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Black influencers are tired of doing it for the love. Many have stated that without access to gifting, they spend their own funds to use certain products, which takes away from their take-home income and affects their ability to make a name for themselves.
Black influencers earn 35% less than White influencers 35% , according to a 2021 study from MSL, a global public relations firm that offers influencer marketing services.
Looking to break into Influence Marketing? We sat down with 4 Black women Influencers to discuss influencer pay gap, negotiating, and tips for getting paid their worth. Read the article on closing the #influencerpaygap https://t.co/FFKhYeVmdw#BlackSuccess #forusbyus #CutTheCheck pic.twitter.com/X6Qa0MfMfh
— Mogul Millennial, Inc. (@mogulmillennial) August 11, 2020
The study also found 50% of Black influencers felt race was an issue. They also believed that those who spoke out about racial justice issues found that their fees dropped immediately after.
One year on from the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, brands were backing away from influencers who spoke out on social issues.
Though the China-owned app remains in hot water with the U.S. government, TikTok has been a vital resource for many once-unknown Black creators who have found notoriety, community, and financial reward quicker and unlike any other app before it.
With the news of a potential ban on TikTok on the horizon, Black creators based in Atlanta are speaking out about what the implications could mean for their brands, many of which are largely based on the short-form video app.https://t.co/Y6LCEt84gs
— Capital B Atlanta (@CapitalB_ATL) December 27, 2022
Much of the recent conversation around influencer gifting stemmed from videos in which lifestyle creator Victoria Paris, who is White, talks about how she gets “good” PR — such as clothes and furniture — in part because she is White and privileged.
“People don’t realize that getting PR is a very essential tool, especially within this industry,” said Black beauty creator Darius Hall, who has 209,000 followers on TikTok. “Some of the products that people want me to review or want me to talk about, it’s a little expensive, and sometimes I ain’t got the coins for that.”
In one video, Paris says people in charge of brands’ PR lists are often White and hold implicit bias, leading them to gravitate toward influencers who look like them.
Discrimination exists from social media users to brand agencies who undervalue Black creators
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) in Influencer Marketing: Racial and Gender Inequalities Report found significantly more than half of those surveyed felt they had faced discrimination stated that it occurred on TikTok (58.42%). This compares to 13.62% who selected YouTube, 12.9% on Instagram, 10.04% on Facebook, and 5.02% who felt most discriminated against by influencer agencies.
“We have to be perfect before brands will even touch us,” said Ndolo, who uses she and they pronouns. “And it sucks, because, like, you know, perfection is so hard to attain, and why are we forced to reach perfection when White influencers can just do whatever?”
This is just another conversation that needs to be had about how privileged white influencers are, ESPECIALLY compared to their Black and brown counterparts. The influencer pay gap is real. White influencers get paid 2x the amount that brown/Black influencer does.
— hajar | hijabi influencer (@honeyjarhajar) September 24, 2022
Antoni Bumba, a lifestyle creator with 938,000 TikTok followers, agrees with Ndolo. “Sometimes you can see [White influencers] … be more free-flowy and just be, like, messy hair and, like, big college T-shirts and … still get these, like, $60,000 to $100,000 gifting partnerships,” she said.
“And then you’ll have, you know, girls like me … who have to always be in a whole fit or always have to be serving some sort of a look or have some sort of a color scheme or have our face done with makeup to some extent. You know, like something to make us look a little bit more higher-end so these brands can fit us in.”
Tinuke Bernard, a Black blogger and influencer, launched the Black Influencer Directory a few weeks after the George Floyd murder in the U.S. “There was a lot of performative support from companies, lots of lists of four or five Black influencers you have to follow—and it was always the same four or five,” says Bernard.
“And there are so many more Black influencers than that, so I created my own list of about 250 Black influencers across many genres. It’s pretty basic, it’s just an Excel spreadsheet, but overnight there were 20,000 views. People wanted this and needed it and we got a lot of great feedback from PR people and from influencers.”
Inside the influencer pay gap: Why are Black women being paid less for their posts?
The dark secret at the heart of the social media economy – I share some thoughts in this great piece written by @mlothianmclean for Cosmopolitan https://t.co/VbNqog0wz7 pic.twitter.com/tNTwo3eVc4
— Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) March 12, 2021
It has positioned Bernard as an expert, providing guidance to Black influencers hoping to understand how to negotiate a fairer price, and also for agencies looking for advice on how to approach and work with Black influencers.
“Don’t approach it as an us-versus-them situation. It doesn’t always feel like a level playing field. And remember that there’s more to it than follower numbers.” Bernard continued, “But it’s about brand engagement. There are so many ways we can help you. Trust us to do a better job, trust us to know what will work with our followers. When agencies take the time to chat and listen, when you feel they have actually looked at your work, we can add more value. Get to know the person, give them the space to be creative.”
LaToya Shambo, CEO of Black Girl Digital, also helps Black Influencers get their value. “Right now, it’s the wild, Wild West. And that’s the challenge. Maybe one creator over here gets paid $20,000 and another creator, similar following, might get paid, you know, $2,000. I think that in five years, we’re gonna have to figure out some kind of regulation and pay scale. We have an internal pay scale. We’re killing two birds with one stone. We’re putting more people of color in ad campaigns, as well as allowing for brands to reach more people of color all at the same time.”