InfluencerMade founder Chris Grayson on best practices for brands and creators to work together
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You’ve heard all the success stories of content creators turned business owners. Chris Grayson is one such success story.
He started his career as a content creator in the gaming industry, and his success led him to start InfluencerMade, a hub with the resources aspiring creators need to experience success.
I interviewed Chris to learn more about the power of creators in today’s economy, how brands can leverage successful partnerships, and what creators can do to build a loyal following.
Banknotes: Tell me more about your background as a creator and marketer, and how and why you started InfluencerMade.com?
Grayson: I got interested in this career after being fascinated by celebrities and social media as a teenager. I quickly realized that there was a whole industry devoted to creating and promoting content. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
The idea that launched InfluencerMade came a few years ago while working as a full-time content creator in the gaming industry. On the side, a few friends and I started making guides and tutorials for Twitch streamers.
A few months later, we launched a YouTube channel, which gained a lot of traction with micro-influencers in the space. Fast forward to early 2020, and there was a period of explosive growth as the world went into lockdown. There was a huge influx of primarily millennials looking to make income through content creation.
We knew first-hand there was very little structured education for people looking to pursue a career as an influencer. Our goal was to fill that gap and InfluencerMade originated as a resources hub for creators and brands looking to build online communities. Since then, we have expanded to cover a few core services such as one-on-one coaching and work as consultants sourcing brand-safe influencers for marketing campaigns.
Ask a third-grader what they wanted to be 15 years ago, and you would get “firefighter” or “teacher” as the most common answers. Ask the same question these days, and you’re more likely to get “Youtuber” as a response. While Gen X and Y grew up idolizing athletes and movie stars, Gen Z has added social media personalities to that list. They are relatable, share the same hobbies, and their voices carry tremendous influence.
Banknotes: What is the true reach and impact of creators?
Grayson: As a social media expert and influencer coach, I have spent countless hours studying the ever-evolving landscape of online platforms. I have found that the reach of creators and influencers extends far beyond traditional social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
I believe the role of creators and influencers will only become more significant in the years to come. Whether they are building brands in the metaverse or showcasing their talents on gaming platforms like Twitch, these online powerhouses exemplify a passion for innovation and creative expression that is truly limitless.
And as brands begin to recognize the unique power of influencer marketing to grow their businesses, creators will be well-positioned to build even more significant connections with their audiences worldwide. Whether through immersive live events or innovative product collaborations, there are endless opportunities for brands to partner with influential content creators and expand their reach exponentially. So if you're looking to impact today's digitally connected landscape, turn to the experts—the creatives and influencers who are reshaping our world one post at a time.
The bottom line is the impact influencers have will only grow as more people adopt digital platforms.
Banknotes: How can brands leverage creator influence to grow their businesses?
Grayson: You first have to identify the right creators to work with. This means finding creators who align with your brand values and have an engaged audience that is relevant to your target market. Once you've identified a few potential partners, reach out and start building relationships.
You also have to provide value to the creators you work with. This can take many forms, from financial compensation to exclusive content or access to events and products. The important thing is that you're providing something of value in exchange for their influence.
Finally, measure the results of your campaigns and adjust accordingly. Keep track of metrics like reach, engagement, and sales to see how your influencer marketing efforts are performing. If a particular campaign isn't meeting your expectations, don't be afraid to make changes or try something new.
Banknotes: What are some best practices for creators to build a recognizable and positive personal brand online?
Grayson: While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, a few best practices can help any creator get started on the right track.
First, it's essential to be authentic and genuine in your online presence. Your followers should feel like they know the real you, not just a carefully curated persona.
Also, be consistent in your branding across all platforms. This means using the same name, profile picture, and a similar bio across your social media channels.
Focus on quality over quantity. It's better to have a smaller following of engaged fans than a large following of people who aren't interested in your content.
Finally, don't be afraid to experiment. You might not find your perfect niche overnight, but you'll eventually find the sweet spot that works for you and your brand by trying new things.
Banknotes: How can creators grow their fandoms, build a community, and keep their followers engaged?
Grayson: Social media should be just one part of your strategy for growing a fanbase and building a solid community. While Twitter and Instagram are great for reaching a broad audience, they can also be quite restrictive in fostering meaningful interaction. This is why it's often beneficial for creators to move their fans to platforms that offer more features and functionality for communities.
My actionable advice to influencers in coaching sessions is to start growing a Discord server as soon as possible. Discord is ad-free and allows you to create dedicated channels for different topics, host live streams, and conduct video calls, with custom server roles for members. This helps keep things organized and makes it easy for fans to find the content they're interested in and make friends with other community members.
Additionally, Discord also offers a rich suite of tools for moderation, which can be essential for keeping trolls and spammers at bay. Overall, Discord is a robust platform that can help you nurture a healthy and engaged community around your content. And best of all, it's completely free to use.
We built our server to 55,000 members on Discord, which allowed us to connect with the community and host collaborations not possible on other mainstream platforms. I see it as safe practice. If there are issues with Youtube, Twitter, or any of the major players in the future, it would be an effortless pivot to launch on whichever platform replaces the social media we use today.
With the metaverse likely upon us within the decade, I feel it's more important than ever to put community building at the forefront of your content strategy and not hitch yourself entirely to a single platform.
Banknotes: What advice do you have for creators to create authentic and genuine branded content that resonates well with an audience?
Grayson: The most important thing to remember is that your audience can see through inauthenticity, so it's important to be true to yourself and your brand.
One way to ensure your content is resonating with your audience is to be genuine in your interactions with them. Take the time to respond to comments and questions, and show that you care about what they have to say. Additionally, try to avoid seeming like you're always selling something—focus on creating valuable content that your audience will appreciate.
Banknotes: What are the best ways for brands to find the right creators and build meaningful and ongoing relationships with those creators?
Grayson: One way to cut through the clutter is to use social listening tools to identify relevant creators in your industry or niche. Once you have a list of potential creators, you can use a criteria list to narrow down your options. After you have selected a few creators who you think would be a good fit, reach out to them and start building a relationship. Use their business email where possible, but a direct message (DM) works as a last resort. Once you have established communication, keep the lines of communication open and continue to nurture the relationship over time.
Banknotes: How can brands leverage creator influence to grow their business? Do you have a few concrete examples?
Grayson: One of the most powerful ways influencers can help brands is by generating social proof. When influencers endorse a product or service on their social media channels, it helps to build trust and credibility with potential customers. With the influencer’s permission, if those endorsements are featured on a brand’s landing pages, they can be even more effective in driving conversions. By partnering with influencers, brands can tap into the power of social proof to drive awareness and sales.
Banknotes: What current social media, commerce, and influencer marketing trends do brands and creators need to keep on their radars?
Grayson: Micro-influencers are becoming increasingly important in the influencer marketing world. These are influencers with a smaller following who are often considered more relatable and trustworthy by their followers. Therefore, partnering with micro-influencers can be a great way to reach a new audience.
Stories are continuing to grow in popularity across all social media platforms. If you're not using Stories to promote your brand or products, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media platforms, especially among Gen Z users.
Banknotes: How do brands and creators stay current in the highly evolving/ever-changing landscape of online platforms? How can they stay ahead of the trends?
Grayson: Diversification is the key. When you diversify your content early on, you set yourself up to adapt to any changes that come down the pipeline. For example, if you only create video content and YouTube changes its algorithm, you could be in trouble.
However, if you have a diverse portfolio of content that includes Instagram, Twitter, and a Discord community, it is easier to adapt and stay relevant.
Additionally, it’s essential to use multiple platforms. Even though one platform may be more popular now, that could change overnight. Using various platforms ensures that your content will always be accessible no matter what happens.
Banknotes: What are some of the best ways creators can monetize? And, what should brands expect to pay creators when they hire them to create branded campaigns?
Grayson: For creators, first and foremost, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your worth. There are a lot of factors that go into determining how much you should be paid for your work, including but not limited to: your follower count, engagement rate, location, niche, and the type of content you produce. It's important to do your research and understand the going rate for influencers in your space before negotiating with brands.
Another vital thing to keep in mind is that there are various ways you can monetize your content. For example, you're not limited to working with brands on sponsored posts—although that is certainly one option. Other options include affiliate marketing, selling products or services, and even running ads on your platforms.
Brands should expect to pay creators for their time, effort, and talent when hiring social media influencers. Like any other profession, influencers need to be compensated for their work, especially when creating high-quality content that resonates with their audience. Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all answer regarding how much brands should pay influencers.
Rates will vary depending on the creator's reach, engagement levels, and campaign scope. However, as a general rule of thumb, brands should expect to pay influencers at least $200 per post as a starting point.
Mediums like YouTube require substantially more work for an integration. So you are looking at closer to $500 as a starting point. This rate may seem high at first, but it's important to remember that influencer marketing is an investment that can pay off big time in terms of increased brand awareness and sales.
Banknotes: What should smaller brands that have never worked with an influencer before know? How can they get it right from the beginning?
Grayson: There are a few things that I always stress to them to set them up for success. First, it's crucial to find an influencer whose audience directly matches the type of customers the business wants. It's not about finding the most popular influencer with the most significant following. Instead, it's about finding someone who has an engaged audience interested in the brand's products or services.
Also, take a quantity over quality approach when starting out. It's better to work with many smaller influencers who have engaged audiences than with a few big names. This will be more cost-effective, but it will also help build up a pool of advocates for your brand. When done right, influencer marketing can be a potent tool for businesses of all sizes.