As companies continue looking for ways to reach the expanding creator economy, Squarespace is spending more time marketing to people who maybe aren’t your average entrepreneur.
Founded nearly two decades ago, the website builder has a history of helping individual artists and entrepreneurs easily create websites for their work. But now, Squarespace wants to target creators directly and help a broader audience think more about what it means to make both content and commerce.
Last month, Squarespace debuted a new “Creator Hub” where creators can spend more time learning about creating a business. Along with a new website with tools and templates, Squarespace has been rolling out a new ad campaign themed around helping individuals make their own “empires.”
“If you don’t create more than an ad, you’re going to give people a dead end,” said Gui Borchert, senior director of creative at Squarespace. “And dead ends are no good.”
To cater to a variety of creators, Squarespace created archetypes — including fashion, food and wellness — that resemble various interests, Borchert said, adding that the company didn’t want to create ads that only appeal to creators on one platform.
The company is also relying on user-generated content by encouraging creators to post about their progress across various industries to “tell that progression story,” said Kevin Nabipour, Squarespace’s senior director of brand strategy, content and partnership.
“It starts to tell a secondary story [by] nodding to realities that exist within the creator economy,” Nabipour said. “Any humble step that someone takes… What can they make next?”
Creator economy investment
Squarespace is just one of several companies looking to invest in the creator economy. This summer, Shopify announced new integrations with Twitter and YouTube that let creators link to their Shopify websites. HubSpot is giving money to creators and helping them create podcasts and MailChimp integrated with the creator economy platform Koji earlier this year.
As the social commerce boom continues, some see more of a need for companies to help creators educate themselves on how to make money off their audiences. Aaron DeBevoise, CEO and founder of Spotter — a company that has invested more than $600 million in YouTube creators — said it’s smart for Squarespace to be providing new tools for creators to help them make businesses. That’s especially important when someone is just starting out, he said, adding that the big question will be whether Squarespace will do more than just help someone make a website.
“The hardest part about a creator’s life is they’re actually creators,” DeBevoise said. “They need to spend a lot of time creating content. YouTubers or bloggers or whoever have so many jobs. When you start a company, you wear a lot of hats, but there’s not typically one person in the room.”
Squarespace wouldn’t disclose how much it’s spending to promote the new campaign. However, data from the ad-tracker Pathmatics shows that Squarespace’s 2022 ad spending includes $5.6 million on Facebook ads, $1.3 million on Instagram, $1.1 million on TikTok, $950,000 on YouTube, $844,000 on Twitch and $10,000 on Twitter. (For comparison, Squarespace spent $12.3 million on Facebook ads in 2021, $3.4 million on Instagram, $1.8 million on YouTube, but nothing on TikTok.) Despite the new focus on creators, Squarespace has spent far more on desktop display ads, where it has spent $19.2 million this year.
Companies that market specifically to creators have a chance to build out new customer segments, according to Robert Hetu, VP analyst for Gartner’s IT practice. However, even if opportunities already exist, he said using creators to scale new verticals might still be years away—especially when it comes to for large retailers.
“From a retail perspective we see the creator economy as the pinnacle of the retail capabilities pyramid,” Hetu said. “This is where the customer will be able to engage with retail in a co-creative environment.”
The new focus on creators is in some ways different from other Squarespace campaigns over the years that often feature major celebrities talking about their side hustles. The company has worked with celebrities like Zendaya, Keanu Reeves to Leon Bridges. However, other recent ads without celebrities have faced criticism for promoting hustle culture during the pandemic.
Reaching the creator economy could also help with slowing subscriber growth. According to Squarespace’s financial disclosures, it had 4.2 million unique subscriptions in the first quarter — a 10% increase year-over-year — but that number was still at 4.2 million in the second quarter. (There were 3 million unique subscriptions in 2019, 3.7 million in 2020 and 4.1 million last in 2021.)
Even though the new ads are about creators, Gui said the campaign’s “of-the-internet language” is meant to appeal to a broader audience. He added that campaigns for broadcast or digital shouldn’t “turn off a huge chunk of the audience.”
“If you’re not a creator and just an entrepreneur, the spots are not completely irrelevant,” Gui said. “If I’m selling candles, I can teach classes about candle-making or I can make videos. Yes, this works well for creators to expand opportunities. If you can go from creator to entrepreneur, you can also go from entrepreneur to entrepreneur-creator.”
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