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The future of brand partnerships on social media


It feels like it’s been a long time since the first generations of Love Islanders emerged from the Spanish villa, tans as suspiciously ochre as the day they went in. Together with a host of other 2010s reality stars, their newfound fame led to an instant burst on their social media platforms, quickly monetised with the stereotyped ‘diet tea’ and toothpaste ads that form some of our first memories of the influencer marketplace.

Fast forward to 2021, and that market has not so much grown (enormously, I might add), but entirely turned on its head. When we look at the platforms themselves, the last few years have seen the dominant players (Instagram, YouTube and Twitter) wise up and adapt to make for better experiences for their users. In Instagram’s case, adding additional content streams such as Stories and Reels, and introducing the ‘paid partnership’ tag feature, have made things all the better for content creators to play around with new mediums and diversify how they work with brands. And of course we can’t overlook the new app in town, TikTok, whose exponential growth during the pandemic has made it one of the most lucrative new platforms for brand partnership success.

So where does the talent come in? Well, the social creators that brands are looking to align with have long progressed from those hazy reality TV days. It’s since been proven that big following numbers are a) not so rare to come by, especially when you have algorithms like TikTok’s creating overnight success stories on the daily, and b) not the be-all and end-all for partnerships. Brands are increasingly more inclined to work with a creator whose values align with their own, or have an existing relationship with the brand. Not to mention that a shared ethos between the two parties is crucial to achieving that much-desired ‘authenticity factor’.

The favoured word of digital agencies across the world, ‘authenticity’ has become gospel in the murky, infinite world of social media. Where the early 2010s saw ‘bad influencers’ such as the dethroned Queen of Wellness Belle Gibson run riot, the modern style of social media is riddled with an anxiety that you are consistently and dogmatically ‘you’. This applies to both the brands and the talent, making it all the more important to establish a genuine connection between the two if their cynical audiences are going to be pressing the ‘like’ button on collaborations.

The light at the end of this fickle tunnel is collaborating with experts. Offering their insight and sometimes professional backing to a campaign gives credibility to the brand and strengthens the talent’s authority within their field. It’s a movement away from the vapid world of influencers for influencers’ sake, without sacrificing the reach and engagement. As a 360 degree talent management agency, we’re well versed in our clients’ audiences flocking to their social channels from other work, be it their podcast, television appearance, presenting gig or weekly column. Moreover, if you’re one to crunch figures, the only difference between the average influencer and the experts’ stats is that the latter audience is a hub for proven interest in that field. Whether it’s fitness, baking, parenting or LGBTQI+ lifestyle, those experts are sitting on a digital village of like-minded people. As far as targeted marketing goes, that’s pretty much hitting the nail on the head for brands.

We’ve not only taken note of this trend, but are actively fostering its growth through our new initiative, The website spotlights our carefully curated roster of expert talent and, combined with targets newsletters and updates, allows brands and digital agencies to easily see what they can offer to their campaign.

Lorna Colwill is Northbank’s Broadcast and Brand Partnerships Agent.

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