Since the early days of social media, follower count has been used as one of the most important measures of success for creators. Brands looked to partner with the biggest names on every platform—and to grow their channels quickly, creators were incentivized to pump out trendy content and go viral.

But recently, we’ve seen some creators pursue a more intimate, community-oriented approach to content creation. While there’s no doubt that reaching new audiences is still a top priority for creators, the general attitude toward social media is slowly starting to shift. With the rise of new chat apps like Geneva and Discord, private group messaging within tight-knit communities online are now taking hold among Gen Zers. 

So how can brands evolve alongside this new community-oriented approach to creator content? Is there a way for brands to connect with consumers more authentically and intimately? To drive consistent and meaningful engagement, brands should find ways to leverage the impact of creator-follower interactions. This starts with brands making room for more creator autonomy and transparency across their collaborations. 

Build Authenticity with Unfiltered Content 

We often forget that social media platforms are spaces meant for us to interact and form genuine connections. But genuine connections are now harder to achieve on social media thanks to a flood of heavily branded content and ads that are promoted to users. Tactics like livestreaming allow users to remember why they’re there in the first place—and also creates opportunities for brands to connect with their audiences more organically, in real time. 

As creators grow their platforms, they may find it increasingly more difficult to maintain the closeness they once shared with their followers when they first began. Creators can hire their own photographers and video editors, for example, which often casts a professional filter over the content they produce. While this enables creators to deliver more high-quality content, the casual charm of record-and-upload videos fades away, leaving a more polished end product for viewers to consume.  

But even creators with the largest followings can maintain their authenticity by regularly sharing unfiltered content. Going live on Instagram or streaming on Twitch are effective ways for creators to interact with their followers in real time and foster a feeling of genuine connection within their communities. 

And there’s no doubt that this feeling of community also translates into livestreamed brand-creator collaborations. 72% of Twitch viewers agree that brands improve the livestreaming experience, and 58% say they’re more likely to consider brands that support the Twitch community. Moreover, consumers actually watch live video 10 to 20 times longer than on-demand content—proving that livestreaming should be a part of any robust influencer marketing strategy. 

By focusing on building authenticity with a select host of creators who have an unfiltered approach to content creation, companies can slowly cultivate brand loyalty within online communities in a meaningful, sustainable way. 

Prioritize a Creator-Driven Approach for Genuine Engagement 

While it’s important that brands provide strategic guidance around each campaign, creators should also have the freedom to produce content that reflects their own unique platforms—enabling brands to generate consumer interest organically without having to disrupt online communities.  

There’s a reason why creators have followings in the first place. Whether that be a quirky trait, an empowering outlook on life, or an unexpected talent, they know exactly how to capture their audience’s attention. By giving creators more autonomy, brands can ditch the scripted feel of an ad, allowing the creator’s personality to shine through—and ultimately drive more engagement across their follower base. 

Take video game company Square Enix, for example. BEN used an AI algorithm to  compile a list of relevant Twitch creators to generate awareness around the brand’s latest product: “Life is Strange: True Colors.” In this narrative-driven video game, the protagonist’s storyline is directly shaped by player choices, creating new plot twists to keep participants fully engaged. 

By allowing creators to independently stream their gameplay during the first four days following the launch, Square Enix ran an effective creator-driven campaign that resulted in completely unique live streams for each collaboration, based on individual player storylines. The campaign approach emphasized the thrilling, unpredictable nature of the game and allowed creator personalities to take center stage. 
Today, 60% of Gen Z say online community is very important to them, compared to only 48% of all other generations. It’s more crucial than ever for brand-creator collaborations to add to this feeling of community rather than take from it. By executing a more casual, unfiltered approach to content and leaning on the power of personality to engage creator audiences, brands and creators can drive real, genuine engagement within online communities.