Creators are all over the news, but are they different from influencers? While it’s easy to say yes, it’s hard to say why. For our latest report, “Video Ads in Social Media 2019,” we explored how the two are differentiated.
The term “creator” is commonly thought to have evolved from the phrase “content creator.” Next New Networks, a multichannel network (MCN) on YouTube, was one of the first to use the word in the context of online video. In 2009, it put together a group of independent video makers, dubbed the Next New Creators, that it helped with distribution and monetization.
YouTube adopted the term after it acquired Next New Networks and used it to describe people who had amassed large followings by producing video content for the site. Back then, these people were also described as “YouTube stars,” “YouTube celebrities” or simply, “YouTubers.”
As the creator business blossomed, another type of notable individual also gained prominence: the influencer. Are these individuals the same as creators? Many say no.
“We tend to think about a creator as someone who’s a true maker and publisher of content, said Kamiu Lee, CEO of Activate, an influencer marketing agency. “From writing copy to filming, shooting and editing, they creatively produce their content and publish it for their audiences. When people hear the term influencer, they’re usually looking more through the lens of someone monetizing their influence.”
Sounds easy, right? But neither the social properties nor YouTube use the term “influencer” to describe their video content partners:
Others also consider creators and influencers to be the same. “They are people that build a footprint on social platforms,” said Benoit Vatere, founder and CEO of Mammoth Media, a mobile media company. “All of them are creating content, but they're also influencing because they have a large audience. Some are better at one thing than the other, but they are all doing both.”
Ultimately, we believe the terms do have different meanings, but the distinction is more about the action than the person.
“Creators create,” said Danielle Wiley, founder and CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency. “They’re making content and then sharing it with the world.” On the other hand, “Influencers influence. They often have an aspirational or relatable life or style that makes people want to be like them or trust their style. But they are not necessarily creating anything other than their personal brand.”
In our report, we define the terms this way:
Even with those separate definitions, it’s not productive to pigeonhole everyone who posts videos in social media. Instead, think of it as a Venn diagram, where some people might be purely creators, influencers or both.
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