Collective Influence: From Personalities and Hypes Houses to Metalabels and moderators

Thought Leadership

Yesterday we ran our ‘Collective Influence’ LinkedIn Live – the first event in our three-part Future of Influence series. In this follow up blog, our Head of Research & Insight, Paul Greenwood, explores how influencers are banding together to share some of the burden of the creative process. Find out more about this new way of working and how brands can adapt to changing influencer behaviour for maximum impact.

When YouTube launched in 2005, few could have predicted the scale and success of what we now call the Creator Economy. Its impact, with vast amounts of money flowing through it and “Influencer” being seen as a legitimate and sought after career choice for younger generations, has had a profound effect on the wider marketing landscape. 

It’s made stars out of unknowns. People whose personalities, charisma and skills have been key to their enduring success. New behaviours, codes and language have developed around creators and the platforms on which they activate. And it’s given brands access to new audiences – turning on the tap to engaged and eager consumers.

Despite this success, the creator economy and its trappings have a dark side. Being at the mercy of platforms and the algorithms that underpin them, there’s a constant need for Creators to be present across multiple platforms and to be “always on”. The parasocial relationships many followers develop with Creators sees the blurring of boundaries, with many fans overstepping. 

It’s unsurprising that creator burnout is prevalent. Burnout can range from 61% to 90% depending on which survey you reference. Further, 71% of creators have considered quitting with stress coming from platform changes, unstable income, and the pressure to produce. The pressure that Creators feel can lead to content fatigue, an inability to switch off, and loneliness.

The relationships Creators and Influencers have are increasingly transactional – whether that is with platforms, with brands or with their communities. The late-stage-capitalism-feels of influencer marketing has taken the shine off what was seen as a fun, genuine and fresh way to interact online and build community.

It’s clear fresh thinking was needed – one informed and influenced by web 3.0 / Gen Z characteristics of share-ownership, collaboration, and more purposeful and intentional in its outcomes. 

A new mode of collective participation

Instead of going alone, Influencers are banding together in collectives to share the burden of the creative process, and strengthen their impact in a crowded space. 

Fresh thinking comes in the form of metalabels, media collectives or multi-contributor substacks that create “economic, emotional, and creative” alignment between collaborators. Rather than competing for the same pie, creators are engaging in co-operation, “pooling their skills, audiences, and resources in support of a larger creative vision or purpose.” Or what Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter and Metalabel   described as “creativity in multiplayer mode”. 

And it’s producing some innovative and impactful activations:

1) Counterculture collectivism 

MSCHF, an American art collective from Brooklyn, has been one of the most prolific collectives. From its internet-breaking Big Red Boots inspired by Astro Boy to its Tax Heaven 3000 dating site that generates tax returns to its Miami Basel ATM installation that ranks attendees by their disposable income, each “drop” critiques the current socio-economic situation and mainstream culture through absurdism and audience complicity. 

Its goal is to shape culture through a nod and wink.

2) Expert collaboration 

The rise of collaborative substacks and the return of the multi-contributor newsletter are shaping the future Creator landscape. The likes of Flow State, The Dispatch and The Weekly Dish substacks are produced by teams of experts and covers anything from the creation of musical playlists that help with deep thinking to US politics and current affairs.

This is a return to the first era of influence – long-form, text-based content grounded in expertise. Here people are trusted because they have the skillsets to explain complex narratives to those with time-stretched attention spans, and so become arbiters of influence.

3) Co-creating for the future

Other forms of collective creator action are taking form through DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations). These have been likened to tech powered cooperative movements, looking to create value and share it out to the community based on effort. One such DAO is RADAR, a group of 300+ researchers, early adopters and innovators, aiming to build “a foundational set of collective intelligence and imagination platforms for a better future”. In a similar vein, Startupy is AI-powered search engine consisting of 100s of intellectuals “curating and interconnecting” the best parts of the Internet. It’s clear both collectives are looking to shape and inform the future of the web through action.

The opportunities of this new type of influencer collaboration are exciting. 

1) Culture creating and shaping

A generation of digital natives are becoming increasingly aware of the meta frameworks governing platforms and online culture. Collective Influence leans into this to subvert norms and shape culture. For forward thinking brands who want to be at the bleeding edge of culture, this presents many new partners to work and collaborate with. 

Brands more than ever will have to understand the codes, aesthetics and meta language of cultural spheres to play a role.

2) Purposeful and intentional

Collective influence often has a deeper purpose eschewing the transactional nature of Influencer Marketing of the past. Brands that are seen as co-opting a collective and paying lip service to passion or purpose will be given short shrift. 

Values based marketing will play a greater role in Influencer Marketing and the Creator Economy of the future. Values that drive action.

3) Scaleable and impactful

The fragmentation of the influencer landscape means brands will have to do things slightly differently. If creators are naturally coalescing that helps create natural scale and impact, but an important question is how do brands maintain attribution when it could be diluted amongst many creators?

Tune into the next episode of the Future of Influence series on Wednesday 23rd August at 9am BST via LinkedIn.