First-Party Data:
Essential to Authentic Brand and Creator Relationships in Today’s Growing Creator Economy

The creator economy is bigger than ever, and creators are no longer just influencers. They’re full-blown brands that operate like small businesses. Being an influencer has become an aspirational career path and a unique new kind of entrepreneurship built around independence, as well as the possibility of rich financial rewards.

Like most entrepreneurs, creators must wear multiple hats to be successful, and many balance “day jobs” with their roles creating content, as well as building and maintaining a following. As their audiences grow, the time they spend as creators will account for a greater portion of their income, enabling them to quit their day jobs and become full-time creators. When this transition occurs, creators begin to function like startups. The side hustle becomes the main gig.

Yet as influencers scale their presence, their overhead grows. Behind every post is no small amount of business and technical overhead, ranging from cameras and editing to social media management software, administrative support, and employees. Influencers have advertisers and marketing partners who want to be part of their business, and those relationships must be cultivated and managed. All of these new responsibilities mean that creators find themselves under pressure to cover this new overhead, reinvest in the business, and operate profitably – just like the pressures that startups and other small businesses typically face.

First- or Third-Party Data?

A key challenge for these influencers is connecting with the right brands, while marketers are tasked with matching their portfolio of influencers with the right audience. Developing an effective influencer marketing plan can be a challenge, and finding the best and most effective influencer for one’s brand can be a challenge that spans a dizzying number of generations and demographics. This is where data comes in, either in the form of first- or third-party data that is used for audience segmentation and targeting. Broadly speaking, first-party creator data comes direct from the source, while third-party creator data is generated by middlemen.

Third-party data is typically aggregated by providers who scan publicly available information on public profiles, store that data, and subsequently make it available to providers and databases for resale. Sometimes third-party data is gathered through the widespread use of fake accounts and bots, which is both unscrupulous and illegal. Worse yet, third-party data often fails to deliver meaningful audience information and instead relies on estimates that are often wildly incorrect. Inherently inexact, third-party data is often inaccurate and out-of-date. Social media moves very quickly, and as the population of creators continues to scale, third-party data just isn’t able to keep up.

Connecting Brands and Influencers:
Leveraging First-Party Data

For influencers, providing authenticated, first-party data helps solve identification problems and enables them to work effectively with brands – ultimately helping them to make a better living as creators.

When influencers connect with brands through first-party data, the brand can have confidence that the influencer is “who they say they are,” via social media platform authentication. First-party authentication provides access to the critical user and audience data, making brand/creator interactions possible and ultimately facilitating transactions. When creators make content and a brand is highlighted in that content, the brand can effectively track that content due to the creator’s previously documented first-party authentication.

The use of first-party data also gives brands more control. For example, first-party data enables brands to know when creators actually follow up and when creators complete the branded posts that they’re being paid for. First-party data also allows creators to share insights with the brands they represent, enabling greater visibility into audience makeup and facilitating improved audience matching. This capability is especially important because creators must stay authentic to maintain their following and to represent brands in ways that resonate. Audience matching is critical, and the last thing that a creator wants to do is to be irrelevant to their audience. With first-party data, promoting “just any” product can be avoided; those promotions will fall flat and drive down audience engagement in the long term.

For brands, the use of first-party data helps make marketing spend more efficient by avoiding mismatches between ads and audiences. Using the wrong creator and engaging with the wrong audience means that brands will waste money by funding relationships that simply don’t help grow sales. Given the mutual desire between brands and creators to have the best audience matching possible, first-party data makes sense because it delivers real, accurate and timely influencer data to brands, direct from the source.

Doing Influencer Marketing Right

For brands, first-party data is part of a larger puzzle on how to do influencer marketing right. More direct and robust connections with creators help brands make better-informed decisions as to which influencers they should work with, and it enables both parties to synchronize around creating the most effective ads and promotions – by facilitating buy-in and brand alignment as part of the creative process.

One of the best ways for brands to track reliable data from creators is through Open Authorization (OAuth). This method enables marketers to access creator metrics (with their consent) directly from a social media network’s API – no middlemen! Other steps brands can take to collect first-party data directly from an audience include registrations on their websites, customer surveys, polls, and feedback, as well as newsletter subscriptions. Additionally, influencers can help collect first-party data through audience giveaways, discounts, hosted events, and sponsored content.

After all, creators don’t want to post content that will flop, just as brands don’t want to be part of an ad that misses the mark – and better matches between partners mean that the shared interests of brands and creators are more often satisfied with first-party data. When combined with other technologies – such as advanced creator discovery tools – first-party data can accelerate the influencer marketing ecosystem and enable the finely-tuned marketing partnerships that deliver results. For creators trying to build a business, that’s good news.