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Snap said Wednesday it would launch a marketplace to connect creators with brands. Photo: Bloomberg

How Snap and Facebook Creator Marketplaces Could Stumble

Photo: Snap said Wednesday it would launch a marketplace to connect creators with brands. Photo: Bloomberg

Snap and Facebook are joining TikTok in establishing marketplaces to connect creators with brands, elbowing into territory dominated by influencer marketing agencies. 

Snap on Wednesday revealed it was launching its own creator marketplace to connect advertisers with creators for sponsorship deals. These match-making services, which might pair a brand like Dunkin’ with an influencer such as Carter Kench, are emerging as a new frontier for social media giants that want online talent. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg teased a similar initiative last week.

When it comes to pricing, Snap and Facebook present a serious threat to the network of influencer-focused marketing agencies that have flourished over the last decade. Snap promises it won’t take a cut of any sponsorships its creators secure, similar to TikTok, which launched its own creator marketplace in 2019. Influencer marketing agencies, in contrast, generally charge a fee. But it’s no sure thing the big tech platforms will be able to win creators where it matters most: finding big sponsors that dovetail with creators’ carefully cultivated personas. 

Sarah Dickinson, who runs a TikTok account dedicated to cooking with ingredients from Trader Joe’s, recently told me she received brand inquiries via TikTok’s creator marketplace, which is still in beta. But the pitches, one for clothing and another for a blackhead-removing serum, were too off-topic. “It’s totally irrelevant to what I post about. It would seem very strange coming from my profile,” Dickinson said. “So I didn’t respond to them.” 

While that’s just one example, it illustrates how the marketplaces can founder. The other big question is how involved Facebook and Snap staff will be in hammering out these deals. Many agencies, such as The Influencer Marketing Factory in New York City, handle everything from negotiating prices to coming up with creative ideas and providing an in-depth analysis of sales, clicks and downloads. “Those big budget campaigns aren't getting brokered through [direct messages],” said Lia Haberman, an adjunct professor of influencer marketing at University of California, Los Angeles. 

In their favor, these new marketplaces won’t require upfront payouts like the multi-million-dollar funds Snap and TikTok have established to pay creators making videos for their apps. And both companies can leverage their existing relationships with Fortune 500 companies. 

Snap, for its part, is starting with what it knows best. The marketplace will focus on connecting advertisers with augmented reality creators who make snazzy filters, called lenses, that overlay objects like crowns and animal ears on users. Its executives clearly expect to overcome any early hurdles. Within a year, Snap said it plans to expand the program to include all creators.

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