Content Creator vs. Influencer: What’s the Difference?

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The influencer marketing industry topped $16 billion for the first time in 2022. But revenue hasn’t grown by more than 850% over the last six years thanks to influencers alone. 

In reality, the strategy is at its best when it involves a broad spectrum of high-performing content creators. When considering a content creator vs influencer, “What’s the difference,” you ask? Let’s find out. 

Content creator vs influencer: What is the difference?

An influencer is commonly viewed as an individual with an influential, engaged, and large following (at least 1,000 followers) on social media. Their rise to popularity can largely be attributed to the creation of viral social content or notoriety outside of social media through which they acquired a large fan base. 

Influencers are a type of creator, but not all creators are influencers. In addition to influencers, creators have many other subcategories, including celebrities, athletes, bloggers, podcasters, artists, photographers, publishers, journalists, customers, employees, and more.

Creators and influencers do have a lot of similarities. For example:

  • Both leverage digital content to engage others and nurture online communities.
  • Both tend to be exceptionally skilled on the leading social media platforms.
  • Both must resonate with audiences and produce authentic content to be successful.

Despite their similarities, the terms “creator” and “influencer” are not interchangeable. The key difference between the two is purpose.

The ultimate goal of creators is to connect and engage people with similar goals, values, and lifestyles. While influencers do those things, they also prioritize their brand partnerships and leverage online communities to guide more informed buying decisions.

man in a hat talking into a mic representing content creator vs influencer

What are the benefits of working with content creators?

The benefits of working creator

  • Leverage experts with unique skill sets.
  • Diversify your marketing content.
  • Reach new audiences. 
  • Follower count is less important.

Leverage experts with unique skill sets.

Think of your creator roster the same way you would your marketing department. You wouldn’t hire a team with the exact same skill set, would you? Hopefully not. 

When sourcing creators, look for a wide range of expertise and skills that complement each other well. 

For example, a sports nutrition company might hire the following creators.

  • The athlete to show how the product helps them perform.
  • The nutritionist to explain why the product helps the athlete perform.
  • The influencer to show how they work the product into their morning “get ready” routine.
  • The photographer to capture quality images of the product in action.
  • The podcaster to tell people about the product while they’re listening at the gym.

Diversify your marketing content.

Partnering with various types of creators is a great way to bring different expert perspectives to your products and keep your content fresh. Once you’ve collected that content, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to repurpose it throughout your entire marketing mix. Just be sure you have all the necessary content rights first. 

Here are a few ideas for where your repurposed creator content might be most effective: 

  • Branded social accounts
  • Paid ads
  • Email campaigns
  • Company website
  • In-store displays

Reach new audiences. 

Diversifying your creator types ensures you aren’t talking to the same audience over and over again. 

But to do that, you have to think about who they are and where they spend their time. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which platforms is the creator most active on?
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their audience’s interests?

You may have a product or service that caters to a hyper-specific demographic. But chances are, people from all walks of life might find value in what you offer. 

Follower count is less important.

You don’t have to worry about follower count too much when you’re working with creators. Someone with only a few hundred followers can still add value if they provide amazing content or expert opinions you can use throughout your marketing mix. 

If your goal is brand awareness, you’ll likely need some creators with a larger following. However, incorporating some niche creators with complementary skill sets will be your secret weapon for generating content that benefits the entire marketing team. 

What are the benefits of working with influencers?

The benefits of working with influencers include the following:

  • You can reach an engaged audience.
  • You can gauge brand sentiment. 
  • You can share your brand story. 
  • You can increase your chance of viral content. 

Reach an engaged audience.

You’re not just getting a creator when you partner with the right influencer. You’re also getting a large, engaged audience that trusts this person to give them honest product endorsements. 

When working with influencers, relying on vanity metrics like follower count can be tempting when searching for a partner. But an influencer’s engagement rate will be the most important metric in determining how closely their audience is paying attention to their content.

Ideal influencer engagement rates table

Ideal Minimum Influencer Engagement Rates

Instagram – Nano (10K), 5%; micro (100k), 3.5%; macro (1 mil), 2%; mega/celebrity (>1 mil), 1%

YouTube – Nano (10K), 3.5%; micro (100k), 3%; macro (1 mil), 2%; mega/celebrity (>1 mil), 1.5%

Facebook – Nano (10K), 2%; micro (100k), 1.5%; macro (1 mil), 1.25%; mega/celebrity (>1 mil), 1%

Twitter – Nano (10K), 1%; micro (100k), 0.75%; macro (1 mil), 0.5%; mega/celebrity (>1 mil), 0.5%

TikTok – Nano (10K), 18%; micro (100k), 12%; macro (1 mil), 8%; mega/celebrity (>1 mil), 4%

Gauge brand sentiment. 

Because influencers have such high engagement, you’ll get a good sense of how their audience (your target audience) feels about your brand or product after they post. 

But keeping up with influencer posts can be a tall order if you’re working with multiple people. If that’s the case, consider investing in social listening tools that will notify you each time someone posts about your brand. 

Share your brand story. 

Influencers are master storytellers and can help audiences get to know your brand on a deeper level. Be sure to get your influencers familiar with your origin story, your mission and values, and the people working behind the scenes at your company. Doing so will help your influencer develop a more human connection with your brand that they can pass along to their fans. 

Increase your chance of viral content. 

A large following, an engaged audience, and a finger on the pulse of the latest trends: This is a recipe for creating viral content. The right influencer checks all three boxes and is your best chance at catching fire on social media.

Influencer marketing’s transition from ‘influencers’ to ‘creators’

Brands win in the creator economy by forming long-term partnerships with high-performing creators who align with their mission and values. These creators act as brand storytellers and provide genuine product endorsements with a human touch that traditional, brand-controlled marketing can no longer compete with. 

Prior to 2022, this approach was known simply as “influencer marketing.” But today, it’s clear that influencer marketing alone doesn’t address the fundamental shift that brands now face

Brands that want to become the next household names must take their strategy a step further by incorporating a broad spectrum of creators (athletes, affiliates, bloggers, podcasters, and more) and invest in the tools that enable them to do so. 

Most importantly, brands must treat creators as trusted partners, not transactions. For a partnership to succeed, a creator must know the brand, use their products, and truly believe in both. Consumers can smell a fake endorsement from a mile away. And when they do, they’re already lost. 

Brands that want to survive in the ever-changing creator economy must level up and replace their influencer marketing strategy with a comprehensive creator management strategy.

How to choose the right creator for your next campaign

1. Establish goals.

What do you hope to get out of your next campaign? Whether it’s brand awareness, quality content, conversions, or something else, establishing some clear objectives from the beginning gives you a final destination as you begin to outline your roadmap for a successful campaign with content creators.

2. Outline your ideal creator persona. 

Your ideal creator persona should be representative of your target audience. Consider printing a photo of someone you think looks like a customer who would visit your store to help you visualize what your ideal creator might look like. From there, fill in their age, location, demographics, and any other relevant data to give yourself a clear image of the creator who will resonate best with your audience.  

3. Reach out to brand-aligned creators.

Once you’ve found creators you think will resonate well with your target audience, you have to make sure they vibe with your brand. Share your values with each creator during the outreach process to ensure their mission aligns with yours. And if the creator has never used your products before, send them some samples so they can try them out and get comfortable speaking about them. 

4. Track the results.

Don’t just assume that because you did your due diligence during the recruitment process, your creators will deliver the results you’re looking for. Consider each partnership a test run in the early stages. From there, you can keep an eye on which types of creators perform best and recruit more just like them. You’ll also want to know who your top performers are so you can work with them more in the future.  

5. Repurpose high-performing content.

High-performing content doesn’t have to be limited to social media. Get creative, and look for various ways to use the “best stuff” in other areas. If you’ve done a good job of diversifying your creator mix, you should have no trouble coming up with content for your entire marketing team to use. 

6. Communicate your findings.

Always keep your creators in the loop on how their content performs. If it’s below your standards, see if the two of you can figure out a way to improve. If the creator’s content is killing it, you’ll want to be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and discuss the possibility of a long-term partnership. 

7. Nurture long-term relationships. 

The key to nurturing long-term relationships is to treat your creators like trusted partners—not transactions. Often, that means giving them the ability to grow with your brand instead of using them as a “hired gun.”

If your creators perform well, consider establishing commission tiers to reward your top performers. From there, you can look into an ambassador program that will “promote” your best creators from regular contributors to true brand champions. 

Key takeaway: Incorporate a broad spectrum of creators into your marketing mix to maximize program results. 

Influencers alone aren’t enough to stay relevant in today’s creator economy. To remain competitive, brands must partner with a broad spectrum of creators with different skill sets and interests. If done correctly, brands will see increased success across their entire marketing funnel.

Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101

Updated: June 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Influencers are a type of creator, but not all creators are influencers. In addition to influencers, creators have many other subcategories, including celebrities, athletes, bloggers, podcasters, artists, photographers, publishers, journalists, customers, employees, and more.

A content creator can be anyone who makes content on social media. Unlike influencers, creators do not necessarily have to have a large following and can be anyone from professional athletes to employees at your office.

Yes, bloggers are one of the many subcategories of “creators.”

The “most famous” content creator depends on the platform. Here is a look at the top creator on the most popular social media platforms:

  • YouTube: PewDiePie (111 million subscribers)
  • TikTok: Khaby Lame (151.3 million followers)
  • Instagram: Cristiano Ronaldo (493 million followers)
  • Twitter: Barack Obama (133.4 million followers)

The ultimate goal of creators is to connect and engage people with similar goals, values, and lifestyles. While influencers do those things, they also prioritize their brand partnerships and leverage online communities to guide more informed buying decisions.

The ROI of content creators and influencers depends on your program’s goals. For best results, it’s usually wise to partner with a wide range of creators, including influencers, affiliates, athletes, bloggers, podcasters, and more. 

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Written by Quinn Schwartz

Quinn studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and now lives in Portland, Oregon. He’s particularly interested in storytelling in digital marketing and cost-effective creator strategies for smaller brands. When he’s not writing, you can find him at a concert, dog park, or debating whether or not to go on a run.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2024. All rights reserved.

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