Influencer Vs. Creator – Who’ll Come Out On Top In 2022?

In a recent webinar with Head of Ryanair’s social, Michael Corcoran, one of his arguments that I found particularly compelling (and perhaps a little controversial) was that influencer marketing is on the decline, and is about to be replaced with working with creators instead. Will creator marketing catch on? I’ve been thinking a lot about it since, and here’s what I think.

So Wait… Who’s Who?

But first, let me explain, to my understanding, what influencers and creators are, and indeed what the difference between them is.

Influencers are who we’re more likely to be familiar with, as they’ve been around for a long time now… Think back to the pre-2010s when Zoella was just dipping her toe into YouTubing! Influencers are users of social media channels, most commonly Instagram now, who do what they say on the tin – they influence their followers to use a service or buy a product, mostly because they’ve been paid to say they like it.

Creators, on the other hand, are users who’ve built a following not through sponsored brand deals, but by making content that we love to engage with. The best place to go for a wealth of examples of this, is my favourite platform of the moment – TikTok. Think trainspotting Francis Bourgeois (2.2m followers) or comedian Cole Anderson (1.1m followers); they’ve garnered popularity by creating content that people enjoy.

The blinding difference is that most influencers are effectively paid to say they like and endorse something, whereas creators (at the moment anyway) don’t tend to get paid by businesses for what they create, they may generate revenue through other means such as TikTok’s creator fund, for example. The one word that comes to mind is authenticity.

Don’t Kill The Influencer!

In the interest of being completely transparent, I think ‘death of the influencer’ is very dramatic. Though I certainly see why marketing is shifting more to bespoke content creation (as I’ll come on to in a little while), I don’t think we can discredit the impact of influencers altogether. In fact, I’d continue to endorse using them for a number of businesses and think they are just as effective, if not more effective thanks to increased social media usage, than ever before. The shift, for me, is the need to focus on relevancy. Gone are the days where ex Love Islander’s promoting car air fresheners seems like a good idea (was it ever a good idea?!) and here are the days where we only work with influencers who have a genuine connection to our brands and an impressionable audience who trust the content that’s being posted by said influencer, sponsored or otherwise. This is what we’ve always done with our clients, and it’s what I believe is the next step for influencer marketing. Unfortunately, this inevitably means that influencers without a niche or a hard-earned following, such as reality TV stars, for example, will become less relevant. But what it does mean is we can start putting more weight behind smaller accounts that have just as good, if not a better, influence. Don’t just take my word for it, though, 89% of brands still deem influencer marketing as a vital string to their marketing bow in 2022.

Why Creators Are An Attractive Option

In the way that once, influencers would post a hybrid mix of organic and sponsored content which made them feel more impressionable and approachable, now, creators have stepped into those shoes and are becoming more popular for the same reasons. By not relying on brand deals, they are building and retaining audiences through the quality content they put out. They’ll often have a loyal following – which makes them particularly attractive to brands trying to reach new audiences. Plus, creators can promote products and services in new and exciting ways, and many a time you wouldn’t even know you’re seeing sponsored content until you read a disclaimer in the description. This is the ideal scenario for brands who want to be seen, but not in overly gimmicky way that feels bogus.

Will The Two End Up Merging?

Yes. I absolutely think that influencers will inevitably become creators and the lines will blur. For the most part anyway. In a way you could argue that influencers have already been creators, as they didn’t build a following through entirely promotional content – they’ve have had to create organic content at some point. To add to this, many of the influencers that we work with here at Source PR still retain that mix and balance, which gives them credibility, so in a way, I guess they are creators in their own right. As TikTok becomes harder to ignore, even overtaking Google as the most used website in 2021, I in no doubt expect to see more influencers moving over to that platform and diversifying their content to remain relevant. This is another reason I’d say that the influencer is not ‘dead’, so to speak because they always have the chance to change up their strategy and move with the times. I for one will definitely be keeping my eye on it over the next year, and look forward to seeing what opportunities arise.

So, Which Should You Use?

To end, let’s summarise. What’s best to use for your business, influencer, or creator? To put it very, very simply (and I promise influencer marketing is not this simple when you actually do it), if you have a product that is diverse enough to be marketed creatively and in different ways, then try your hand at creators. For example, I’ve seen a number of sponsored videos on TikTok now for food and hygiene brands as these can easily be inserted into any situation or scenario. Or, if you have something you’d rather be promoted in a specific way, then the influencer is your best bet as you can work with them to control the narrative. Remember though, always go for relevancy over vanity metrics, such as followers. In fact, research even suggested that mid-level reach is better than going big when working with creators too. I’d say travel businesses could test either, you can curate content with influencers to promote your accommodation/resort in a nice, manicured way, but could also work with influencers whose MO is to visit lovely places and create videos about them, to do the same for your business. The key with whichever form of third party marketing you utilise is to not expect magical results from it, be realistic and try different things until you find the perfect formula. You’ll be laughing when you do!