Harsh Pamnani is a storyteller by passion and a brand expert by profession. He helps business leaders communicate inspiring stories that highlight brand strengths, improve employee commitment and customer engagement, and drive business growth. He has authored several best-selling books on brand building, including Booming Brands and Booming Digital Stars. He earned his MBA from XLRI and has worked with think tanks like the World Bank, corporates like Deloitte, and unicorn start-ups like FirstCry and Icertis. He has spoken at fora such as TEDx, Josh Talks, Google Business Group, IITs, and IIMs.
Imagine you’re in a supermarket, walking down the cereal aisle and dozens of brands are vying for your attention. Which one do you pick? Your answer would be the brand you trust, love and respect, even though a lesser-known alternative is available at a lower price.
It’s a similar scene in the world of creators. Simply put, the creator economy comprises small businesses centered on independent content creators, also known as influencers, who are video bloggers, writers, comedians, and musicians, and earn through monetisation. While many influencers seek attention from the audience, only a few end up having a significant following, and the opportunity to earn monetary benefits.
Influencers have various earning sources such as YouTube ad revenue, online courses, subscriptions, products and services, affiliate links, monetary tips, but brand deals are the largest monetisation opportunity for creators, according to CB Insights. For a long time, marketers relied on traditional media channels and celebrity endorsements to create brand awareness and boost sales. However, conventional marketing techniques no longer suit the millennials, who prefer social media over TV or newspapers. This is being leveraged to fuel the creator economy.
According to a report by Statista, the global market size of influencer marketing has surged eightfold in just five years, rising from a mere $1.7 billion in 2016 to nearly $14 billion in 2021. Anyone active on social media, will have noticed that the race to become an influencer has started. The market will inevitably see an inflow of a lot of creators and due to the increasing crowd, the likelihood of creators getting lost is higher than getting noticed.
Many creators think they can stand out as an influencer by gaining social media followers. That is incorrect. An influencer is a personal brand, which is not made just by the number of followers. Both audience and marketers usually do not look for general popularity. Instead, they seek for a creator with a personal brand and positioning.
Here are a few steps content creators or influencers can take to navigate their personal branding journey better:
Find a niche, become the master of it, and then expand: Al Ries and Jack Trout, the pioneers of the (brand) positioning concept, advised narrowing the focus so that a brand can own a word in the prospect's mind. The term niche means a specific area liked by a small set of audiences. When followers consider a creator who is an expert in a particular field, they take that creator’s recommendations seriously. Moreover, marketers prefer to work not only with established creators with mass following but also with emerging creators who own a niche.
Be open to doing things others have not done before: From comedy to cooking, the internet is filled with content. It is human nature to follow the status quo. So most of the competition follows the market leader and ultimately gets lost in the crowd. If an influencer is developing something similar to popular creators and not providing anything different, the audience has no reason to stick to them. People like authenticity and differentiation, so it is important to develop a unique style.
Add value: In comparison with TV serials and movies, videos created by YouTubers don't have a high-end setup and special effects. Then why do people loyally watch YouTubers? The answer is because of the exciting content. Content is king, queen, and everything in between. An influencer should think how they can make their content worthy for their audience.
Staying consistent with the publishing schedule: Becoming an influencer means being disciplined with the publishing schedule. Consistently bringing out good pieces of content will help increase the following and engagement.
Keep improving at the craft: Being good at something shouldn’t mean becoming overconfident. A little self-doubt is good. The day one feels they know everything, the downfall begins. Keep looking at what others are doing in the same field and what new you can do.
Don't get enthralled by others’ success: When new creators look at established creators' lives on social media, they probably think the other person is happier and wealthier, while they are struggling. Sadly, they miss out on a crucial part—you can’t see others’ background, hard work and struggles on a social media live. If creators overthink about others’ success, they may tend to get inclined to glamour. However, if they shift their focus on tasks at hand, they will learn and grow in the journey.
Keep the audience first and brand deals second: When an influencer has significant followers, many brands reach out to them for collaboration. Remember that reputation and audience trust are the most powerful assets for any influencer. Before accepting any collaboration opportunity, undertake extensive research on the brand. From existing customers, try to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the brand’s product. If possible, use the product. Go ahead only if the brand can be integrated authentically.
Create a team around you: Creators create the best output with proper thinking and experimentation time. But they also have to interact with audience and deal with editing videos, selecting brand deals, negotiating contracts, planning brand campaigns, and more. The cumulative effect of multiple minds is better than one mind working on numerous things. So, a creator should identify the right team members and delegate the tasks.
Understand the audience and their expectations: To create a strong bond, a creator must understand their target audience well. Some creators or influencers can connect well with urban audiences, while some can connect well with people from small towns. Some creators can connect well in English, and some can connect well in regional languages. Social media analytics and audience comments are great quantitative and qualitative sources to understand where the audience is coming from, what they like, and what needs to be offered.
Take care of your health: The world of an influencer is filled with hard work. But it hurts when people don't like their work and share hatred on social media. Performance pressure can lead to anxiety and stress. If influencers want to play a long term game, they need to take care of their mental and physical health. If health suffers, then performance suffers further and the audience move on to other available options.
Marketing Guru Seth Godin says, “Brand humility is the only response to a fast-changing and competitive marketplace. The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day.”
So in your journey of becoming a remarkable creator – stay humble, stay consistent, and stay relevant.
The writer is an author of 'Booming Brands' and co-author of ‘Booming Digital Stars’. Views expressed are personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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