Trisha Hershberger likes to say she stumbled upon being a digital creator. But the Amazon Live streamer, online host, and content creator has been producing digital content for more than a decade, and she says a lot has changed. Throughout her career as a full-time content creator, Hershberger has seen the creator economy grow with the emergence of new social channels and advancements to streaming technology.
“It has changed a lot,” Amazon Live creator Hershberger says. “Back when I first got into creating content, the way that a content creator earned money was through ad sales. Now, I think a lot more brands are excited about working with digital content creators.”
Hershberger is a part of the creator economy, where digital creators earn revenue through their content. More than 50 million people worldwide consider themselves to be creators, and influencer marketing, which is a part of the creator economy, has been projected to bring in about $3 billion in revenue by the end of 2021, according to the Influencer Marketing Factory.1
Hershberger has amassed thousands of followers on her Amazon Live channel by streaming deep dives into new technology, sharing in-depth gadget reviews, and discussing video game trends with her audience. Hershberger loves connecting instantly with viewers through the livestream’s chat feature, and she enjoys helping her audience discover new, exciting, and relevant products. “I love livestreaming. I'm having a great time with it. I love the community that I've built on Amazon Live. It gives me the opportunity to nerd out about gadgets in a way that feels very natural while I’m livestreaming,” she says.
She is excited about the future of the creator economy and believes as more brands and creators jump into the industry, it will continue to evolve. Here are her tips for how brands can work with content creators like her in order to reach and connect with audiences in engaging ways.
Focus on authenticity
The creators and brands that Hershberger has seen thriving in the streaming space are those who have focused on building lasting connections with their audiences. “When it comes to digital media and creating content online, authenticity is key. If you are not genuinely passionate about whatever you're talking about then audiences won’t engage with your content,” she says.
For Hershberger, diving into her passions is one of the best parts of her career. From teaching audiences about the latest tech products to discussing fantasy and sci-fi literature to figuring out how gadgets work, there are a lot of topics Hershberger can discuss endlessly during her livestreams, and these topics resonate with her audience.
Let personalities shine
When Hershberger was first getting into creating content more than 10 years ago, she was fresh out of college with a theater degree and had just moved to Los Angeles looking for work as a TV media personality. She soon landed an opportunity to report on gaming and technology trends for a TV show. She was thrilled about the opportunity and used it as a launching pad to learn as much as she could about content production, editing, and video storytelling. But she was also met with some pressure by producers to play a certain type of persona.
“I was met with a lot of resistance very early on in my career,” she says. At the time, she didn’t wear glasses, and producers wanted her to change her appearance to fit what they believed was the stereotypical gaming culture. “I was told, ‘you can't wear a dress on camera and talk about video games, no one's going to take you seriously, you have to wear a graphic T-shirt.’ I was told often that I didn’t look like the gaming type,” she says. But Hershberger stayed true to herself and found an online community that connected with her interests and expertise.
The industry has also been changing. And Hershberger says she has seen audiences want to connect with creators who are being true to themselves. She believes this is an opportunity for diverse creators to shine and build their brands and communities.
“With more diverse creators coming forward with different backgrounds and interests, there is something for everyone,” she says.
This means brands have the opportunity to work with a wider set of content creators to help them tell their brand stories and reach relevant audiences, Hershberger says.
Get familiar with creators’ content
If a brand is interested in working with a specific creator, Hershberger recommends getting familiar with that creator’s content. She says it’s common for brands to see creators with big followings and immediately hire those creators without first understanding the types of content they create. Hiring a creator before understanding their content can do a disservice to that content creator and also the brand, Hershberger says. For instance, the branded content may not resonate with the creator’s audience or the creator’s content may not align with the brand’s values.
“I can’t tell you how many brands have reached out to me and asked me if I could please talk about their lipstick,” she says. “I've never once covered beauty. It's not what I do. That’s not my audience.”
Hershberger recommends marketers research creators and watch their content before reaching out to ensure that some initial vetting has taken place so that the collaboration is productive and aligned with the brand’s business goals.
Collaboration is key
Hershberger says collaboration between creators and brands is paramount when creating an engaging campaign. And that collaboration requires equal input from both parties.
“There have been times when businesses will approach me with brand deals and I have to politely excuse myself even after dozens of email exchanges because it didn’t feel collaborative,” Hershberger says.
Hershberger recommends brands approach content creators with as much information as possible about a brand deal such as the tentative campaign flight, the expectations they have about the messaging, the audience they are hoping to engage, and whatever goals they have in mind. That information can help creators assess whether the deal is relevant for them and their audience.
“Having a mutual understanding of what is being created, asking the content creator, ‘what do you think about that? Does that sound like something you'd normally create? What's your input?’ that shows collaboration. And that will help the brand and creator make something creative and awesome together,” she says.
Work together to set expectations and boundaries
Although posting content on social media channels may seem like the dream job for some, it’s also a full-time job, sometimes extending far beyond the traditional 9-to-5 work hours, Hershberger says. Many creators are putting in long hours in order to reach audiences during prime hours, Hershberger explains, like livestreaming on evenings and weekends when most audiences are watching after work or school. As a mother of a young son, Hershberger says over the years, she has started setting boundaries and prioritizing her family when deciding on what brand opportunities to take.
Hershberger says brands that are able to respect a creator’s boundaries and understand their work-life balance needs tend to attract creators who want to keep working with them again and again.
Hershberger has learned that adaptability is important for marketers and creators as technology advances and the digital advertising industry evolves. When she started off as a content creator more than a decade ago, the trend was static photo posts and uploading linear videos, but now audiences’ interests have changed and streaming video content has grown in popularity, she says.
“I wish I could say I have like a really good 5 to 10-year plan, but I'm riding the waves to discover the latest technologies, trends, and tools to help me create the best content possible,” she says. Hershberger is excited about the future of livestreaming and all the ways brands and creators can connect with audiences in real time.
She says it’s important for brands to stay relevant with audiences by jumping on trends and new technologies, and creators can help brands understand some of those nuances. When brands collaborate with creators, real magic can happen, Hershberger says.
1 “Four Reasons Why The Creator Economy Is Booming,” Forbes, US, November 2021