Casey Mantle, Head of Chatterbox at 8909 Digital, discusses the difference between content creators and influencers in advertising.

An influencer can be a content creator, a content creator can be an influencer, so what’s the difference? Quite a lot, actually. We see influencers as individuals who have the power to affect purchasing decisions and opinions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. They leverage their personal brand and credibility to influence their followers. We view content creators as online creatives who primarily focus on producing various types of content, such as articles, videos, podcasts, graphics and other forms of media. They are skilled in crafting compelling and engaging material that resonates with their audience.

The former, then, is the ‘you follow me because of the lifestyle I lead and I like this product, so I’m sharing it with you’ side of the coin. The latter is the ‘I love telling stories and I’ve collaborated with this brand to make something appealing and beautiful that draws you to my work – and the brand I’m working with’ side of it.

Connection Vs Creativity

Influencers are powerful because they have a personal connection with their followers, though agencies and brands do face some challenges in verifying some influencers’ reach and engagement, and oftentimes the influencer becomes the star of a campaign, rather than the brand itself, if not managed properly.

Content creators, on the other hand, have nowhere to hide. There can be questions over their reach and engagement, too – but there’s an output in the form of a piece of content that can be assessed and quantified. It’s more tangible, and the brand remains front and centre of the storytelling. Or it doesn’t and the opportunity is lost to surface over substance.

There are agencies that are fully equipped to source, qualitatively and quantitatively vet, brief and manage influencers all the way from concept creation, content approvals and reporting – down to impressions, engagements, link clicks, sales and ROAS. Being able to measure something as intangible as influence allows for powerful understanding.

Relationships Vs Relatability

Influencers more easily build strong, authentic relationships with their audience, often based on trust. Their followers look up to them for guidance, advice and recommendations, which can extend to product endorsements and partnerships. When they collaborate with brands to promote products or services to their audience, their influence can create awareness and interest.

Because they’re specialists in specific areas of expertise – fashion, beauty, fitness, travel, technology, or lifestyle, for example, their influence stems from their passion and the recognition of their understanding of their chosen field.

Expertise Vs Endorsement

Whereas influencers may emphasise expertise, content creators often have a greater focus on the quality of their output. That’s not to say that influencers don’t put plenty of time into the perfect post – and that’s the crossover where an influencer can be a content creator and a content creator can be an influencer – but content creators often place greater emphasis on the quality, creativity and originality of their work.

They invest time and effort into researching, scripting, shooting, editing and polishing their content to deliver the perfect final product. They can be less bonded to specific product or lifestyle fields because the quality content they deliver is what matters, rather than their endorsement.

Integrity Vs Image

In advertising, we often find that content creators are the largely unsung heroes because of the way they help businesses connect with their audiences. In delivering compelling narratives and driving powerful campaigns, they play a pivotal role in capturing and retaining audience attention, making them indispensable assets for any advertising strategy.

One of the primary reasons brands may opt for content creators over influencers lies in their ability to humanise brands. They are largely able to transform mundane products or services into relatable experiences via engaging content. That creates an emotional connection with the brand’s potential consumers – whereas the connection in the influencer space is stronger between follower and influencer, no matter how strong the influencer’s relationship with the brand.

One type of online creator may not be better than the other, but a conversation between client and agency around how the brand wants to leverage another entity’s followers is essential when it comes to developing a social media campaign. Being able to quantify that creativity to get the best out of the campaign is the key to unlocking the best from online creators.