Social media has been a game-changer for many influencers, especially as platforms like TikTok and Instagram see a major surge in users.
The internet has become a place for people in the creative industry to make a name for themselves, but for Black influencers, they still struggle against the gatekeepers of advertising who are responsible for paying these creatives for their work.
Ethnicity pay gaps aren’t a new notion, but more recently, Black influencers and people of color have pushed back against the industry to call out their racist and sexist ways.
In addition to the ethnicity pay gap, Black influencers are even being stripped away from their credits for creating trends that are ultimately stolen by their white counterparts to benefit from.
TikTok was recently accused of trying to create an “aspirational air” for their platform by allegedly configuring the app to hide content from people who appeared to be “ugly, poor or disabled users,” according to the Guardian.
While it is unclear whether Black people and POC were intentionally lost in TikTok’s algorithm, some users previously claimed the app’s most popular faces were overwhelmingly white, according to Mashable, and called for more visibility. Tik Tok declined to speak on the configuration of their algorithm with Mashable.
so tiktok’s algorithm intentionally censors darker skin Black folk and fat folk? yeah…. it’s a no from me.
— b. r. (@thebryreed) April 1, 2020
Black influencers are being taken advantage of for what they contribute to the culture, and brands aren’t being fair with how they’re compensated for their contributions.
The Drum reported that similar to how Black actors are undervalued in Hollywood is also how Black influencers are sold short. They went on to say the lack of transparency in the industry regarding the pay gap prevents us from further investigating.
Eulanda Osagiede, one half of the travel and lifestyle blogging duo — Hey! Dip Your Toes In — shared her experience with The Drum on a particular brand that never seemed to be able to pay her and her husband, Omo.
“I approached creator friends who had worked with the brand before,” she said. “These creators happened to be white and they all said, ‘Oh no, we got paid’. The brand continued to reach out to us. Each time they never had budget and each time I checked, they always did have budget for someone else. Maybe they just didn’t have budget for people who looked like us.”
Similar stories are heard across the board for other Black influencers who are paid significantly lower than their white counterparts for the same business deals.
Despite these testimonies, spokesmen for brands who broker these deals deny claims that prices are based on race and built into the system.
Adam Williams, former chief executive of influencer marketing platform Takumi, claimed “the prices can’t be fiddled.”
Influencer, another specialized influencer marketing platform, suggested the same phenomenon asking influencers to instead name their own price.
“Never have we had a situation where a client has asked us to negotiate harder or to offer a vastly reduced rate to creators based on their ethnicity,” says head of client services, Nik Speller. “In some of our more recent campaigns, creators of color have actually been able to charge more than white creators with a similar following and engagement as they’ve been able to prove their ability to reach a specific audience demographic that the client is looking to advertise to.”
The Drum argues that instead of this act of discrimination being rooted in the deal-making process, it instead stems from historic racism.
Coltrane Curtis, the founder and managing partner of marketing agency Team Epiphany, shared his sentiments on how the ethnicity pay gap is attributed to the relationships between Black influencers and brands.
“Dollars of color have been valued less than others,” he said.
“This affects not just how much influencers of color get paid, but the lackluster and uninformed ways brands try to reach multicultural communities in the first place. And influencer metrics – so beloved by the modern marketer – have not been formulated with the way these communities communicate in mind.”
The solution to the ethnicity pay gap lies not in the hands of these influencers, but brands who target them as a means to amplify their campaigns.
— Jewel Wicker (@jewelwickershow) April 15, 2020
Instead of offering Black influencers temporary opportunities to co-sign products and initiatives, these companies need to recruit them as integral parts of their core creative ideas. Thus, putting more dollars in their pockets and closing the gap between their counterparts.