According to a recent BBC report, Social Media Influencer is becoming a dirty word. Instead, many would-be influencers prefer to be called content creators.
Both are social media personalities with large followings. Here’s how one content creator describes the difference:
“When I think of an influencer, I think of someone on Instagram with a very large following based on their success elsewhere – for example, an ex-reality TV star – whose main goal is to be paid to sell things to their audience,” she says. “A content creator is someone whose full-time job is to create free content for their audience across different platforms.”
According to this content creator, there should be a difference between an influencer – whose primary goal is to advance their celebrity and status – and a “creator” of creative, uplifting work that’s meant to stand on its own merits.
Part of the issue that too many “influencers” are seen as superficial and commercial. They’re an irritant at restaurants and resorts because they demand free services. Some are even accused of fraud, buying followers and likes to inflate their popularity.
This gives us some context for what it means to be a content creator, but it still leaves us with a broad term. Not to mention there’s a lot of content being created – by all types of entities – that’s outside social media channels.
Furthermore, there is a crossover with content marketing, which is content creation driven by underlying business goals.
So what does it take to be a content creator? How do you connect with and engage the right audience? How do you promote yourself without sacrificing the integrity of your message?
What skills do you need? How do you stand out and gain the audience’s attention in the face of so much competition? Beyond pursuing creative drives, how do you get your content creation efforts to pay off?
A content creator isn’t just someone who creates content. Today, that’s just about everyone.
It’s a person, business, or organization that creates content with intent. Content creators are strategic.
Most of all, you need a story to tell and the skills to tell it well.
A Web of Words
Imagine a web page with no words or a video with no script. A headline, a meme…even many Instagram posts have written captions.
Often when we think of content creation, we think of visuals. Images, graphic design, and videos. When we suggest that someone is a content creator, we rarely classify them as a writer.
But if you are a content creator, you are a writer. After all, how will you tell a story without words?
Most online stories – told on multiple channels – don’t follow the arc of traditional literary narrative. Your story, rather, is told through anecdotal tibits.
But DNA of the web is words. Content creators are storytellers, which on digital makes them writers. You may write long blog articles or only short Instagram captions.
You may not actually write the words down, but instead “wing” a video script. You still have to organize what you’re saying so it has impact.
If you want to be a solid content creator, improve your writing skills. It’s a web of words.
Images and Video
Consider the story this image tells:
Without words – in this case – you know a lot about the type of dog owners who buy this dog food.
We’re also moved by real-life stories, like this Nike spot:
Words may be the fabric of the internet, but it’s design, images, and videos that give that fabric color.
These are examples of both content creation and content marketing, in this case using visuals. They both tell a story, and that story connects the product to the emotions and lifestyle aspirations of the audience.
To be an online content creator, you need to use visual mediums to tell your story.
Creativity and Skill
To be an online content creator, you need to combine creative storytelling with skills on the mediums that deliver your content.
It starts with words. You need to craft your content into a narrative that will resonate with your audience. You’ll have to grab their attention and hold their interest in the face of an almost endless stream of distractions. After all, you’ll never be alone as a content creator.
Second, you’ll have to develop the skills needed to make your content visually captivating. Most successful content creators – and virtually all social media influencers – use design, images, and videos to tell their stories.
If you cross over into content marketing, you have to connect your brand to the lifestyle aspirations of your customers. This is a subtle skill that separates you from being a mere advertiser. Instead, you’re doing brand response advertising, connecting your brand story to a compelling call to action.
Regardless of whether you call yourself an influencer, content creator, or content marketer, you need your content to be original and your topics move beyond the obvious. Uninspiring content has no chance of winning attention when there are so many creators vying for it.
But there is one simple aspect to this. Content creators create. The first step is to develop your story. Start writing words, taking pictures, and shooting videos.
Be genuine, but also have intent. Your audience won’t be easy to reach. But when you make a connection with a story they care about, you’re on your way to creating a brand.