The Power of Partnering With Your Authentic Fans: A Q&A with Clare Bruzek, VP of Product at CreatorIQ

Claire Armstrong
Claire Armstrong
Apr 10, 2024

The 2024 Influencer Marketing Trends Report found that the most important factor in choosing creator partners is campaign fit. But what exactly does achieving campaign fit entail?

While factors like age, audience demographics, and follower count are important when identifying ideal creators, they're not enough if the partnership lacks authenticity. That’s why it’s vital to search for creators who are both passionate about your brand and meet your key partnership criteria.  

Engaging your existing fans is a shortcut to success—not only will these creators be inclined to work with you, but their content is likely to resonate with their engaged audiences. Whether you’re aiming to scale your creator program, improve the performance of your creator content, or are just looking for somewhere to start, identifying creators already talking about your brand presents a valuable opportunity for your program.

We sat down with VP of Product and Global Creator Intelligence, Clare Bruzek, who leads data initiatives at CreatorIQ to surface insights on the brands that influential voices are talking about in the social landscape. 

In our conversation, we discuss why authenticity is so important in creator partnerships and how CreatorIQ is evolving creator discovery to help you build your brand on the foundation of lasting partnerships. Read on for the full Q&A, and watch this short clip on why it matters when a creator talks about you: 


Q&A with Clare Bruzek

Why should influencer marketers consider a creator’s affinity for their brand in their search?

Clare: In our surveys with both creators and clients, one thing keeps popping up: authenticity is key. It might sound tired to say, but it remains important to consumers that the creators they follow genuinely like the brands they partner with.

Likewise, creators want to be sure they're keeping their audience engaged and that the partnerships they enter into make sense for them. They want to promote products and brands that they actually care about or use in their own lives.

Now, from a brand's perspective, if a creator is consistently talking about you, that's a good sign. It means their audience is interested, and the creator probably wants to work with you. At CreatorIQ, we often say that retention builds empires. Having the same people talk about you over and over again is a leading indicator of growth. That’s generally easier to do if you partner with creators who are already genuine fans of your brand.

Now, from a brand's perspective, if a creator is consistently talking about you, that's a good sign. It means their audience is interested, and the creator probably wants to work with you.

VP of Product and Global Creator Intelligence, Clare Bruzek


For brands who want to build partnerships with creators who are their genuine fans, how would you recommend identifying those golden-ticket creators?

Clare: In the past, brands typically identified their fans by looking at who tagged them or used their hashtags. While this method is still important, at CreatorIQ, we've added a layer of machine learning that uses natural language processing to surface organic mentions of brands.

For example, one creator might post, "I love wearing my @Nike shoes," while another might casually mention her Nikes in an Instagram caption without using any tags or hashtags.

Our clients can now search for creators who mention a brand name—whether it's your brand or a competitor's. We're not just tracking @ tags and hashtags; we're capturing freeform mentions of a brand as well. With machine learning, we can also determine when a creator is talking about Apple the company or apple the fruit. 

Do you have any examples of brands that adopted the strategy of working with creators who already talk about their brand, and what that helped them achieve?

Clare: Over the past decade of tracking brand mentions, we've come across numerous brands that excel in this area. One example is BeautyStat, which has seen huge success in the past 6 months.

According to BeautyStat’s Influencer Marketing Manager, Rachel Bimonte, 98% of BeautyStat’s creator community is organic relationships, which depends on continuously nurturing their genuine fans. The team initiated a gifting strategy which they scaled to 1,000 creators. But it doesn’t end with the gift—BeautyStat regularly reposts creator content on their brand handle to amplify authentic content and foster their partnerships.

As a result, BeautyStat scaled its creator community and grew its Share of Influence, the portion of influential creators talking about them relative to their competitors, in just a few months. Share of Influence is measured by Earned Media Value (EMV), which grew from $257k in October 2023 to $1.3M in February 2024.

More recently we've seen the Stanley cup story in which a woman posted organically about her Stanley surviving her car setting on fire. The president of Stanley, Terrence Reilly, responded to her with a TikTok, sharing that Stanley would love to replace her car. This act generated a huge response—Terrence’s post on LinkedIn alone has 1 million impressions. By amplifying a powerful organic mention of their brand, Stanley was able to grow the conversation around their brand even further.

At the end of the day, relying solely on a brand name isn't enough. You need to build a community. That's where nurturing ongoing relationships and retaining creators really pays off.

For those not already finding creators this way, how do you see this approach evolving or complementing their existing strategy?

Clare: Think of it the same way as you would any sort of ad or community targeting. For example, you might run a Facebook ad for women 18 to 24 who live in California and like beauty products. That's effectively what you're doing with brand-driven discovery, but adjusting your targeting to hit your true brand and category fans. You can still search by criteria like age, gender, or location requirements, but then filter by a brand name to narrow in on your authentic fans.

We know that marketers already put a ton of effort into identifying the right creators for their brand and audience. So think of this as a shortcut—you can take some of the guesswork out of trying to find the right fit, because these people are already talking about you organically. Now you’re able to leverage them more quickly using data-driven insights.

Your team has been working on improving the Discovery process in CreatorIQ to help users identify creators who mention brands. How is CreatorIQ able to surface that information?

Clare: Something that we rolled out to our CreatorIQ clients last year is Competitive Benchmarking. This is powered by the same natural language processing mentioned above, to more comprehensively surface organic mentions of your brand. We have almost 12,000 brands in our system across a multitude of categories including fashion, beauty, home, travel, media, entertainment, sports, and food and beverage.

We’re using the same data set that we’ve been honing for years for Competitive Benchmarking and spinning it around to help clients run much more targeted searches at scale. We can now support an ongoing virtuous cycle of identifying creators who are talking about you, adding them to campaigns, and then reporting on how those campaigns moved the needle for your brand. 

Looking towards the future, how do you imagine that capabilities like searching by brand mentions in CreatorIQ will shape the way that brands discover creator partners?

Clare: At CreatorIQ, we like to say that “content is king,” and we’re seeing this trend even in the social platforms themselves. While you can follow users on TikTok, the algorithm is all about predicting what content you'll enjoy. We're hoping to mirror this by offering customers a similar content-first view during their discovery process.

Early creator marketing was focused on what category a creator was in, like beauty or travel. As such, a lot of brands were hesitant to engage with creators who they thought were outside of their category. For example, a beauty brand may not have chosen to work with a gaming creator.

Now what we're seeing is a movement towards content-forward strategies, understanding that a creator is a whole person interested in many brands. A creator may wear Alo Yoga, drive a Prius, drink Olipop, shop at Whole Foods, and fly United Airlines with their Away suitcase. We want to reflect those multitudes in our platform to keep powering the creator economy. 


As demands increase for creator marketing programs to drive measurable impact for brands, identifying effective creator partners is more important than ever. By prioritizing creators who genuinely resonate with your brand, you’ll lay the foundation for fruitful partnerships and effective campaigns. Surfacing those perfect creators who are both passionate about your brand and align with your campaign needs is now simple in CreatorIQ. 

When influential creators talk about your brand, it matters. Amplify those voices, and you’ll see ripple effects that will propel the growth of your organization.  

For more insights on how to discover influential, authentic creators

Download the Checklist