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Emerging Creators, Algorithms and Smokey Bear, Oh My

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At SMWLA, a panel of stakeholders in the influencer marketing space discuss how platforms and the creator community can work together.

Let’s just get one thing straight – it’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey THE Bear. Recovered from that bombshell yet? Me either, but let’s move on.

Joining Lina Renzina, Talent Relations and Partnerships Manager at AdCouncil, who blew everyone’s mind with that Smokey Bear revelation, on Wednesday’s Influence Unfiltered: Sounding Off on the Future of Brand-Creator Relationships were YouTube personality Rachel Ballinger, her manager, and CEO of THE|MACHINE, Kevin Herrera, Casting Influence founder Tanya Bershadsky and entertainment attorney Todd Garber. The panel was moderated by David Bloom, a journalist who contributes to numerous publications, including Tubefilter and Forbes.

Social Platforms after FTC Rulings, Adpocalypse and Algorithm Changes

In the wake of recent FTC rulings, Adpocalypse and algorithm changes, creators – the entire panel had an aversion to the term influencer – have had to change the way they interact, and post, on social platforms. The changes, and reaction from the panel and creative industry as a whole, have not been positive.

Tanya Bershadsky alluded to the fact that the new rules have become a hinderance to those posting on Instagram and other platforms, saying that creators must explicitly disclose that it is a sponsored post. This cannot be done in an organic or aesthetically pleasing way either, as Bershadsky puts it, “you basically have to shove it down their throats.” Unsurprisingly, Rachel Ballinger mentioned that fans hate it. “If the brand is part of your brand, the fans are more okay with it. But if it is something off brand then the fans get pissed because they know it’s all for the money,” Ballinger added.

YouTube’s adpocalypse has also caused unease within the creator community, forcing some to move to other platforms in order to monetize their content.

The recent algorithms changes have caused problems, not only for creators, but also for brands and fans. Ballinger noted that she is constantly receiving messages from subscribers who didn’t get notifications about new videos or have been unsubscribed from her channel by YouTube without their knowledge. The new algorithms, according to Ballinger, are the main reason behind this. “If I post something and fans don’t see it right away, it gets buried because it doesn’t get any likes. The feed is no longer chronologically set, but now determined by likes.”

Regarding brands, Lina Renzina, who works with numerous brands through the AdCouncil, mentioned that ROI is difficult to predict with the algorithms constantly changing, making their business decisions harder to make. As the algorithm changes, some creators adapt, and some don’t. Some even leave the platform. These various reactions to algorithm changes make it hard for marketers to put together a list of talent and get it approved.

It’s Emerging Creators, Not Micro Influencers

Speaking of talent, superstars like Rachel were not the only topic of discussion. Domestically speaking, the panel agreed that 80,000 followers was the magic number to differentiate micro and macro influencers. The term micro influencer, however, was another point of contention with the panel, with Renzina preferring to call them emerging creators. She added that the AdCouncil works a great deal with emerging creators. The way they look at, emerging creators have a more engaged following because they are smaller and seem to be more authentic.

Bershadsky, however, stated that when she is working on a marketing campaign it doesn’t make sense to use emerging talent, or micro influencers. It’s the same amount of work, for less of a following. She does believe that there are platforms for micro influencers, however, most of which work best for smaller brands. When working with studios like Disney, producers are sometimes split when it comes to creators. Some want talent, and fit, over the size of their following, but when it comes down to the final decision, executives tend to lean towards the larger following.

Creators for Good

It’s not all about the money though. Authenticity remains one of the most important aspects for creators, and a lot of the heavy lifting to make sure that authenticity come through lies with the managers and agents. Todd Garber noted that he acts like the email filter for his clients and about 99.5% of the emails they receive get filtered. Kevin Herrera added that authenticity, finding the right brand, product fit is the most important aspect when he considers offers for Rachel.

Working for a non-profit, Lina mentioned that having a personal story or a connection to the cause is the number one priority when working creators. “It’s all about the right, authentic fit, for the brand and the talent,” she added.

With the internet constantly changing, and social media platforms along with it, creators are working in a constant state of flux. Whether for profit, or for good, creators need to react to the changes in the industry and figure out which platforms best fit their needs and ensure that their fans are happy as well.

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