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Influencer marketing is the new word of mouth. 92% of customers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.

Kumba Dauda

Founder & CEO
Wholehearted Social
December 30, 2021

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The Influencer Pay Gap: Revealing Racial Bias 

Kumba Dauda

December 30, 2021
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

“Issues of systematic injustice have plagued Influencer marketing for years — and been largely ignored for far too long,” - Diana Littman, MSL CEO 


When it comes to equity, pay gaps are an ongoing fight that many of us have been facing for so long. No matter which industry you are in, you will see a pay gap depending upon disability, gender, and race. And, it's not surprising at all that now we are seeing this in influencer marketing as well.


According to the MSL Report, "the racial pay gap between white and BIPOC influencers (Black, Indigenous & People of Colour) is 29%. Focus specifically on the gap between white and black influencers, and it widens to 35%."


Our Founder, Kumba Dauda who has collaborated with global fashion and beauty brands commented in this article, “the extent to which pricing in this field fluctuates is due to there being no set benchmarks. I would like to see in a legal sense, industry standards being set to protect influencers’ rights and ensure no one is taken advantage of, as I see it far too often in this industry. From one side being an influencer myself and from the other side from running influencer marketing campaigns at Wholehearted Social - I have a multifaceted perspective and feel strongly about fighting the systematic injustice I see in the industry.” 


But why does this pay gap even exist? Why are black influencers getting exploited and are forced to work at lower rates as compared to their white peers? 


With so many questions we aim to answer, let’s first look at the major concerns and key finding found from the MSL report: 


  • 49% of black influencers and 36% of BIPOC influencers reported that they were offered to work below-market rates because of their race.


  • 59% of black influencers and 49% of BIPOC influencers versus 14% of white influencers reported that they felt negative impacts on their finances when they raised their voice or posted against issues of the race like "Black Lives Matter".


  • When comparing audience size, 77% of black influencers come under the nano and micro influencer tiers which means under 50,000 followers. The annual average compensation for this size of audience is £20,000.


  • Only 23% of black influencers fall under the macro influencer tier (more than 50k followers) versus the great number of 41% of white influencers where the average annual pay for macro influencers is roughly £75,000.


Why does this influencer pay gap even exist?


There might not be just one reason to answer that question, instead a multitude of reasons that the influencer pay gap exists. However, from the research on the influencer marketing industry, here's are the top 2 reasons for the existence of this influencer pay gap:


  1. Lack of pay transparency
  2. Lack of standardisation


According to the MSL report, lack of pay transparency is the greatest amplifier of inequity in influencer marketing. Also, in a survey, 92% of respondents said pay transparency can help to get rid of the influencer pay gap.


Lack of transparency is a huge disadvantage for influencers as without the transparency they are not able to fully understand what is standard pricing for their industry and they are mainly going from guesswork.  


When it comes to working with agencies and brands, 45% of black influencers said "managing the financial process" is the most challenging task (as compared to 27% of white influencers).


Even if influencers try to work with brands one on one without the interference of agencies, they still face the struggle of what they should be charging for marketing campaigns, which is purely due to the lack of transparency.


Not only this, but the Marketing Week survey found that 88% of marketers identify as white, while just 4% identify as mixed race and 2% as black. It makes us want to look into the marketing industry in more in depth and find out whether that is the main root cause of the problem. 

How Can We Resolve The Influencer Pay Gap?


Solving problems like the influencer pay gap is not as easy as having a piece of cake but it's possible. 


And, no doubt, MSL is doing a great job leading the industry towards equity.


The most hopeful finding of the MSL research is that the BIPOC market has the buying power of $4.8 trillion and In addition, two of the most valuable consumer audiences in today's market are BIPOC with 48% of Gen Z and 43% of millennials, and, by the middle of the next decade, they will be the most economically powerful generation of all. 


Three key priorities that MSL will be focusing on the prevent the influencer pay gap are:


  1. The industry must level the playing field and bridge the opportunity gap
  2. Pay transparency must be solved
  3. Advocacy for BIPOC influencers is an economic imperative.

At Wholehearted, Diversity and Inclusion is always at the forefront of our mind. 

“Without diversity of thought, creativity is lost.” -

- Kumba Dauda, Founder Wholehearted Social. 


We are against every inequity, no matter which industry is going through it. We have a diverse team of digital marketing creatives that ensures that your business is being fully represented in the way you desire.


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