VidCon 2017: How to Work with Influencers

Location: Anaheim Convention Centre, CA

Insights by: Sami Westwood, Publicity & Partnerships Director

VidCon co-founder, YouTube content creator and bestselling author John Green welcomed industry delegates to VidCon today. Universal access to great content “makes the world suck less”, he said. Acknowledging the need for advertisers to know their brands are being promoted in the right space, he asserted there is a need for advertisers to provide support for a wide variety of content. Content that’s free at the point of consumption needs this support to survive, especially when it comes to up and coming creators.

It was interesting to listen to and converse with agency, brand, agent and creator professionals with that in mind. Key panels today included understanding the relationship between influencers (content creators) and brands, navigating the risks (for both sides) of these relationships and if the content is of worth (pushes sales).

Key Takeaways:

  • 90% of social media users have bought a product after seeing social media content about that product.
  • 79% are willing to pay more money for a product after seeing a video about it on social media.

Conversations today focused on micro influencers. Larger content creators were not discredited and it’s not an either-or, but it was universally discussed that the micro influencer was better for engagement and click-throughs and that the leading driver for creator approaches should be brand affinity and content quality overreach.

The first place to start looking for influencers is your existing audience. Everyone has some level of influence so start there and work your way up / out. Look at who is driving the conversations you want to be a part of. Content creators are most effective at influencing people like them.

You’re no longer necessarily looking for the ‘face’ of your brand, but multiple faces who are telling many stories that lean into your brand/ethos/story.

Ensure brand affinity. The same values, the right audience, aligned passions and strengths. Research content creators well, setting key markers regarding what is appropriate and not appropriate for your property. Check content across all channels, other brands they are working with, events they are attending. At the very least do a Google ‘background check’ and ask what else they have coming up.

Let the creator lead the content. Collaboration is key. Let them know all you can about your property, the values to align with, the messages that need to be communicated and allow those to be communicated in an authentic way by the creator. Use treatments and/or storyboards to get a feel and build a collaborative relationship. Authenticity and creator voice is central to success.

For brands to make an impact, they need a relationship with the audience. A creator/influencer will know best how to manage and maintain this audience relationship. Turn the content creator relationship on its head. How can your property/brand empower the creator and what they are trying to achieve. It’s not just about product endorsement. Talk to creators about how you can elevate them to form a stronger partnership.

Distribution is key. Consider where the content will sit and how it will be consumed and factor that into budgets. e.g. Facebook influencer content may get hit by the Facebook algorithm. Put some boost spend to one side in case it needs a kickstart.

Think long-term. Try and establish ongoing relationships with creators as this makes collaboration easier. Try and ensure projects are a win-win – content and association will serve both well. Can you make them part of your set up? Can you give them input into your company? Could there be an equity share (start-ups)?

Be creative. Remember different channels work in different ways and brand messages can be delivered in a variety of ways. It’s not all about getting the tagline in there.


There are six key risk factors to bear in mind when engaging an influencer/content creator:

  1. Audience – is your brand/property suitable (e.g. if an audience is below 18 / 21, then an alcohol partnership is ill advised)?
  2. Content – will need managing/approvals to ensure it’s in line with your brand.
  3. Lifestyle – is there anything we need to consider about the creator/influencers lifestyle or views, which may be contrary to brand values?
  4. Relevance what is their relevance to the project? Partnerships – who else are they working with?
  5. Scandal – anything can happen!

Be mindful of content positioning in line with editorial control. Always be transparent when content is driven by and/or paid for by the brand.


Know your contact – are you liaising with an agent? A manager? A multi-channel network? And what legal relationship do they have with the influencer? This will be important to know should there be any issues.

Contracts should cover:

  1. Content ownership.
  2. Content to be delivered.
  3. Approvals process and timelines (so all parties are clear on delivery dates on assets AND feedback).
  4. Payment timelines.
  5. Termination breaches – protect on both sides – including morals clause.

If something goes wrong, speak to the creator. Should content backfire for any reason, they should be the first port of call – they curated their audience and will have a better chance at quelling any criticism. Involve them in any crisis talks.

Many thanks to the following for their impassioned talks today:

Chris Lesinski (Creator Executive & Digital Strategist), Nick Tran (Head of Brand Culture – Samsung US), Mike Prasad (Founder and CEO – TinySponsor), Krishna Subramanian (Co-Founder – Captiv8), Ryan Williams (CEO and Author of Influencer Economy), Jessica Thorpe (President –, Tish Valles (EVP – Strategy – Geometry Global), Devinsupertramp (Creator), Ben Swanson (Associate Director, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy – Ubisoft), Jake Watson (Creative Director – Corridor Digital), Ricky Ray Butler (Global CCO – Branded Entertainment Network), Jordan Levin (CEO – Awesomeness TV), Scott Hervey (Partner – Weintraub Tobin), Gabe Gordon (Founder and Managing Partner – Reach Agency) and the one and only John Green (Creator, Bestselling Author, Co-Founder of VidCon).


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