Many marketers have long underestimated the value of creators and influencers in their marketing mix. However, with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are now seeing the value and, more so, the necessity of creators and influencers in keeping their brands visible and relevant in an increasingly hyper-digital world.

Hypergrowth amidst the pandemic

If there is anything positive that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, it is the swift rise and continued growth of the so-called “Creator Economy”. Most businesses today have started incorporating some form of creator or influencer marketing strategy into their overall media and communications plans. Additionally, many businesses also intend to allocate even more resources towards this marketing strategy compared to previous years.

“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg of the creator economy,” says Ricky Ray Butler, influencer marketing pioneer and the CEO of the Branded Entertainment Network (BEN). “It’s growing faster than it’s ever grown before, and there are also more creators now than ever before. That opens the door to a lot of opportunities and even more decentralization of content.”

According to The State of the Creator Economy report curated by Insider Intelligence Marketing, the share of marketers in the United States using social media and influencer marketing has significantly increased since 2019. By 2022, it is projected that 92.1% of marketers will be using social media marketing, whereas 72.5% will be using influencer marketing. Back in 2019, only 55.4% of marketers were utilizing influencer marketing.

Indeed, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic helped drive the widespread adoption of creator and influencer marketing. Extended lockdown periods brought with it certain budgetary constraints and even studio closures, forcing marketers to shift their spending away from traditional ad production and towards more digital marketing channels.

As such, spending on creator and influencer marketing is also on the up and up. As of January 2021, 62% of marketers worldwide have expressed intentions to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year, as revealed in the latest research from Influencer Marketing Hub, in association with Upfluence.

Social commerce and the battle of new platforms

While social commerce is not an entirely new concept, the rise of new social platforms is radically changing its landscape. Before, YouTube and Instagram were the primary playing fields for aspiring creators and influencers. Now, there is an even bigger playground out there for creators and influencers, especially with the rise of TikTok, Snapchat, Twitch, and Clubhouse, and even the resurgence of stylised personal blogs.

Currently, YouTube and Instagram continue to dominate in terms of platforms where audiences tend to engage with creators and influencers, with YouTube taking the lion’s share at 47.3%, with Instagram a close second at 36.9%.

Competition amongst these new social apps will also trigger a battle for creators and influencers. While 50 million people worldwide consider themselves to be creators, according to late 2020 data from SignalFire, they will be very particular about where they set up their digital real estate. And this usually boils down to monetisation—that is, where can they easily make more money for their content or manage their businesses.

Perhaps due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, creators and influencers, especially in the United States, felt the need to seek alternative sources of income outside of their campaign work with brands. As of April 2021, 79.8% of creators and influencers in the United States still felt this need and would want to diversify their monetisation avenues.

Luckily, beyond the social apps, there are other associated platforms that promise monetisation outside of brand campaigns and sponsorships. Platforms like Patreon, Cameo, NewNew, and even Substack give creators more power in terms of audience curation, monetization, and community management.

“Influencers have more ways than ever before to make money, and they’re having to do arbitrage on where to spend their time and where to place real estate,” says Pierre-Loïc Assayag, the founder and CEO of influencer marketing platform Traackr.

What this means for businesses

If you haven’t integrated a comprehensive creator and influencer marketing strategy into your media and communications plans, it’s about time that you did. Beyond the obvious brand campaigns and sponsorships, an effective influencer marketing strategy hinges on shared values and messaging that resonates with your shared audiences.

At Mobibi, we have always espoused the power of collaboration and collective marketing. Through this approach, businesses can harness the collective power of diverse creators and influencers to amplify the reach of their brand messages. Collective marketing is built for the creator economy as it empowers not just businesses, but creators and influencers alike to have better control over their quality content.

It has been said that content is king. However, in the context of the creator economy, perhaps it’s high time to update the adage to “creator is king”. And as businesses battle for the attention of creators and influencers worldwide, remember that clarity of intention, a robust strategy, and a diverse mix will complete your creator and influencer marketing plan.