A study published Monday suggests that Black content creators make significantly less money than their white counterparts.
The report, titled “Time to Face the Influencer Pay Gap,” looked at issues of annual income, size of followings, the amounts influencers were offered for deals and more. It was published by the public relations firm MSL U.S. in partnership with The Influencer League, an influencer education organization.
The research tapped into more than 400 U.S.-based influencers on a wide range of platforms, according to a news release. Participants were ask to report their follower counts, race and income from brands.
“Issues of systematic injustice have plagued Influencer marketing for years — and been largely ignored for far too long,” Diana Littman, the CEO of MSL U.S., said in a statement. “Our research shines a spotlight on the present state of influencer marketing and charts the path forward for both the agency and our industry."
Influencing is still the Wild West of the marketing world, where regulations are almost nonexistent and algorithms, sometimes created with inherent biases that engineers might be blind to, can make or break a career.
Even after platforms acknowledged that their algorithms had inherent biases and worked to fix them, Black creators say they still feel they have to work twice as hard as their white counterparts.
The study found that the pay gap between white influencers and influencers who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color is 29 percent. When the research focused specifically on white and Black influencers, the margin widened to 35 percent.
About 77 percent of Black influencers fall into the "nano" or "micro" influencers category because their followings are less than 50,000, the study said. About 59 percent of white influencers fall into that category.
The average annual compensation for nano and micro influencers is about $27,000, the study found.
While Black influencers make up a significant proportion of the micro and nano influencer tier, only 23 percent are considered part of the "macro" influencer sphere, meaning they have more than 50,000 followers, the study reported. Forty-one percent of white influencers were found to be in the macro category.
Average annual earnings for macro influencer are upward of $100,000, the study reported.
Nearly half of Black influencers in the survey said their race contributes to marketing offers that are below market value. Fifty-nine percent of Black influencers said talking about issues of race negatively affected their incomes, but only 14 percent of white creators said the same.
"The gap this study uncovered in influencer marketing vastly overshadows the gaps in any other industry," D’Anthony Jackson, a digital and influencer strategist at MSL, said in a statement. "The gap this study uncovered in influencer marketing vastly overshadows the gaps in any other industry.”
At the close of the study, researchers offered three suggestions to make the influencer marketing industry more equitable: bridging the pay gap through initiatives like sponsorship and education; boosting pay transparency, to which end MSL U.S. said it commits to develop and release an influencer pay index; and advocating for creators of color to help restructure marketing.