Influencer advertising and marketing is especially vulnerable to racism. What’s being executed about it?
The influencer marketing industry has uniquely needed action against racism. That summer, consumer demand and volume for meaningful engagement by brands and agencies for racial justice increased in number and scope.
The industry is characterized by rapid growth, unpredictable changes and a lack of regulations. Diversity and inclusion, in turn, have fallen by the wayside, which has led to a gap in possibilities and the compensation of color influencers.
"Brands reach out to you and claim they don't have a budget but then they pay someone else," said content creator Ehlie Luna, who has built a following through makeup art. "Brands know that they usually don't involve different people. Once they get you involved, they try to take advantage of you. They think, 'Okay, let's check the box for diversity and then try to save some money."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, brands have become increasingly aware of responsible public relations and the influence that influencer partnerships have on their brand identity. What makes influencer marketing so desirable is that it is fresh and entrepreneurial. However, this uncharted territory has consequences – especially in a market in which people often represent themselves.
Explain the pay gap
The conversation started to open up as creators and activists joined forces on social media to call for change. The @influencerpaygap Instagram page, created in early June, has become a hub for sharing experiences and setting standards for best self-advocacy practices in the influencer community. The site consists mostly of reposts from authors who anonymously share what they consider to be inadequate brand compensation offers for their work.
In the past, a lack of transparency about fees and tariffs has made it even more difficult for color influencers to know if they were getting a fair shake. Chizi Duru, who runs a fashion and beauty YouTube channel with 450,000 subscribers, recognizes that wage differentials are due to a lack of education and communication among influencers about tariffs. The solution, she said, is to start a conversation that is often considered taboo.
"A lot of newer influencers come in and don't know about rates as there aren't many platforms out there that will share that knowledge with you," she said.
Biased algorithms and a stereotype against minorities who are not as successful have created both a lack of opportunity and a wage gap for black influencers.
Earlier this year, Danielle Prescod and Chrissy Rutherford, another fashion editor, founded 2BG Consulting, an agency focused on providing brands with effective solutions for diversity and inclusion.
"The problem of the pay gap needs to be viewed through a racist lens," said Prescod. "A lot of brands will say that black creators don't have that many followers or aren't as committed, but that will be true because of racism." You need to establish a system or scale that will allow this difference to exist while adequately compensating blacks for their worth and work. "
Prescod is working towards a more inclusive market by encouraging their audiences to consider the impact of racism on the fashion and beauty industries. In her own posts, she only tags brands if they are able to share an anti-racist action they took that day.