Diving into Content Creators: How Exploratory Research Helped Uncover New Business Opportunities and Use Cases

Posted by AnswerLab Research on Nov 8, 2021

The creator economy is rapidly growing. More and more consumers want to support creators they love and are looking to them as influencers and experts. Brands are increasingly working with creators on sponsored content to build loyalty and awareness among their viewers. Creators are becoming more tech- and business-savvy to understand their audience and take advantage of new avenues and platforms. There is an immense opportunity for growth in this space for brands and online platforms to partner with and better meet the needs of this unique audience. 

In the last few years, our team has been working in close partnership with Fortune 50 clients to explore the needs of content creators. From fitness, travel, and art creators who monetize their content to beauty influencers who create publicly available tutorials to food and DIY home creators who do sponsored work with brands, we’ve spoken to hundreds of content creators to dig deep into their needs. We’ve answered research questions on topics ranging from hashtag use to content distribution strategies to safety features.

Exploratory research is a great way to get to know creators and learn about how to better serve them. Insights from this type of research often lead to uncovering new use cases and ideas for new products. Check out some of what we’ve learned from foundational research with creators: 

Creation workflows need to be flexible and adaptable 

Understanding creator workflows on social media platforms is an important step for your brand. Social media and similar tools are how creators build and engage with their audience, so getting to know their wants and needs deeply and clearly can make or break your product.

Recently, we conducted this work for a client who wanted to understand creator motivations to build features that better meet creators’ changing needs. Our objectives included assessing the usability of their native experience as well as creators’ likelihood of using new features in development. This research targeted both home and DIY creators, as well as cooking and recipe creators on a mix of devices.

Through this research, our team discovered some key motivations to help our client build a better experience. We found that creators were often motivated by previous successes in their content or by creating things that could help others who were struggling. Building features that helped them drive traffic was also a big consideration. In addition to the foundational insights, we also offered tangible recommendations for how our client could improve their interface, develop better, more flexible features, and create more opportunities for integration into their content.

Safety features are critical to creators

Creators are often in direct contact with their audience on platforms where it’s easy for viewers to respond. And not all of those responses are positive. For creators, especially those who are at higher risk of abuse online, safety features are paramount. Ask yourself what safeguards and restrictions you’re putting in place to ensure creators have the tools they need to respond and report when abuse happens.

We helped an entertainment client explore verification features that would improve safety and reduce abuse for creators on their platform. We took a multi-part research approach, including a qualitative study to better understand expectations and get feedback on concepts, a comparative study measuring consumer perceptions of the concepts, and a deep dive into recent metrics and analytics for added context.

For this particular study, we had to be very intentional about the mix of creators we recruited, including those who are at higher risk for receiving abuse online. We spoke with creators from diverse backgrounds based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity. Our findings included impactful insights on creators’ expectations for safety on the platform, as well as recommendations and reactions to the concepts and mock-ups.

Monetization isn’t always the main motivator. Many creators want help building their brand and follower engagement

Some brands may think monetization is the main motivator for creators to make better content, and their development plans can often reflect this assumption. But, we’ve seen time and time again that many creators measure value through their brand-building efforts, follower counts, and engagement, rather than pure monetary return.

We’ve conducted studies with creators who don’t monetize their content and heard feedback from many participants that their passion for the topic is what keeps them excited about new features and platforms. Always approach your development plans by looking at both those who profit from their content and those who don’t to get the range of motivations and use cases.

Sometimes an initial creator strategy needs a course correction

Content creators as an audience is an emerging focus for many brands, but it’s important to remember that their needs are constantly evolving. Concepts that appealed to content creators at first may no longer be interesting or useful. Always be prepared to course correct.

A tech client came to us looking for help pivoting some new feature designs intended to help users take advantage of a new aspect of their product. The team had proposed initial designs that didn’t perform well during early research, and they needed a more defined strategy to help users discover the value of the features themselves. They pivoted from usability and concept testing to a more foundational, exploratory approach to better understand the landscape. 

We helped them conduct research with both content creators and consumers to better understand how these new features could serve their needs. Our research findings uncovered why their users were hesitant or uninterested in the new features and offered foundational insights that could shape their future strategy.

Need help exploring how content creators fit into your brand or product? Talk to a strategist today.

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AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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