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Black Influencers Earn 35 Percent Less than White Influencers, Nearly Half Report that their Race Contributed to an Offer Below Market Value

Since social media has existed, people have reached online fame based on what they post to their profile. Through apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok, some accounts have gained hundreds of thousands of followers and reached what is commonly known as influencer status. Within the past few years, influencers have started to monetize their following with companies who pay them to post ad-related content. Influencers have also been picked up for commercials and other professional ad placements.

It has been suspected that white influencers benefit more than Black influencers both in profit and exposure. This was most notably highlighted in 2020 when the creation of the viral ‘Renegade’ challenge was initially credited to white influencers. It wasn’t until months later the world found out it was created by Black 14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon. Still, there was no research to show white influencers had an advantage until a recent study was released.

Public relations company MSL and educational organization The Influencer League published “Time to Face the Influencer Pay Gap” where they surveyed more than 400 influencers. The study reported the racial pay gap between white and BIPOC influencers (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) was 29 percent. Among Black influencers specifically the gap widens to 35 percent.

“There have been rumors of a racial pay gap for years, but no one in our industry has quantified it until now,” said D’Anthony Jackson, Digital and Influencer Strategist at MSL. “These are stark numbers by any measure. Just compare the 35 percent gap between white and Black influencers to the pay gaps in other industries — education 8 percent, business and financial 16 percent, construction 19 percent, media sports and entertainment 16 percent. The gap this study uncovered in influencer marketing vastly overshadows the gaps in any other industry.”

The study reported part of the reason for the pay gap is Black influencers on average have smaller audiences. Just over 75 percent of Black influencers fall into the nano and micro influencer tiers (under 50,000 followers) where compensation from brands averaged $27,000 annually (versus 59 percent of white influencers). Only 23 percent of Black influencers (versus 41 percent of white influencers) made it into the macro influencer tier (50,000+ followers), where earnings averaged upward of $100,000.

Additionally, respondents were asked to write-in a single factor that could eliminate the racial pay gap, and 92 percent responded pay transparency. Black influencers, 45 percent of whom cited “managing the financial process” as their most challenging pain point of working with agencies and brands versus 27 percent of white influencers. The lack of a pay standard also makes wage discrimination easy to conceal and impossible to prove with 49 percent of Black influencers citing race as a factor in offers below market value.

Also consider despite a summer of corporate commitments to racial equity following George Floyd, 59 percent of Black influencers felt they were negatively impacted financially when they posted regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion versus only 14 percent of white influencers.

How can we shorten the pay gap?

  • Like, comment & share Black influencer content.
  • Call out companies whose ads don’t reflect their consumers.
  • Hold white influencers accountable who take Black content and use it as their own.

Companies investing more in Black influencers makes more financial sense too. The total BIPOC market today represents $4.8 trillion in buying power. If it were a country, it would be the 4th largest GDP in the world. Additionally, 48 percent of Gen Z and 43 percent of Millennials are BIPOC. They account for the largest sector of the consumer market today, and, by the middle of the next decade, experts predict they will be the most economically powerful generation of all.

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