In an exclusive interview, Clayton Jacobs, CEO and Co-founder of CreatorDB, discusses the role of data analytics in influencer marketing and the evolving creator economy and offers insights for aspiring creators seeking successful brand partnerships.
Discover Clayton’s predictions for the future of the creator economy and the trends that will shape its trajectory in the second half of 2023.
Can you please start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your background?
First, it brings qualitative analysis in doing a predictive return on investments regarding influencer marketing and looking at how it can predict advertising ROI for influencers.
Second, the agency does a lot of cross-border entries as they have become a one-stop-shop for clients worldwide — thanks to its team, who speaks 14 different languages.
As the CEO and Co-founder of CreatorDB, how does it feel to be present at VidCon 2023? What are your expectations for the event?
“It’s super exciting. I think it’s very meaningful for us based overseas to have this kind of large event where it’s not only an opportunity to speak on the stage but connect with many people in the industry,” Clayton shares.
I know you’ll be speaking at the conference. Could you give us a sneak peek into the topics you’ll be discussing during your session at VidCon? What can attendees expect to learn or gain from your talk?
Clayton will have a solo session during the VidCon and will discuss the data behind the decision-making for the creator economy. His talk will focus on looking at red flags and green flags, how to take a database approach, having intelligent decision-making when it comes to choosing which creators to work with, and how to establish a strategy and improve existing strategies.
In short, his session will talk about how data can go from sort of an amorphous idea into something that becomes part of everyone’s day-to-day routine and make decisions.
Clayton will also join a panel where he will talk about expansion into Asia. He’ll bring three of the top ten largest YouTubers in Taiwan. One of them has a video watched by 5% of the population of the entire country.
He’ll talk to these creators to get their perspective on, first, Taiwan and then why Taiwan. He’ll also tackle many questions with these creators, like whether Taiwan is an excellent entry point for brands that want to enter the Asian market and the context of how brands can successfully build strategies towards Taiwan and other East Asian countries.
How has the creator economy evolved since you started CreatorDB 2.5 years ago? What major changes have you observed?
Clayton has been with CreatorDB for almost four years. When the agency turned three, he saw how the pandemic caused brands to spend a lot of money on creators, especially in the United States. Back then, there was an explosion of people overpaying creators who were willing to pay a premium to get their products sponsored. As a result, the creator economy became performance-based marketing instead of branding.
“I see that right now, a shift is going on. More Western companies are adopting this mindset where creator and influencer marketing is becoming a performance- and marketing-based strategy, as well as an explosion of creator-led brands,” Clayton explains.
He believes that every content creator is a startup, and their content is their product. Any extension of that is just them continuing to build their businesses. He thinks that creator-led brands are becoming more and more prominent and are going to be one of the largest opportunities for investment and for people having built-in audiences in terms of product and brand launches.
Can you share some insights on the role of data analytics in influencer marketing and its impact on the creator economy?
As the creator economy transitions into more of a performance marketing-based strategy, data will become the core of it. “When you’re running Google ads and doing campaign testing, you’re figuring out what is the best way to get effective customer per click and the conversion rate between those,” Clayton says. He thinks more and more of that mindset is coming to influencer marketing.
As such, the most effective way to utilize it is not only the data that people get running the campaign but also the data that you can observe before the campaign kicks off, so agencies and brands can pick the right influencers in the first place.
In terms of creators’ selection and doubly down and strategy, Clayton believes that the role of data analytics is going to guide decision-making every step of the way.
What specific challenges do you think brands face when it comes to utilizing influencer marketing effectively?
One of the most common issues Clayton sees is the idea that the content category has to match exactly the product. For him, having this kind of mindset causes a lot of missed opportunities because while it can be great that a product is in the content category and the type of content that they’re sponsoring has a lot of overlap, the most important thing to overlap is the target audience. And so, wherever the target audience is, that’s the important place to advertise.
“When I’m looking at brands who are doing scaling strategies, it can be difficult to just continuously have effective discovery,” Clayton explains. As such, discovering a volume of influencers and creators that make sense for brands and establishing in a way where they have the KPIs is a trigger for Clayton and the agency to offer a contract with them.
CreatorDB discovered that the most effective way to build ROI over time is to get into long-term partnerships and commitments with the performing creators.
In your opinion, what makes VidCon an essential platform for creators, brands, and the industry as a whole?
For Clayton, VidCon Anaheim is a highly unique event. Its core is the meeting between industry professionals and creators who are trying to figure out sponsorships and understand growth and monetization opportunities. The event also brings together people in the industry who are knowledgeable in resources or topics beneficial to creators.
It’s also a fantastic opportunity for industry people like Clayton to hear directly from creators and learn more about what they like, what they don’t like, what they are struggling with, and how CreatorDB can improve their lives in a way that benefits both parties.
How do you see the creator economy shaping up in the second half of 2023? Are there any trends or developments that you predict will have a significant impact?
Clayton expects to see a few trends continue, and more creator brands will be launched. In general, brands will continue to have this kind of spending pattern, which is a bit pulled back from COVID but is still stable up to this very day. Long-term partnerships will continue to be a very stable avenue, as well.
Depending on the macroeconomic situation, at the end of this year, there’s going to be a handful of companies that are looking to roll the dice and see how the market responds. Clayton believes that these companies will become more open and willing to accept the risk that they’re going to perform very well during the holiday season.
What role do you see CreatorDB playing in the future of influencer marketing and the creator economy?
Clayton would love CreatorDB to become one of the data backbones — the group that provides the analytics that the people need to make decisions every step of the way while highlighting small and medium influencers who are going to give strong ROIs.
“Because when you talk about the world of ROIs, what we found is it’s almost always more effective to put together ten medium influencers than a very large one,” Clayton explains. As a result, they’re able to make more deals happen, find the right people, and coordinate and give more opportunities for both the brands and emerging creators.
With the increasing popularity of alternative platforms and new forms of content, how do you see the traditional influencer marketing landscape evolving?
According to Clayton, long-form video is going to be king. Short-form video is great, but when analyzed from data engineering and artificial intelligence perspectives, long-form videos perform way better online.
For instance, in one Instagram post, the most amount of attention brands could possibly hope for would be about six to eight seconds. Say someone looks at a picture, swipes through a carousel, zooms in, and leaves a comment. This is the most engaged they can be with that content. And even if that’s the case, the seconds per attention often work out in favor of longer-form content.
That being said, Clayton believes that short-form content only acts as touchpoints. Having multiple touchpoints are extremely effective but in terms of seconds of attention and cost, long-form content triumphs.
What are some key steps to ensure transparency and authenticity in influencer marketing?
Brands should keep in mind that letting creators write the script and allowing them to participate in the creative guarantees a more genuine read regardless of where on the spectrum the creator is in terms of familiarity or usage of the product they’re promoting.
For example, if it’s a product the creator is less familiar with but learned about it and liked it, they can’t say they are a long-time user or anything along those lines. As long as brands allow the creators to incorporate their voices and humor, they’ll be able to come up with more effective, genuine, and authentic content.
It’s important for brands to remember that when working with creators, they’re hiring them for their audience and reach; that the creator knows their audience better than anybody possibly could.
How do you envision the relationship between brands and creators evolving in the coming years? What opportunities or challenges do you foresee?
Clayton believes the brand and creator relationship falls into different categories or types. One type is very transactional, wherein brands pay for posts and interactions.
The other type — which Clayton expects to become more popular in the coming years — is ambassadorship. In this relationship, the creator and brand become tied in and become associated with each other. This relationship is more than just a channel for distribution but has become a part of the creator’s identity.
When looking at brands that are starting out or launching something new, they’re going to give the creator a cut or a percentage of what’s going on as the creator has become a vital part of the process. Brands are no longer just buying distribution when they work with a creator — they’re buying a creative and an understanding of the potential market.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators who want to navigate the creator economy and build successful partnerships with brands?
“Treat it like a startup, [conduct] an AB test to figure out what works and what doesn’t work,” Clayton says. Although partnering with brands is challenging, Clayton says creators have many opportunities to turn this endeavor into a full-time career. Even creators who are still starting or are still small can maximize their monetization potential. They just need to have an effective monetization strategy between working with the brand, mixing in their own products, and understanding premium content.
Clayton also advises aspiring creators to build diverse income streams, especially growing creators, because it’s not enough to rely on big numbers to drive a very stable income.