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What’s the difference between an influencer and a content creator?

By Riezkah Allan, Media Strategist at The MediaShop

Kitana wins, flawless victory. This memorable Mortal Kombat sound clip is a compilation that TikTok created for users to share their content, whether the user just had their nails done or had a make-up transformation, videos with this compilation yielded millions of views. Similarly, with the “TikTok Made Me Buy It” compilation, users showcase their latest best buys that in turn drive online purchases albeit a cosmetic product or a home improvement gadget.

We’re all familiar with the phrase “content is king”, so who reigns supreme in the world of digital content: influencers or content creators?

Influencers, as the name suggests, influence their followers. They can persuade or dissuade followers on how to dress, which brands and products to buy, as well as make-up to wear etc. They frequently work in sponsored partnerships to promote products and brands, which could create an influenced, biased opinion. It becomes debatable whether their belief in the product or brand is real or if it’s merely a sugar-coated view.

Since COVID-19, we have seen a progressive shift into digital marketing and in particular, a rise in influencer marketing. Brands pivoted into this sphere as it allowed them to retain market share by using tactics like social proof and word-of-mouth advertising that drove top-of-mind awareness and brand saliency. This platform, like radio, provides immediacy with the added benefit of audio plus visual enhancing content delivery.

Then boom; Tik Tok took off, unleashing Content Creators. TikTok creators are very different compared to influencers and specialised digital content creators. They are regular social digital citizens (unpaid users) who have a fresh approach to native content. The platform’s popularity stems from content creators’ cohesiveness and consistency. TikTok could seemingly be the platform to reach a broader audience, as the algorithm is centred on consumer interests, ensuring targeted reach.

Khaby Lame has recently become the most followed account on Tik Tok with 149 million followers and has gained his TikTok fame by creating content using TikTok’s duet feature. This feature enables a user to post a side-by-side video from another user and Khaby uses this feature to react to complicated “life hacks”. His endearing character and quirkiness have attracted his massive following.

The objective of Tik Tok’s strategy was to establish a community of authentic creators. A community that not only advocated for open and honest communication but also inspired new content creators to drop the filters and be more real, creating a more humanised platform. This sense of realness is what drove human connection in a time when we were all confined to the laws of lockdown.

Will we see a shift from influencers to content creators? This would be determined by whom audiences resonate with more.

Utilising these content creators may seemingly not convert to quantifiable sales as with influencers aligned to a brand paid for collaboration, however, the credibility and trust that content creators foster in a brand is more valuable than a paid-for sponsorship. I feel that content creators are more authentic, it has become the pull factor for our broader audience. Products or brands I have purchased result from the content creators voluntarily trialling and testing products with unbiased feedback.

Authentic content creation goes beyond just showing who you are, it’s about displaying vulnerability and empathy that lands the emotional connection. This form of engagement inspires behavioural change. The narrative is to have more purposeful and meaningful conversations connecting brands to consumers more organically.

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