As the creator economy matures, more reliable metrics should emerge for marketers.
But, marketers say, it’s still a challenge to make informed decisions when picking creators to work with. Data about whether a creator’s audience syncs with a brand’s customers, or whether the creator receives sufficient interactions on their posts, is hard to come by.
Further muddying this landscape, creator discovery and management firm Grin is removing third-party data on its scores of TikTok and YouTube creators by Feb. 1, according to emails seen by Adweek. It’s also disabling its creator search tool, which lets marketers search through creators within Grin’s database to find the right fit for a campaign.
Grin is removing the tool, however, because of questions about the validity of its information in the first place. Third-party data comes from scraping public profiles, without a creator’s explicit permission, and sources tell Adweek it is more likely to contain errors. Plus, platforms are increasingly wary when third-party tech vendors sell their users’ data without consent; in November, Grin announced it was discontinuing its use of third-party data after Meta asked the company to stop or risk losing access to a necessary API.
The creator economy is estimated to be worth $104 billion. Much of that value comes from advertisers paying creators to hawk their brands in exchange for affinity with a creators’ audience. But marketers still struggle to understand the demographic makeup of a creators’ followers and measure campaign success, seven industry sources told Adweek. Four sources said that several agencies still rely on screenshots for telegraphing data about a campaign.
“There’s a lot of parallels [between the creator economy’s measurement problems and] digital ad buying from 2008-2010,” said Dan Goldstein, founder of agency Next Rep Marketing.
“It will evolve, and [they’ll] build the right tools because we’ve seen every other digital ad tech solution evolve,” Goldstein added.
Grin declined to comment but pointed to its November blog post, while Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
Relying on screenshots for the truth
Discrepancies can come when platforms rely on third-party, scraped data.
“There isn’t a single point of truth unless we authenticate,” said Oliver Lewis, CEO of social creative agency The Fifth, adding his firm audited 10 different creator vendors and found all showed different data about the same creator.
Platforms might use this data to feed algorithms that attempt to model a creator’s audiences based on similar creators, inferences which are not always accurate, Lewis said.
Screenshots from these talent agencies don’t do anything.
Kendall Dickieson, independent marketing consultant
“We have some platforms tell us our clients have a certain demographic. When we look at the actual data, it’s completely different,” said Scott Fisher, founder of Select Management Group, which owns a creator talent management business, adding no creator management platform is 100% correct. “We’re still relying on screenshots to get the truth.”
Kyle Hjelmeseth, CEO of influencer talent agency G&B Management, said clients typically use creator tech platforms to avoid manually inputting data but use creator screenshots to fact-check. “We usually can’t invoice the project until we’ve delivered screenshots,” he said.
But not all marketers are satisfied with this system since it requires a degree of blind faith and is logistically clunky, said Kendall Dickieson, an independent marketing consultant.
“Screenshots from these talent agencies don’t do anything,” Dickieson said. “Because they can pick and choose what makes that screenshot.”
First-party data is not a panacea
Grin is now transitioning to providing first-party data to brands, which means creators must link their accounts with the platform.
But with 50 million creators, and only around 2 million making a living full-time from their content, according to venture capital firm SignalFire, many creators don’t see the value in taking the time—and the risk—to give various platforms access to their account information, Lewis said.
“Third-party data is so much easier to do at mass scale,” said Taylor Lagace, CEO of agency Kynship. “First-party is the hard way to obtain this information from creators.”
Moreover, data obtained from the Meta API is not always complete.
“[Meta] has a huge amount of data they don’t provide to the API,” Lewis said, noting that the API provides data about the geographic spread of a creator’s audience plus some content and interest-level data. Data that comes through the API is not hugely in-depth.
Meta, which launched a creator marketplace on Instagram last year, could fill this data gap. But the marketplace doesn’t have the sophistication of existing solutions on the market, lacking a CRM-type system to manage creators and detailed filters for discovery, Lagace said.
Solutions could also come from the creator ad-tech industry itself, which is still relatively immature.
“There is a 10-fold opportunity,” Fisher said, “whoever figures that out will be a huge winner.”