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Creators in the cross-hairs: challenging market to separate the good from the great

The rapid evolution of influencer marketing is resulting in greater pressure for influencers to produce less commercial, but more authentic and creative content, while still making a living wage

As influencer marketing continues to evolve and professionalize, content creators are under increasing pressure to do the same. More creators entering the fray, new platforms and content formats, and ever selective brands and audiences are intensifying the competitive environment. Authenticity is key; only those creators who are truly passionate about their work and willing to reveal a level of vulnerability and openness with audiences will survive in an increasingly cut-throat environment. In this interview with Kolsquare, founder and CEO of social media talent agency BTS Agency Mathieu Bonafé outlines the challenges creators — and their agents — will need to meet if they are to survive and thrive in the year ahead. 

How would you describe the influencer marketing industry currently? What are the main trends and their impact on creators and creator agencies?

The market is in the midst of transformation and adaptation. Because of new laws and people's new attitudes to influencer marketing, creators are obliged to produce less and less commercial content. This is paradoxical, as commercial collaborations have never been so successful and developed. 

The trends today take two forms: short format and long format. Short form is GRWMs, trends, and prank formats that are common to all influencers. Long formats are big concepts that resemble traditional TV shows.

The impact is simple: creative agencies are going to take on the traits of classic communications agencies by strengthening their creative and strategic teams in order to best respond to the demands of brands and consumers. Creators will have to step up their influence consulting skills.

What is the impact of new French regulations on influencers? How does the new law impact their work?

The impact of regulations is still mixed. I'm a member of [French industry association] UMICC (Union des Metiérs d'Influence et Création de Contenu), and the initial project is evolving. The fact that we've pointed the finger at the excesses of certain "influencers" is a very good thing. We're trying to support and protect our talents on a daily basis in the face of the rapid evolution of the sector. Indeed, current regulations are still a little vague for some, particularly in terms of taxation, what they should and shouldn't declare, and so on. Communities are even more vigilant and therefore more demanding when it comes to transparency.

What impact has the success of new platforms like TikTok or Twitch had on the market and the work of creators?

The platforms have enabled many people to make a living from their passion, or sometimes to bring in a little extra every month. It’s created jobs — I'm thinking of shows where production is required — and supported studios in the midst of a major transformation from television to digital. But it's also more complex for influencers to stand out. There's more competition, which means that a creator either has to have a strategy, or to have a natural originality and be chosen by the public. This has also forced some to become more professional, and to go ever further in their creation, content quality, ideas and so on. Some creators have become real media, like Hugo Décrypte with his interview of President Macron, or the GP Explorer event organized by Squeezie.

Many people complain of a drop in the performance and ROI of influencer marketing campaigns, particularly on Instagram; is this also your experience? 

Yes, we're seeing it. Why? Simply because the algorithms are constantly evolving and there are more and more creators on the platforms. It's like the engagement rate: the stronger the community, the lower the rate. The same goes for performance: the more creators there are, the harder it is to stand out. And this is very much the case when you see that the majority of creators are making the same content today.

Brands still don't give enough consideration to the conversations and image that collaboration will enable. In fact, our priority is to create a conversation with the influencer. The brand should be a conversation starter, not the heart of it.

What do you think of the pressure on influencers from audiences to be "authentic" while communicating more on sensitive subjects such as the environment or social issues? How should they react?

This is a perfectly legitimate demand, as people today are looking for authenticity. However, the pressure is different depending on the person. Some will be completely impervious, while others will need us, their entourage, to advise them, sometimes informing them on the subjects so as not to make communication errors. As for positions taken, whatever they may be, they must be in line with their personality and convictions, and not be taken in response to a request at any price. It's also important for communities, even if they love to be 100% involved with their favorite creators, to realize that they too are entitled to a private life.

How difficult is it for influencers to make a living from content creation in today's market?  

As mentioned, the market is increasingly competitive, so creators have to be much more attentive and adapt to the market too, while retaining their personality and editorial line. Some choose to post a lot more, others bet on rarity, but they are never immune to a cessation of activity, the loss of subscribers, or videos that "flop". That can have a real impact on their income via the platform but also via the brands that sponsor certain content.

Our role as an agency is to help them manage these ups and downs, both strategically and mentally.

More and more influencers are launching their own brands or other companies; does this also pose a problem for brand partnerships?

We have certain talents who have their own brands and who manage this very well. It's just a question of defining the perimeter, and collaborating intelligently with non-competing brands. Of course, sometimes we have to refuse or adapt certain placements with big brands, but it's also our role to help them make a clear distinction between their brands and the brands we work with.

What is your outlook for influencer marketing in the coming year? What will be the main challenges for influencers and their agencies?

As far as Agence BTS is concerned, we're going to be looking to go even further in our support. We started out doing talent management, drawing on the codes of music talent management that are specific to my experience. Our aim now is to associate creative and strategy teams with talent management so that we can continue to develop our talents, but also do the same for brands. Influence evolves every day. New platforms may appear, such as live formats for ever more interaction. There's always more competition from content creators, so we'll also have to be original, authentic and smart about how we position them.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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