes into content creation — a radical change from the requirements of becoming an influencer from a decade ago.

Yes, there is a plethora of talent out there. With the rise of TikTok and content formats like short-form video, the barrier to entry into the world of content creation is lower than ever.

But just because the pool of talent isn’t shallow doesn’t mean that finding the right talent and engaging them well becomes easy. So here are three strategies that will help streamline your work with creators.

Related: Why the Creator Ethos Is Key to the Future of Work

1. Do your research on the creators

Creators are, essentially, spokespeople for brands. They become the face, the manifestation, the representation of the brand through short-form video — which means that choosing who to work with is a point of a lot of pressure for brands.

There are a few ways to take a deep dive into the who, what and why behind each creator. To begin with, taking a look at their current social media presence is a simple starting point. But in doing so, look beyond the vanity follower number and ask yourself instead:

  • What is their engagement across platforms? How is the community reacting?
  • Do they strike a chord with the community they plug into or foster?
  • Do they have a unique point of view or storytelling ability?

Going a step further, it’s essential to leverage tools such as the TikTok Creator Marketplace that will give brands insight into demographic data and account performance. This allows brands to understand what kind of audience the creator has created, how exactly the audience engages and what overlap there is between the brand’s ideal audience and the community in which the creator has established a presence.

Last but not least, it’s important for brands to learn to leverage TikTok SEO to identify what creators already capture the high-intent traffic that they seek to capture. Specifically, identifying key search terms for TikTok Search and identifying creators who currently rank for them.

Establishing such alignment between the brand and the creator is key to a successful partnership in the long term.

Related: How and Why Luxury Brands Should Embrace TikTok

2. Consider working with in-house creators

With the rise of creators, brands striving for a strong social presence, and short-form video in general, user attention has become the hottest commodity on the market — and the competition for it is fierce. This means that brands are under pressure to maintain a high quality and quantity of production to ensure they consistently deliver on the communities’ expectations for engaging and valuable content. This also encourages brands to provide timely commentary on relevant conversations across platforms, further humanizing them and offering them a seat at the table for ongoing community discussions.

This means that content creation is moving from a nice-to-have to a must-have — and a sure way to ensure a full-time dedication to upholding the volume. This model (a shift from the traditional campaign-based partnerships) is still on the rise and is only becoming more and more popular as creators on their end also begin to seek more stability, long-term brand partnerships and professional growth. Whether it’s bringing a creator in-house or working with an agency offering in-house creator capabilities, brands need a strategy to help them stay competitive in an oversaturated content space.

3. Strike the balance between creator freedom and brand control

One big challenge for brands is to manage trust in the creator’s creative process while publicly safeguarding the brand’s persona.

Working with a creator requires brands to push the boundaries of their comfort zone because the winning content always carries an element of the creator’s personality or unique delivery — and it’s up to them how they ease a brand’s message into their own community and style. It can be challenging for a brand to experiment with humor, timeliness, vulnerability and authenticity. But this kind of relinquishment of creative control — a shift in the power dynamics of the brand’s narrative — is crucial to effectively partnering and building a sense of kinship with creators and, by extension, their own communities.

For brands to satisfy their need to drive the narrative, however, it’s important to develop a clear briefing process that guides the creator rather than controls them. A few key elements a successful brief should include are:

  • Ideal brand audience
  • Key product/service value propositions
  • Previous successful content pieces
  • Key talking points
  • Any rigid don’t’s that creators should steer away from

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