Everything marketers need to know about choosing between a creator content platform or an influencer content platform to increase their creative output.

Where would marketers be without creative partnerships? Whether you’re trying to expand your online reach, sourcing visuals for ad creatives, or producing posts for a busy social media calendar, working with a partner that specializes in digital marketing provides brands with the content they need to connect with their target customers.

In general, there are two types of creative partnerships available to marketers: influencer content platforms and creator content platforms. The difference between the two isn’t always evident. Influencer platforms, which are designed to facilitate influencer marketing, involve individual partnerships with content creators.

As for creator content platforms, these are firms that hold the distinction of being “official marketing partners” of social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and can help with everything from campaign management to consulting and publishing content. For marketers, creator platforms have proven to the social giants, that they have the expertise to help their advertising customers be more successful, and are often viewed as more trustworthy than influencer platforms.

Each of these creative partnerships have their benefits, but in order to maximize them, it’s important for marketers to understand their unique strengths. Let’s take a closer look at influencer platforms and creator platforms, and the advantages they offer to brand marketers.


Influencer Content Platforms

There’s been plenty of buzz about influencers in recent years, and the growth of this market continues to skyrocket. Recent research from Influencer Marketing Hub shows that over the past twelve months, 320 new influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies came onto the scene. These joined the 740 such platforms that existed in 2018. In 2017, there were only 420 influencer platforms to choose from, and just 335 in 2016. With each passing year, there are more and more firms eager to help brands market their products and services, through social influencers.

Spending on influencer marketing is rising, as well. The industry went from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $3 billion in 2017 to $4.6 billion in 2018. This year, it’s on course to become a $6.5 billion industry, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

The value of an influencer content platform is primarily tied to reach. Marketers work with influencers to gain access to their audience of engaged and loyal fans, and brands hope to build affinity by associating themselves with influencers on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. When executed properly, influencer marketing can feel organic and authentic, because the endorsement is coming from a third party rather than the brand itself. This can translate into brand interest and sales, as consumers develop a positive impression of the products and service promoted by their favorite influencer personalities.

Because the emphasis is on reach and engagement, influencer content platforms aren’t as focused on the content and its quality aligning with the brand’s needs. Creative quality and output tends to be secondary to generating views, likes, and clicks. Influencers are most skilled at keeping their followers hooked. They aren’t always as skilled at producing content that adheres to the nuances of brand guidelines. And this is understandable, given few influencers are professional or experienced photographers and videographers.

“Influencer content platforms leverage the clout of social media experts who create content featuring their brands, and get paid to use their own feeds to endorse it,” explains Mindy Loverin, VP Strategic Partnerships at Shutterstock. “There’s less creative control on quality and branding in this process, as brands leave that up to the influencer creating the content.”

In other words, marketers who work with influencers accept that there’s a trade-off involved: instead of reaching target customers with the professional quality-content brands usually use, they forfeit their usual level of control and allow their products to be presented in the context of a popular, social media personality’s life.


Creator Content Platforms

As you might expect, working with a creator content platform is a very different experience than an influencer content platform. Think of these types of partners as similar to the traditional definition of the gig or freelance economy. Creator content platforms are businesses that employ the services of professionals like photographers, videographers, and visual artists to shoot, edit, design, and create content at spec for their clients. As with influencer content platforms, you get customized content, but there’s more of a focus on output than engagement. 

Creator content platforms, like Shutterstock Custom, have a specialized class of expertise: contributors on this platform know their craft better than anyone, which means they can produce tried-and-true creative assets that meet your marketing objectives and branding goals. The contributors familiarity with mediums like photography and video, along with their experience and access to tools, equipment, models, and more, helps brands maximize their marketing budgets and minimize waste.

“Creative production solutions typically solve a specific problem: they allow marketers to create content using less budget in less time,” Loverin says.

“Content is rights-managed, meaning the brand has the ability to control what content is actually used, the channels on which it’s shared, the frequency of use, and the messages being articulated. For example, a brand may deploy a brief to capture content for a product launch and receive ten to twenty five images back that are on-brief and on-brand. The brand can then use one or all of these assets at no additional cost, and may even take it one step further to optimize the content for mobile, or convert it for Facebook ads.”

All of this makes it easier for brands to populate their feeds and deliver on their packed content calendars. Experts ensure all content aligns with your visual identity, meets your brand guidelines, and is social media-ready. In essence, these creator content platforms match brand marketers to creative talent that will work with them to turn creative briefs into successful digital campaigns.

This is especially crucial for brands with small social media management teams and limited resources. Virtually all brands need a steady stream of product shots, lifestyle photos, and content that can be used for digital marketing, but without the manpower to fill a content calendar. This can be a challenge. Creator platforms act as an extension of your creative team, delivering as much content as you need to keep your brand presence alive and your followers interested — even on a tight timeline.


Choosing between these two creative partnership options is simply a matter of knowing what’s best for your brand, your marketing team, and your customers. Learn more about how Shutterstock Custom and its community of contributors can help you produce superior branded visual content.


Top Image via vitmore.

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