Social Media Week LA: A New Era of Creative Collaboration

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The contemporary age of influencer marketing is characterized by community, and brands that develop strong relationships with creators are defining a modern approach. Four industry experts and trailblazers joined Social Media Week LA for a discussion about Influencer Co-Creation and Longer Lasting Brand Connections, during which they shared their wisdom and experience on the cutting edge of collaborative influencer marketing.

The panel comprised the following four speakers:

Ryan Berger

Ryan Berger
Founding Partner, HYPR

Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones
Founder and CEO, Outshine Talent

Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer
Co-founder and CEO, Kindred

Kait Pearse

Kait Pearse
Associate Director and Influencer, Grey Group


Successful partnerships align with purpose

When brands unite with influencers through their shared passion for a cause, they create exceptional campaigns that drive impact and lift the industry to a higher standard. “Influencers aren’t just entertainment—they’re arbiters of information,” states Schafer, CEO of Kindred, an organization that connects brands with expert and influential leaders that focus on social responsibility. He explains how influencers are educating their audiences about diversity and inclusion, and points to a New York Times piece covering the recent strike from Black TikTok creators as an example. Schafer asserts that “Black creators often don’t get the credit or the compensation that they deserve,” and brands “should also be scrutinizing their commitments to influencer diversity, not just their engagement metrics.”

Some brands have responded to the call for inclusion with educational campaigns that aim to broaden their audience’s worldview and understanding of diversity. For example, Jones and Pearse worked together on a Proctor & Gamble campaign entitled “Widen the Screen,” which celebrates Black stories through a series of short films. Pearse explains that the goal of the campaign was to “bring to life the diversity behind the camera and in front of the screen.”

Additionally, if marketers are interested in finding out more about inclusion in the influencer marketing landscape, they can follow #InfluencersForInclusion and read Julius’ diversity one-sheet.

Partner selection is a two-way street

While discussing the talented Black creators they worked with for the campaign, Jones encourages creators to prioritize brands that align with their mission, beliefs, and goals. She thinks influencers, like brands, should be picky about who they work with to preserve their partnership integrity, and wait for the opportunity to make something exceptional. Creators who spend more time building relationships with brands they love instead of accepting every opportunity that comes their way are more likely to stand out as reliable brand partners for the long run. As Berger explains, “Most clients don’t want to work with someone who’s done 300 posts for 300 brands, but hasn’t gotten deep with any of those brands.”

Influencers should consider ideal partners they’d love to work with, and begin creating content that aligns with their brand—a practice which Jones describes as the “Law of Attraction.” She cites Dunkin’ Donuts’ collaboration with Charli D’Amelio as an example, as the TikToker frequently and organically posted about the coffee chain long before their partnership. In 2019, Charli tweeted, “i would really like a dunkin’ brand deal i drink 1-3 of their cold brew coffees a day so…” which caught the brand’s attention and led to their collaboration in 2020. Jones explains that brands often begin their talent search by stating, “We want to work with people who already love our brand.” Passionate creators who follow this principle can manifest dream partnerships with brands they love.

Responding to Jones’ anecdote, Berger remarks, “The industry has adopted and embraced influencers in such a big way.” As an influencer marketing veteran with over 17 years in the industry, Berger enthusiastically states that influencers are currently more mainstream than ever before. “We’re seeing influencers being adopted and embraced across all categories,” he explains, and describes the impact creators have had on the sports industry. According to Berger, instead of featuring celebrities Gen Zers aren’t aware of, professional sports leagues are looking to influencers to bring in new and younger audiences for the long-term. “I always tell our clients: you don’t need to attract me to watch the games, because I’m already going to be there. But it’s a new age.” As brands look to bring on consumers with new buying power, influencers will become more and more integral to appealing to new, younger audiences. 

The influencer age is tackling sports

With this cultural shift of decreased interest in traditional celebrities, athletes themselves are transforming into influencers. Berger explains how the entire landscape of sports partnerships is continuing to change, and points to the new NCAA policy which will grant student-athletes the rights to their name, image, and likeness (NIL). This allows these new and rising players to become effective brand partners. But the change is not just about who can partner in the sports world—the stories they tell are moving beyond the sports arena. Schafer comments on how athletes are building their personal brands and adapting to “an environment where more traditional talent has to bring their personality to the forefront.” He cites Kevin Durant and Josh Hart as great examples, and explains, “There is more to these people than what you see on the [television] screen. It’s also how they come through on their platforms.” The impact of the influencer age reaches far beyond social media, as athletes are inspired to own their worth, both on and off the court.

As athletes’ offline stories and awareness creates more impact, now it’s more important than ever for brands to learn about the things they care about besides sports. Julius can help marketers discover influencers that believe in specific causes, and to learn more, book a demo today.

In this evolved state of the industry, “it’s starting to look less like ‘rent-an-influencer’ and more like partnering, collaborating, and becoming a part of their community,” Berger agrees and comments, “One thing that we talk to our clients a lot about is staying away from one-off campaigns and posts, but having deeper partnerships.” He elaborates and points out that “as we move into this next generation of influencer marketing,” more brands ask, “who’s done what and how effective have they been?” Julius clients frequently use the platform to examine a creator’s history with other brands “to see not just who [influencers] work with, but the effectiveness of those campaigns.” Examining the results of past influencer campaigns can offer a glimpse into the future of their potential partnership.


Deeper analysis yields stronger landscape

Jones argues that “Not enough people, including creators and agencies, are doing post-campaign tracking and analytics,” and suggests that brands should help influencers gather performance data to create insightful case studies. Berger continues to explain the industry’s role in educating young and rising influencers, and how offering them resources and support helps brands bond with creators to establish long-lasting, genuine relationships. “The industry has to be able to pick the influencers up,” Berger asserts. “Putting those pieces in place is so important, and will only help the industry grow.”

Key takeaways

  • Cause-based campaigns are an excellent way for brands and influencers to bond over a common cause and create impactful content that makes a difference.
  • Brands want to work with fans, and influencers who express genuine love for brands often catch their attention, resulting in perfect partnerships.
  • Traditional talent is evolving to build their platforms and match their audiences’ expectations in the new age of influencer marketing.
  • Long-term partnerships drive more impact than a single-post campaign, and supporting creators is the first step to building rewarding relationships that last.
July 12, 2021
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