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How to set up a winning creator marketing strategy for 2023

The time to start planning next year’s creator marketing strategy is now.

While the latter part of 2022 is proving to be tumultuous for online ad platforms, the creator economy keeps growing. Insider Intelligence estimates that although the growth rate will slow down somewhat in 2023, in the US alone influencer marketing spending will increase by more than a billion dollars next year (to approximately 6.16 billion dollars in total).

In this blog post we go through what to take into consideration when building your 2023 creator marketing strategy; what are the critical things to consider, and what kind of best practices to apply.

UPDATE: We recorded a longer conversation around this topic as well. You can watch the video discussing the article below (you can enable captions from the video window).

 

For a summary of the main points, you can also see the summary slideshare at the end of this article.

Start with the basics

The key to success when working with creators is planning ahead. You definitely should have a creator marketing strategy in place for 2023 and beyond, but what should it contain? 

The creator economy is growing so fast, and advertisers are increasingly seeing meaningful results from working with creators, that any detailed plan you make at the start of the year is bound to become outdated before the year is out. 

This is why, for most clients, we typically recommend focusing on the big picture – and avoiding setting unnecessarily strict details at this stage. 

Here are the basics you should spend some time on.

Define your goals and KPIs

What are your company’s overall marketing goals and KPIs for 2023? Think about how creators can help achieve these. Modern, automated and scalable creator marketing works great for improving brand awareness, scaling user acquisition, reactivating churned users and increasing sales for example.

Choose your initial target audience

Who are you going to be targeting with your overall marketing activities? This will help you work with creators and platforms that reach those audiences the best. For example, YouTube is one of the best channels available for reaching people interested in gaming.

However, the reason we say initial target audience is because when working with creators, you might discover additional demographics that perform great when seeing creator sponsorships vs. direct response advertising for example.

Decide your initial budget

Decide on a baseline budget – how much you’d be looking to spend on creators per month. We don’t recommend you commit to a strict, fixed budget figure for the entire year – a better approach is to establish an initial baseline and scale it up if you see good results. Especially if you are just starting out with creator marketing, you’ll probably start seeing improved results and scale gradually, so you’ll want to have some room to maneuver once the opportunity to scale things further presents itself.

Decide special, key engagements

With any marketing strategy, it’s good to account for seasonality and special events (e.g. the holiday season in Q4 or launch dates for new products) where you are likely to see increased demand. This is especially important with creators, as it helps you book a sufficient number of them for these key time periods well ahead of time.

 

Once you have these basic parameters set, there are a few other, more detailed aspects to consider for your creator marketing strategy:

  • How do you scale up your creator activities – cost effectively?
  • What size of creators should you hire? 
  • How should you source creators? Should you use lists or a more automated approach?

sponsorships to grow your channel

How do you scale creator marketing?

At the end of the day, any marketing channel that is truly meaningful for a company has two characteristics: it brings great results and has meaningful scale

By now, most brands across industries such as retail, travel, ecommerce, gaming, and mobile apps have already realized creators are one of the most powerful marketing mediums available to them, but are struggling with the scaling part. 

This is because many brands already working with creators tend to favor an extremely manual, hands-on approach of managing them. While this might be great for certain types of brand building for example, it certainly isn’t great for scalability. Even if your influencer efforts have an amazing return on investment and look extremely polished, it won’t mean much if you are only able to spend 10% on it vs. what you’ll spend on Google Ads. 

The main reason search and social ads have worked so well for most brands is simple: they can reach people with high intent and relevant interests and they can be highly automated, so even big budgets can be run very efficiently with limited headcount. 

By contrast, while it works great for reaching highly relevant audiences, influencer marketing probably remains the most manual fields of online marketing out there, where most people seem to think the only way to increase scale past a certain point is to:

 

  1. Hire bigger, more expensive names or 
  2. Hire additional influencer managers or agencies to make more deals 

 

Using an internal team with a large headcount, or hiring multiple agencies, can work for some brands, but for most it will simply be too much money and time wasted vs. the scale achieved. 

This means that for most brands, the road to better and bigger results is through automation. So, most influencer marketers will need to evolve and work with a different kind of service provider to unlock modern creator marketing to reach new levels of scalability. 

Now, we are not suggesting that influencer marketing managers need to completely abandon what they are doing. Long-term, meaningful partnerships should still be made with larger, more established creators. However, they also need to use an automated approach to hire a larger volume of (especially small and mid-size) creators to increase engagement, reach, and business results

 

What is the role of small, midsize and big creators?

Due to how the work of managing creator campaigns is usually done, the role of big creators has traditionally been excessive. The most important resolution you can make for your 2023 creator marketing strategy is to work with more small- and midsize creators

Now, don’t get me wrong: big creators can offer fantastic results, reach, and enhanced brand reputation with your core audience. You should absolutely work with them if your budget allows. However, if you are spending your entire budget on them alone, you are making a major mistake and setting yourself up for failure. 

Most brands agree it is a good idea to put more effort into working with small and midsize creators. They have much higher engagement rates on average, but reaching out to and hiring a sufficient amount of them is difficult because of manual workflows. Luckily, this can be mode more scalable with the right partners like Matchmade that efficiently automate the more manual tasks of creator marketing. This enables you to hire even hundreds of creators for your campaign within a few hours. 

This way you gain the same amount of reach as you would with bigger creators, but you can potentially get higher engagement, and ultimately better results – at potentially better prices as well. More importantly, this also reduces the risk of your campaigns, as they become less dependent on the performance of a single creator.

 

 

Should you avoid the “show me the list” -approach?

A staple of the influencer marketing industry is the so-called “show me the list” -approach. This means that you request a roster from an influencer agency, and see which of their creators would be a good fit for your campaign. You then pre-approve specific creators from this list. 

While this approach can make sense in some scenarios, it is actually not a good approach for most advertisers, because it simply makes your process much slower and reduces your potential reach.

It makes much more sense to focus on your target audience and simply hire creators that reach large amounts of people in that audience automatically (which can be proven with the creator’s audience data).

This is because creators themselves know what resonates best with their followers. And if your target audience is already their follower, they’ve already been convinced of that creator’s unique style. 

Therefore, if you do a manual review and selection of creators on top, what typically happens is that you end up deselecting some creators because you think they won’t work for your audience, even if they could have performed extremely well for you

The time required for these kinds of pre-approvals (looking through the creators’ content, etc.) is also a massive opportunity cost. 

If you absolutely want to do pre-approval of creators, do it for the really big creators only. This is because a big creator’s individual reach can be of meaningful size for your business. A smaller creator’s impact by themselves is more limited.

 

When can the list approach work?

There are a couple of scenarios where pre-approving rosters can make sense. The first one is if you are working in a very small market that has their own language as well (such as Finland or Denmark). Because the population of these countries is very small, there is also a very limited number of creators available that: A) do content in these languages and B) have the kind of reach that you need – even in the aggregate. 

The second scenario is if you are in a niche business where your true target audience AND the number of creators that can credibly communicate about your offering are very limited. A good example of this would be some B2B software use cases such as enterprise accounting software. 

There is a very limited amount of creators who could credibly communicate about a specialized offering like this. There are even fewer that would have the audience reach you need. So direct outreach or working with an agency specialized in these kinds of niche content would probably be the best approach in this case. 

The last option where this can make sense is if you want to hire some very big names to support your campaign in addition to smaller creators. This should only be used when you have extremely large creator marketing budgets so the percentage share you spend on a single creator does not become excessive. If you are at that level, working with a few, carefully selected large creators can be  very useful.

 

It’s (still) all about the creators

Without creators there is no creator marketing. And without each creator’s unique content and style they have no audience for you to reach. 

This is why a winning creator marketing strategy focuses on working with creators of all sizes to reach the right audience. The way to successfully achieve this is through increased automation and leveraging the right data.

This also means marketers should not put too much focus on pre-selecting creators. It is better to hire them at scale, and let the creators be their unique, authentic selves. 

Advertisers should also set down some clear basics in terms of goals, budgets, target audiences and key engagements. It is not recommended to set too strict rules though. A far better approach is to stick with more holistic principles and gradually improve creator campaigns with each iteration. 

By focusing on these key aspects, you will be well on your way to having a great 2023 with the help of creator marketing. If you are interested in learning more about how Matchmade can help you with creator marketing in 2023, get in touch.