19.08 2019 15:48h

Why "Digital-First Talent" Matter in Influencer Marketing

Gleam Futures CEO Dominic Smales explains why marketers need to look beyond the numbers when working with creators
Gleam Futures, Dom Smales, Digital First talent, Zoella, Pixiwoo, Influencer Marketing, Jim Chapman, Alfie Deyes, Influencer marketing expert, Influencer expert, Content Creator, Content Creation, Ian Haste
Will Patrick

In an age when anyone can call themselves an “influencer” – and our social media feeds are flooded with content from millions of individuals all vying for success, audience attention and loyalty – trust is hard won.

Whilst this could be seen as destructive, we believe it presents an exciting challenge. A challenge that creates an opportunity for high quality creativity to shine through and a demand for authenticity – two key attributes which enable the industry to distinguish the "talent" from those who use the "influencer" label and the number of followers they have as a means to define their status.

About a decade ago, when Gleam Futures first started, a generation of creators had organically found their voice and a loyal audience on digital platforms. Their followings were impressive, but it wasn’t the numbers that struck me; it was the passion, knowledge, creativity and relatability they were bringing their audiences along with engaging online content.

From recognising this unique ability, we developed our approach to elevate creators to the next level as talent. We focused our efforts on empowering the talent to learn, develop and grow, working with them to maintain long-term careers and start successful businesses.

As the industry has evolved at pace and the volume of content creators has significantly increased, this unique talent has taken a back seat in the eyes of many who seek to define creators under the catchall term “influencer”.

The biggest issue with this is that it has lumped everyone labelled as such into a homogenous mass of people. It doesn’t distinguish the “talent”; creators who have an expertise to share, produce high quality content, form purpose in what they do and maintain a deep connection and dialogue with their trusting community.

Someone recently said to me that people – no matter whether they are social media content creators, actors, musicians and everything else in between – become influential because of the talent they bring, and I couldn’t agree more.

The creativity, expertise, quality and diversity of the creators on the Gleam Futures roster are united by what they innately have: talent – so that is how we refer to them.

We use the term "digital-first talent" because no two creators are the same and their value should not be measured by the number of followers they have, or the number of likes they accrue from post to post.

Being a digital-first talent is about having a natural ability to do something that online audiences want to be part of, from fitness and make-up artistry through to cleaning and food creations. Digital-first talent are real, authentic, accessible and honest – something that creators striving to do this as a long-term career must not forget.



The problem with influencer homogeny is that it has led to an obsession with data, where the industry is attributing value to ‘influencers’ based on numbers alone, causing many creators to buy fake followers or engagement in an effort to be discovered and seek success.

There is absolutely a place for data – but marketers should use it to inform the value of talent not dictate it. Buying fake followers and engagement must be discouraged as it is driving the commoditisation of content and creators, causing a race to the bottom.

To combat this creators who want to elevate what they do to the next level, as talent, should remember that with any brand partnership, creativity and authenticity must come first.

Whenever we work on brand partnerships with talent both on and off the Gleam Futures roster, we approach everything with a talent-first lens. By putting ourselves in the shoes of talent we ensure creativity and authenticity come first.

Finding an authentically common ground between the talent, the brand and the audience, and shaping what to do with that common ground in a way that works for everyone is key. In doing so, it means the talent are true to who they are, their audience get something they value, and the brands we work with benefit from great results.

We firmly believe that this is the most innovative and exciting talent industry in a generation. But it’s getting harder to be seen and heard.

To win the attention, loyalty and trust of audiences creators must find ways to push the realms of creativity whilst remaining authentic and real. Nurturing and developing their expertise is crucial to standing out from the crowd, to be recognised as talent amongst the millions of ‘influencers’ flooding our feeds.

Written by Dominic Smales.

After spending 15 years in media, production and advertising Dominic Smales set up Gleam Futures in 2010 initially to help online communities connect for mutual benefit. This evolved quickly into managing ‘Digital-First Talent’, a term coined to describe entertainers and content creators who have used social media platforms as the first place to build an audience. Gleam has become the biggest digital-first talent management company in the world.

Gleam Futures develops the careers of its roster across all forms of media and entertainment including; publishing, film, TV, licencing and merchandising. The Gleam Futures roster is widely regarded as the best and biggest talent in each market they operate in. They also take on and nurture best new talent in each market. Their long-standing roster includes names such as Zoella, Pixiwoo, Mrs. Hinch, Jim Chapman, Ian Haste, Jack Maynard and Marcus Butler. Dom has been recognised in the Debretts 500 most influential people in the UK, The Bookseller Power 100, Wired Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful and The Business Insider Coolest 100 people in tech.

Follow Gleam Futures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

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