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From content creation to co-creation: why KOLs and brands need to work more closely together

2024 promises to be a year of change in which the boundaries between traditional media and influencers continue to blur. New formats, new trends and new community expectations are forcing communications agencies to rethink how they meet the changing needs of their clients. In this interview with Kolsquare, Agence Wellcom Consulting Director in charge of Influence Strategies Charlotte Caron, outlines how the rapidly evolving French landscape will impact content creation and relationships between brands and influencers. 

portrait of Charlotte Caron
portrait of Charlotte Caron

What are the key trends and challenges in French influence? 

The boundaries between traditional media and influence are hyper blurred. Influencer marketing will continue to grow because it is now part of 360° strategies. B2B influence is really increasing. That will allow brands which are already doing influence to communicate differently, to talk to new stakeholders. B2B influence will enable brands not yet doing influence marketing  to start. This means that influencer marketing, in its broadest sense, will continue to develop over the next few years.

When you think of B2B influence, obviously LinkedIn comes to mind because it's the most mature platform for running these types of campaigns. But we also see that content creators are specializing and becoming more professional. There are also experts who are present on YouTube. That allows us to think about cross-platform [strategies]. 

How will the new law impact the market in the year ahead? 

Long-term collaborations will continue to develop. Because of the law, influencers who tend to accept a lot of brand deals are going to have to be selective about their projects. They won't be able to continue work that way, if only for the sake of credibility with their audience. That's why long-term collaborations will stand out. That’s also going to challenge brands and agencies to be more innovative and customized in their approach. More selective content creators mean we’ll need to grab their attention. To do that; creativity and personalization will be [paramount] for successful and impactful collaborations.

How will that impact the way brands and agencies work with influencers? 

It means that co-creation will be the only way to work. Influence has evolved from product placement to content creation. Now, we’re moving from content creation to co-creation. That’s linked first and foremost to the new law and the notion of co-responsibility. It’s no longer the agency and the advertiser on one side, and the talent on the other. Everyone is jointly responsible. The notion of dialogue and discussion on co-creation is the key point and will continue to define collaborations. 

There’s been a lot of grumbling from KOLs about declining performance of influence campaigns; what’s your view?

It’s too early to say where the law [and its transparency obligations] have led to a drop in performance. The platforms say it hasn’t. At any rate, engagement has been declining due to several different factors. However studies that show that authenticity and transparency create confidence. So the new law is bound to have a positive long-term impact. Every new change generates some upheaval in the short term, but in the long term, some things will come back. The point is that content creators need to educate their audiences [about the law]. 

The new law put the debate about influencer marketing at the heart of the public debate, whereas before it was a subject that was reserved for communication and marketing professionals. Now, communities are much more informed than they used to be.

The sector is evolving enormously and the changes are rechallenging our profession, the way we work, both from a process and a creative point of view. Even if all people may see now are the constraints of the new law, I'm convinced it's going to enable us to reinvent the profession. It's going to give it a new lease of life, a new impetus. We may have to be a bit patient, but I see it as a new opportunity.

Audiences are more informed about issues of ecological responsibility and demanding authenticity from KOLs; what impact is that having?  

That will continue. It has to, because audiences expect more and more transparency. It can be a bit of a problem for content creators; some want to position themselves and show their commitment [to a cause] but, as audiences are intractable, the fear of the slightest misstep or that something could be misinterpreted, holds them back a bit. 

It’s about being in line with community expectations, because the notion of responsibility goes far beyond compliance with the new law. We're talking about societal and environmental commitments, and content creators have to act. But agencies also have to work on this, because we're also the ones who are going to propose campaigns and who have to raise our customers' awareness. Influence marketing is an ecosystem. We're all responsible and it's together that we'll get the market moving. We can't expect content creators to be the ones to change things.

Which platforms will be the standout performers for influence in the coming year? 

It’s not surprising that video platforms like Twitch, TikTok and YouTube are very popular; it ties in with the question of content creation versus product placement. Video has been growing because it meets two community expectations: authenticity and transparency. Video content creation facilitates storytelling so it’s not surprising that YouTube continues to grow. 

TikTok is the platform of authenticity. It offers everyone the chance to break through because content, rather than audience size, is key. The TikTok generation knows that even without having a crazy community, they can make a video that will explode in terms of views. Twitch also offers great opportunities for brands to speak directly to consumers. The live format encourages interaction with audiences and makes it possible to create close relationships with customers. The platform also opens the door to new audiences. As we can see, Twitch is no longer the sole reserve of gaming brands alone! 

Which other trends will stand out in 2024?

The mix of influence and paid media. We can no longer think of influencer marketing budgets as just content creation, we have to integrate a paid media component to stand out. Another trend will be based on UGC, especially in video. This is one way of meeting expectations of authenticity. 

Finally, if we look to the longer term, AI. We're already seeing the arrival of 100% AI-generated content creators. Obviously there is a debate and I'm not saying that tomorrow, influencers will all be virtual influencers generated by artificial intelligence, but we can't think about the future of influence marketing without putting artificial intelligence in the mix.

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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