If you ask a Black creator what’s wrong with influencer marketing, they’d probably take a deep breath before they start their dissertation.
Algorithm Bias in Gen Z Influencer Marketing
As the influencer marketing industry stands today, it is not sustainable for Black creators. Inequitable business practices, double standards in media, respectability politics, and machine learning/artificial intelligence all come together known as an engineered force called algorithmic bias.
As defined in the Algorithmic Bias Playbook by the Center for Applied AI at Chicago Booth, “Algorithms guide decisions about who gets what. In these situations, we believe that if an algorithm scores two people the same, those two people should have the same basic needs—no matter the color of their skin, or other sensitive attributes…We consider algorithms that fail this test to be biased.”
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Gen Z Influencer Marketing
Unless a brand actively values diversity, inclusion, equity and justice, creators are skeptical that influencer marketing campaign directors are taking the time to look past vanity metrics. (Vanity metrics include follower counts and likes.)
With most major agencies using computerized software such as Brandbassador or Upfluence to find influencers, it’s unlikely that a Black microinfluencer, despite potentially having stronger engagement & communities, would come up in results. Further, the purchasing power of White communities contributes to how many Black influencers are deemed “valuable” enough to be put into campaigns.
JUV recently conducted an informal social media poll through Instagram. 100% of respondents in our poll stated diversity in the content creator space was an extremely important value to them. Although this quick poll is not representative of Gen Z as a whole, diversity and inclusion is clearly becoming increasingly crucial in influencer marketing. As the ”most racially and ethnically diverse generation,” Gen Z wants to see themselves represented in the media.
Black Creators’ Influence on Gen Z Influencer Marketing
Remember Jalaiah Harmon? The then 14-year-old TikTok dancer choreographed the famous “Renegade” dance. The dance is largely credited for Charli D’Amelio’s rise to TikTok stardom. But Jalaiah is definitely not the only Black creator who has influenced industries beyond social media.
We asked our Instagram followers which industries they believe Black creators have revolutionized. While our audience mentioned lifestyle, music, and entertainment, most respondents indicated that Black content creators transform the beauty and fashion industry every day by starting new trends.
Gen Z Influencer Marketing’s Racial Pay Gap
The racial pay gap affects almost every industry, including the creator economy.
According to an MSL study conducted in December 2021, 77% of Black influencers fall into a lower range of microinfluencers. On average, annual compensation is $27,000, with only 23% of Black influencers making more than $100,000 per year. Unfortunately, this racial pay gap has been a common issue within workplaces across nearly every industry.
Furthermore, MSL’s study also emphasized how the lack of pay transparency with all influencers, not just BIPOC, is making it harder to keep companies accountable for the racial pay gap; 92% of influencers who responded to their surveys agreed. The pay gap cannot be fixed without full transparency and representation in these industries.
Finally, even speaking out about these issues can be hurtful towards Black influencers. While 90% of Black influencers are passionate about racial issues, 59% felt they were negatively impacted when posting on these issues. Only 14% of white influencers were affected by the same issue. And so, the racial pay gap and inequities in the influencer marketing world continue to exist.
How to Embrace Diversity in Gen Z Influencer Marketing
In Web 3.0, we finally have an opportunity to create peer-to-peer relationships between brands, creators, and their communities.
The future of the Internet has a huge potential for Black creators to actually work with the brands of their dreams. But brands need to come from a human-centered perspective.
Here are 6 steps to embracing diversity in your next influencer or ambassador program:
1. Take the time to think of the larger vision of Black History Month campaigns. How can we invest in these creators past February?
2. Take the time to research and align on what makes the ideal influencer for your brand. Start by creating user personas.
3. Assign community managers to do check-ins with creators on a regular basis. This community manager needs to be empowered by the brand to be a safe space. Additionally, community managers should be the influencers’ advocates.
4. Regularly publish progress via quotes, photos, and videos on how the influencer program is going. This keeps people engaged by incorporating storytelling. Progress reports also show that both parties are truly invested in this partnership.
5. Create alumni programs after their first pilot program. This allows for mentorship, a model of leadership, and a visualization of what skills, personalities, and values align with the brand. Moreover, this reduces the research that creators have to do to make sure that they’re reaching the standards expected.
6. Give creators stipends to cover real expenses.
How Should Brands Compensate Black Content Creators?
One payment proposal is for brands pay a flat rate, in addition to offering a stipend based on six dimensions of health: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, social and environmental.
Other examples of models could be the 7 Areas of Policy Action or the 12 Areas of Balance. By adopting these models, a brand can show it is invested in their ambassadors’ wellbeing outside of partnerships.
Black Content Creators You Need in Your Next Gen Z Influencer Marketing Campaign
We asked our Instagram audience which Black content creators deserve more recognition. Here’s who got mentioned:
Jhordan is a street-style fashion influencer and model who has amassed over 13K followers on Instagram and over 30K on YouTube.
Jade Walker is a social justice-oriented micro influencer with about 4,000 followers on Instagram. She is also a Branded Partnership Executive at GenZ Girl Gang, and posts reels related to the BLM campaign, and other lifestyle-related posts.
Alex is a lifestyle and fashion influencer posting regular positive encouragement posts as well as her favorite fits.
Alexis Barber is a lifestyle influencer who doubles as a content strategist at YouTube. Her work features her travel and updates about her life on Instagram.
Aaron Rose Philip is a queer influencer with over 211K followers on Instagram. Aaron also has a small growing art account, and frequently posts fundraising notices to help Black Trans people in the community who need aid.
Gen Z Influencer Marketing Needs To Improve
The influencer marketing space is not a fair or equitable space in many ways. However, Black content creators are still empowering others to rise up and fight for what’s right. These influencers are creating history to be celebrated not just in February, but year-long.
JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Screenshot, to get Gen Z insights straight to your inbox.