Influencers can be lazy. Granted, not all of them but some have definitely become accustomed to being treated in a certain way and having a certain lifestyle, which has led to a level of laziness in the industry.

Before marketers scoff smugly and influencers stop reading, this is because of an ineffective way of working that has overextended agencies and undervalued the potential of influencers.

In the early days of what has now become the influencer marketing industry, the relationship between many brands and agencies and the influencers they worked with was fairly one-way. The metaphorical red carpet would be rolled out as brands would bow down, treading on eggshells for fear of upsetting bloggers and influential social media users. There was an underlying tone – and fear – that this new breed of digital elite could make or break a brand online. These relationships were short-term and transactional and were often built on gifting experiences, products or with the promise of hard cash.

This led to a cohort of influencers for whom it became the norm to be treated to VIP experiences and endless freebies, giving them a sense of entitled laziness when it came to providing value for the brands they were working with. From vague creative responses, over-inflated fees, and minimal effort when building relationships, the output of these partnerships could only ever go so far and only exacerbated the perception that being an influencer “wasn’t a real job”.

Thankfully, now that the way we work with creators has matured and developed, many agencies, brands, and influencers are seeing the value exchange of working together and understanding what each party can bring to the table to help the other succeed. As audiences are becoming more savvy, aware and loyal to their favourite influencers, they want to see brands enabling influencers to create better, more exciting and more engaging content for them, which in turn positions the brand favourably.

Co-creation and collaboration is a win-win for both parties

There’s so much more influencers can offer aside from just social media content and brand exposure. They are an incredible source of knowledge and expertise on endless and niche topics; they have bags of creativity and are able to think outside the box; they have new perspectives and real-world insights which many brands could only dream of having internally; they know their audiences better than anyone and, if done correctly, influencers can be the ultimate advocate for a brand.

Influencers can be a cost-efficient source of high-quality content and many brands have taken advantage of these efficiencies, using creators in place of traditional agencies to generate assets. Whilst this is still an under-utilised practice, influencer-generated content can be used for all manner of activations – from digital to TV creative, OOH, print or even on the side of the bus. The possibilities are endless if they’re briefed in the right way.

But it’s not just about what influencers can do for brands – the best collaborations can leverage the doors a brand can open for the influencer.

From the brand’s perspective, yes they can offer influencers the chance to experience new things and enable content for their channels but they can also offer the credibility of working with a big name brand in a particular industry; they can give the influencer creative autonomy within the realms of a specific topic or direction; they can provide guidance, advice and mentoring on best practices and ways of working; and they can offer connections within the industry, to other talent and extended relationships, which ultimately lead to a higher quality output. Brands can not only enable content but can help influencers grow, develop and evolve their feeds.

What is the best way to start co-creating?

The best examples of co-creation stem from building solid relationships from the outset, based on transparency, honesty, and mutual respect. Give them time, resource, knowledge, information and bring them into your world so that they feel they’re a part of it – and that there’s as much in it for them as there is for the brand and agency, leading to a collective responsibility for the content.

  1. Identify what you need and want from a partnership and the gaps that could be filled by working with a creator. How can they be more than ‘cash for comment’?
  2. Brief them on the business needs, wants and goals but give them a chance to add value with their creativity, knowledge, and expertise. How can they translate these objectives into something that will resonate with their audiences?
  3. Bring them into your world – is a one page Word document brief really enough to build a long term relationship on or is a face to face meeting more suitable? Have they actually experienced your product up close and personal?
  4. Workshop ideas, brainstorm together and communicate with each other about the direction the campaign should go in – with everyone having equal say. Could the influencer partner add value to other channel activations within the campaign?
  5. What else can the brand do to support the content creation process? Would the influencer benefit from knowing more about the brand’s history, heritage and/or long-term plans?
  6. After the campaign, what insights, guidance and advice can be shared with the influencer about their content as well as reporting for the brand?

Ultimately, there are benefits to all parties by taking a co-created approach to influencer marketing content. It will drive our industry forward, it’ll mature the channel and force it to become an integrated activity and more than anything, enable more engaging content for audiences to help put brands front-of-mind.

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