There's nothing new about the impact influencers can have on a brand and their products, but are we reaching a tipping point whereby they can truly displace the traditional media players from "ad budget feasts" at today's CMO's table?
Many brands have been building better relationships with these influencers over the years and lots of "content creator" aggregators have popped up offering the services of these influencers. But it's become an increasingly challenging endeavor by brands to truly leverage this emerging talent pool whilst staying on the right side of editorial impartiality - not to mention the FTC.
Yes, it's happened. As influencers and content creators grow in importance, savvy brands are looking to squeeze value from them and flood them with calls from their PR and social team. So, how do these new social super-players transition into a fully commercial enterprise?
There's a couple of paths to monetizing their audience and adding value already in play. First, and probably the most common, is to use the audience size and traffic to their channel, blog or site by running ads in front of their content (YouTube ads, display ads or even solus email broadcasts to their database) and the second option is to co-create content with brands looking to leverage their creativity, editorial skills and POV. The latter is certainly more desirable for brands and certainly feels more native. However, it comes with big juicy FTC asterix for both the creator as well as the brand. FTC guidelines are being shaped constantly in this fast moving and volatile space based on emerging case studies. This makes it extremely difficult for brands to stay on the right side of the law, whilst also achieving their objectives.
But it's definitely worth the effort and brands should continue down this path of co-creation. Some of the best (and most impactful) pieces of content out there aren't carefully crafted by the typical publishers, but are in fact produced by the nimble and the creative who manage to find the sweet spot between timing, context and an interesting POV.
In the golf space (my playground), there's one guy in the UK who's carved out a nice little enterprise by offering real, informative and authentic content to golfers around the world. His name is Mark Crossfield and his YouTube channel Ask Golf Guru has over 130k subscribers. He's transformed himself from a PGA professional teaching and selling golf equipment into a global influencer and respected voice on the performance and comparison of golf equipment for the everyday golfer. He's quirky, interesting and entertaining (expertly finding the sweet spot I mentioned earlier) and even has a catchphrase - "Let's get stuck in!" - you know you've made it when you have your own catchphrase right?
My point here is that anyone, anywhere and at anytime can create compelling content by being creative and using the plethora of free tools, distribution platforms and endless opportunity that the internet and connected devices provide. The audience is there and is hungry for engaging and entertaining content.
It's hugely exciting to work in this ever changing landscape of content and its creators, and brands will only truly succeed in navigating the space by putting the consumer first and delivering real value.