Creators and influencers

What are the differences and why work with them?

The (social) world is changing. To reach an audience, brands must work with creators or influencers. What are the differences? And how to get the most out of the collaboration? Brands need to understand the societal changes, do their homework to find the right creator and look beyond the celebrity and vanity metrics. 

What I didn't know, and you probably neither

  • Underlying societal changes
  • Differences between influencers and creators
  • Why marketers work with creators 
  • Why creators work with brands
  • Tips for choosing the right one

Sources and the link to the 'Working with Creators guide by WARC in the last paragraph.


Why it matters

I'm not going to explain why brands should consider working with creators or influencers. That's a given. 

That said, the difference between creators and influencers can be confusing. Is ‘creator’ just a fancy new name for ‘influencer’ or is it something different? I presume it's different, and I prefer creators. Below, I'll explain why. 


Fleur Willemijn van Beinum

Working with influencers is a thing of the past. Go for creators and build that more authentic niche relationship; show that you care. 

Fleur Willemijn van Beinum

Societal changes

It’s clear that the world has changed; a few things to keep in mind for us, Gen X and Boomer, marketers, and comms people.

  • First, how Gen Z behaves influences us. So, what’s relevant for them also becomes relevant for us. Not at the same intensity and pace, yet we copy them.
  • There is a significant change in media consumption. I’m not going to explain the rise of digital always-on streaming and connected mentality with the consumers’ desire for authenticity and community.
  • Add the growth of social media with the never-ending stream of new channels or apps. Combined with the innovations in technology for content creation. And seamless one-click buy e-commerce. Social became a heavenly playground and nightmare at the same time.                                                                                                 
  • And good to know, for younger audiences, creators are like rock stars or movie stars for older generations – not a lesser online equivalent.


What's an influencer?

Influencers make content to grow their personal brand and highlight their lives on social media.

Influencers have many followers on social media. They use their popularity and personal brand to promote products, services, or causes. They collaborate with brands and endorse their products through sponsored posts or partnerships. They have the power to influence their audience's opinions and behavior.

The key characteristics of influencers are:

  1. Audience reach: Influencers have a large following on social media platforms and have built a community of engaged followers.
  2. Brand partnerships: They collaborate with brands to endorse products or services, often through sponsored posts or partnerships.
  3. Promotional focus: Influencers center their content around promoting brands, products, or causes aligning with their brand and audience's interests.
  4. Engagement and influence: Influencers have the power to shape their audience's opinions, preferences, and behaviors through their recommendations and endorsements.


What's a creator?

Creators make content for the sake of making content and sharing it online. 

Top creators have moved on from partnerships with established brands to creator brands in their own right. Creator products are not limited to fashion and beauty vloggers.

Creators are people who make original content in a specific area, like art, videos, writing, or music. They focus on creating high-quality content that entertains or educates their audience. Creators have expertise in their field and often have a niche audience interested in what they do.

The key characteristics of creators are:

  1. Content production: Creators focus on creating and sharing original content that reflects their skills, expertise, or artistic abilities.
  2. Niche expertise: They often have specific knowledge or talents within a particular domain and cater to an audience interested in that niche.
  3. Engagement: Creators aim to foster meaningful connections with their audience and encourage interactions through comments, likes, shares, or subscriptions.
  4. Authenticity: Creators tend to prioritize maintaining their authenticity and expressing their unique perspectives through their content.


Differences between influencers and creators

So, creators make original content and focus on their expertise, while influencers have a large following and use their popularity to promote things. Sometimes, people can be both creators and influencers, combining their content creation skills with brand partnerships.

In short, a creator builds his, hers, or its fame on social by producing amazing content; there are no restrictions to the social channel they use. An influencer builds a name through fame. Nigella Lawson is an influencer as she's famous all over for her indulging recipes; Alejandro is a creator due to his superb engaging, amazing content. 

N=1, I see more value in working with creators over influencers. Just plug & play promoting your stuff by influencers is a thing of the past. It's about connection and making an effort as a brand to show that you care about your audience. And that's where the creators are taking the extra step. 


influencer - creator


Why marketers work with creators

I’m happy to see that the top three reasons to work with creators are 

  1. Create engagement with existing audiences
  2. Reach new audiences
  3. Build communities
  4. Commerce

The WARC research shows that driving revenue is not a top priority when brands work with creators. Check out their Creator guide for all details. 

 Next to the above, working with influencers can also become a distinctive brand asset. E.g., Clooney for Nespresso. 




Why creators work with brands

This is where it gets interesting.  The collaboration goes both ways. Creators work with brands for more reasons than just the payment. 

Creators are looking for a long-term relationship with a brand, and they care about how that collaboration benefits their audience or community. After all, the creator has reach by being relevant to their followers. Hence everything the creator does has to add value to them. That's the ‘what’s in it for me' game creators understand excellently, and brand marketers can still learn from them. 

Reasons not to work with a brand

  • If the brand's values don't align with the creators
  • Lack of budget, creators are professionals, treat and pay them accordingly
  • Lack of creative freedom; marketers tell creators exactly what to do


Tips for choosing the right creators

While partnering with creators can supercharge a brand’s engagement and reach, using the wrong partner can have a negative effect on the brand (WARC)

It's a no-brainer that you have to select your creators with care. A few tips from me

  • Working with a creator is a long-term commitment, not a one-off. It takes time, just like sales. 
  • Hire a professional agency to source and select the creators. 
  • Look beyond the vanity metrics such as followers. Go for the values and audience fit. Bigger and more is not always better. Sometimes selecting a niche creator has more engagement and impact. Nice side effect; mostly, they're not as expensive as the macro creators, so you can work with more creators simultaneously. 
  • Start small, track every step in every creator collaboration, and not just the overall campaign end result in sales numbers. 
  • Don't forget to do your research; what are other brands in your industry doing? And are there any creators in your existing customer base? 


Read also

As all good things come in three, so this series about creator marketing. 


Source and credits

All credits to WARC and their guide, ‘Working with Creators’. Check it out, as I can't reveal all insights of this amazing guide. Above is an excerpt of what I think matters and marketers should know. 

Special credits and shout out with a big thanks to David Shadpour, Founder and CEO of Social Native, and Nick Backlanov

WARC is my go-to source for insights, research, best practices, and cases. Yes, it's a paid subscription; for me, absolutely worth it. If you're a freebie, subscribe to their newsletter and podcast to get some content for free.