Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.
This piece is in collaboration with HubSpot Podcast Network’s Amplifying Voices campaign partnership with The Gathering Spot.
In 2019, Charli D’Amelio shared a video on TikTok doing the Renegade dance. The video blew up and is inarguably her claim to fame. Since then, she’s amassed 150M followers on the app, done brand deals with household names, and her family has an unscripted reality docuseries called The D’Amelio Show.
Thousands of TikTokers followed her lead, did the dance, and attributed it to D’Amelio, but she didn’t create it — Jalaiah Harmon did. Harmon’s erasure from her dance is attributed to racial bias as she’s Black and D’Amelio is White.
Harmon’s experience is just one of thousands, as many Black content creators face inequalities, from receiving credit for trends to late payments to algorithm biases. In this post, we’ll delve deeper into some of these inequalities and share expert advice from Natasha Pierre and Ross Simmonds on overcoming these roadblocks.
Table of Contents
Discrepancies Experienced By Black Content Creators — Key Stats
- Black influencers in the nano and micro-influencer tiers (under 50k followers) average $27,000 annual compensation. (MSL)
- Black macro-influencers (50k+ followers) received an average of over $100,000 compensation from brands. (MSL)
- 49% of Black influencers reported that their race contributed to an offer below market value from a brand. (MSL)
- The pay gap margin between white and Black influencers is 35%. (MSL)
- 79% of Black influencers feel comfortable posting about diversity issues, but more than half feel they’re negatively impacted by posting about these issues, whereas only 14% of White influencers feel the same way. (MSL)
- 58.3% of influencers say they’ve been discriminated against as an influencer on any social platform. (Influencer Marketing Hub)
- Influencers say that TikTok has the worst discrimination they’ve faced. (Influencer Marketing Hub)
Discrepancies Experienced By Black Content Creators (+ Expert Thoughts)
1. Pay Disparities
Black influencers are paid 35% less than White influencers. Most of the time that means creators aren’t getting paid what they’re worth, and sometimes they’re being paid late. There’s also a lack of pay transparency, so Black creators don’t know what others are getting paid if they’re being shorted and what to negotiate for.
92% of influencers responding to MSL’s Time to Face the Influencer Pay Gap research study said that pay transparency could be the single most crucial factor in eliminating the racial pay gap in the creator economy.
Natasha Pierre hosts The Shine On Podcast and is a content creator. She’s also CEO of Shine With Natasha, where she helps creators build video confidence. She says, “The influencer marketing landscape is growing so much, and it’s still so new, but I still think it’s comical that a brand would be like, ‘We’ll pay you a few hundred bucks to do a million things under the sun.’”
Pierre has received late payments herself: “I was speaking at an event that was supposed to be for women of color, and I got paid months late. And I’m like, isn’t this what we’re trying to avoid here?” She adds that even being considered for opportunities, let alone being able to negotiate and talk about rates, can be challenging.
2. Lack of opportunities.
Antoni Bumba, a Black creator, said that she and her friend (who is White) once sent an email to the same company at the same time to set up a partnership. The brand sent her White friend gifts, and Bumba was told the brand was at capacity for gifting.
Victoria Paris, a White creator and one of Bumba’s friends, shared a video saying that she reaps the benefits of being a White creator, and the root of the issue comes from brands’ PR managers being primarily White and being aware of influencers that look like them and share the same experiences.
Paris says people don’t understand the gravity of the situation and just think, “Oh this sucks,” but it’s a significant career obstacle for influencers that don’t look like her. For example, she says she’s been able to save a lot of money to put back into her content and career because she gets free things, but creators of color don’t have the same luxury.
Many Black creators might not know they’re missing out on opportunities because people who offer the opportunities don’t have them on their radar. They won’t know that a brand wants to establish a relationship until they see a sponsored post from another creator on their feed.
Ross Simmonds hosts Create Like the Greats and is an entrepreneur and marketing strategist that helps B2B brands and entrepreneurs unlock new levels of growth. He says, “I think the biggest challenge is that you [Black creators] don’t even see what opportunities you get overseen for…You’ll never know what you didn’t get because of what you look like.”
Pierre seconds this and says a lack of opportunities is one of the biggest discrepancies. With algorithm biases (which we’ll cover below), Black creators will get less engagement because of the bias, so their counterparts are “Just naturally going to be picked over other options.”
3. Algorithm Biases
Algorithm biases are unconfirmed, but Black creators report feeling the effects. Many say their content doesn’t perform as well as other creators, even if it is of the same quality. Some report their content performs worse if they talk about racial equality.
MIT Technology Review says TikTok’s algorithm has errors that disproportionately impact marginalized groups and reached out to TikTok for comment. The business said the issues were created in error and affected content wasn’t actually violating policies.
Casey Fesiler, a University of Colorado, Boulder professor studying technology ethics and online communities, told Technology Review, “Many of these errors would be easy to predict if companies simply thought more about how users would interact with their app.”
Pierre says clients in her program have experienced algorithm bias. She was reviewing a competitor analysis with one of her clients, a Latina creator, who said, “Why is this person growing so much faster? Our content feels so similar; we’re in the same industry…is it because she’s a white woman?” and Pierre responded that, honestly, it probably is.
How can Black content creators rise above discrepancies? ( + Expert Advice)
Black creators are often left to figure out how to make it in the creator economy on their own. Given this, we asked Simmonds and Pierre what they suggest people do to rise above the challenges and achieve the growth they want.
1. Build community with other Black creators.
A great way for Black creators to build themselves up is to find community with other Black creators. You’ll get to know other people with the same experiences, and you can use your different backgrounds to help each other out.
Simmonds says, “The internet is an amazing place to find other people who are creators, and you can create some amazing relationships with people in a similar world as you.” He adds, “There are a lot more people that are Black that are creating things online, so it’s easier to find someone to look up to.”
2. Show up for people in your community.
Pierre says that the simple act of showing up for people in your same groups can make a difference — “We just need to be taking up space and building our own networks and continuing to show up for our communities and advocate for your own communities as well.”
When you build community connections, you can bring people up with you. Simmonds says he enjoys creating a path for others: “I want to be able to create content that helps other creators create great content and helps people see the opportunities and the potential to open doors.”
Pierre says that if she’s asked to be part of a campaign or speaker lineup, she could ask who else is part of it and if the organizers need her to recommend other creators in the category. She says the excitement of being invited or considered can make it easy to forget about the impact of creators’ voices and how they can support others’ careers.
Having a network of creators who support, uplift, and share each other’s content can expose people to new audiences eager to follow people and consume new content.
3. Learn from others and their experiences.
Meeting your first creator milestone can feel like a long and drawn-out process, but learning from others can give you actionable, helpful tips.
Consume content from all different creators and learn what works for them and how you can apply their strategies to your own. You’ll get exposed to new ideas and inputs, and what you learn can help you come up with new and unique stories nobody has told yet.
Simmonds says, “I always try to say that everyone can learn from every creator, even if they have a thousand followers. I get inspired by a random mommy blogger; I get inspired by a random psychologist; I’ll get inspired by a therapist on Instagram who puts up posts that are inspiring; I follow business folks…everyone.”
4. Focus on what you can control.
Black creators sometimes have to focus on what they can control. For instance, while you may want to partner with larger brands, it might not be possible at your current level.
As an example, Pierre notes that small brands struggle to find opportunities just as small creators do: “There are so many small brands that are doing such great things. Of course, smaller brands are going to have less budgets, but when there are opportunities to partner with those smaller brands, I think that’s a way to show how things can be done differently.” By partnering with a smaller brand, you’re building your influence and community in a more attainable way.
Focusing on what you can control also means recognizing when an opportunity doesn’t mean your standards and abilities. Simmonds says, “You have to focus on your circle of control…I can control the fact that I’ll probably decline if I don’t think something isn’t fair…otherwise it becomes a very draining industry and a mental tax that I don’t believe is oftentimes worth paying.”
5. Ask for what you’re worth.
Asking for what you know you’re worth can seem scary because of the potential for rejection.
But you only know if you ask. Simmonds says, “I’ve found that you will be pleasantly surprised if you do ask for what you deserve…they’re either going to say yes or no.” If they say no, they probably aren’t a brand you want to be associated with anyways. “Walk away and be okay with that,” he adds.
Your community networks can also be helpful as you can ask around and see what other people are getting paid for opportunities. Simmonds says he’s asked before: “If I know someone who’s engaged in these organizations or is also working for them, I’m not afraid to send a DM and ask people what they got paid before I give a quote, and I get clarity on what I should be offering.”
Black content creators can still find success and thrive.
The discrepancies that Black creators in the creator economy face can seem like a neverending uphill and discouraging battle.
But, the more people have conversations about these issues and put brands and organizations in check, the more likely they are to be better in the future. Pierre says, “Some [brands] will always be trash..but at least we know who to support and who not to support.”