Discrepancies Faced by Black Content Creators (and How to Rise Above)

As a black content creator, have you ever felt like you have to work twice as hard for half the reward? If so, you‘re not alone.

In today‘s booming creator economy, black creators face a unique set of challenges and barriers to success. From being paid less than your white peers to getting fewer brand deals to battling social media algorithms that seem stacked against you, the path to building a thriving brand as a black creator is far from a level playing field.

But you already knew that. The real question is: what can we do about it?

In this post, we‘ll take an unflinching look at some of the most glaring discrepancies between black and white content creators, backed up by hard data. We‘ll also hear advice from successful black creators and industry experts on how to rise above these obstacles and thrive as your authentic self.

The Creator Pay Gap is Real (and It‘s Big)

First, let‘s talk money. How much are black creators earning compared to white creators? The gap is even wider than you might think.

A landmark 2021 study by MSL, one of the world‘s leading PR firms, revealed a 35% pay gap between black and white influencers.[^1] That means if a white creator earns $1,000 for a brand deal, a black creator can expect to earn just $650 for the same work. Ouch.

The disparity is largest at lower follower levels. Black nano- and micro-influencers with under 50K followers average just $27,000 per year from brand deals, compared to over $100,000 for black macro-influencers with over 50K followers.[^1] Meanwhile, 42% of all full-time influencers make six figures.[^2]

As Natasha Pierre, creator and CEO of Shine With Natasha puts it: "It‘s still so comical that a brand would be like, ‘We‘ll pay you a few hundred bucks to do a million things under the sun.‘"[^3]

But it‘s no laughing matter when that paycheck finally does arrive…months late. "I was speaking at an event that was supposed to be for women of color, and I got paid months late," Pierre shares. "And I‘m like, isn‘t this what we‘re trying to avoid here?"[^3]

Influencer Tier Average Annual Brand Deal Earnings
Black nano/micro-influencers (<50K) $27,000
Black macro-influencers (>50K) $100,000
All full-time influencers 42% make >$100,000

Lack of Opportunities and Access is Holding Black Creators Back

It‘s hard to get paid fairly when you‘re not even given a seat at the table. Nearly half of black influencers (49%) say their race has caused brands to low-ball them on offers.[^1]

Consider the story of Antoni Bumba, a black fashion influencer who pitched the same brand as her white friend at the same time. The white creator was gifted products, while Bumba was told the brand was "at capacity."[^4]

"People don‘t understand the gravity of the situation," says Victoria Paris, Bumba‘s friend who openly acknowledges her privilege as a white creator. "I‘ve been able to save a lot of money to put back into my content and career because I get free things, but creators of color don‘t have the same luxury."[^4]

So how can you get opportunities you don‘t even know you‘re missing? As B2B marketer and podcaster Ross Simmonds puts it: "You‘ll never know what you didn‘t get because of what you look like."[^3]

Much of the problem stems from a lack of diversity on brand and agency teams deciding which creators to work with. A 2022 survey by influencer platform Pixly found that less than 7% of marketers consider racial diversity a priority when choosing influencers.[^5]

Paris sees this reflected in the white creators that surround her and get brand deals while equally talented black peers struggle to get noticed.[^4]

Factors Considered in Influencer Selection % of Marketers
Quality/Aesthetics 87%
Engagement Rates 80%
Price 73%
Audience Demographics 69%
Brand Values Alignment 66%
Racial Diversity 6.8%

Algorithm Biases Put Black Creators at a Disadvantage

It‘s not just brands putting up roadblocks for black creators. Many strongly suspect that social media algorithms treat their content differently, making it harder to get discovered and grow.

"The hardest part of being a POC creator is feeling like you have to work 10x harder than your white counterparts because of algorithm biases," tweeted Achieng Agutu, a lifestyle creator and self-described "African Queen."[^6]

Platforms strongly deny any racial bias in their algorithms, but research suggests otherwise. One study found TikTok removed videos with black people 31% more often than similar videos with white people.[^7] Another analysis of Facebook (which shares a parent company and AI technology with Instagram) found its AI was up to 50% more likely to flag content from black users as "hate speech."[^8]

"Many of these errors would be easy to predict if companies simply thought more about how users would interact with their app," says Casey Fiesler, a professor who studies tech ethics and online communities.[^7]

The impact is hard to overstate when over 83% of black creators say social media is crucial to their business.[^1] Pierre has seen clients in her creator coaching program grow far slower than white peers with similar content: "Our content feels so similar, we‘re in the same industry…is it because she‘s a white woman? And I responded, honestly, it probably is."[^3]

How Black Content Creators Can Rise Above

So what‘s a black creator to do in the face of all these barriers? How can you still build a thriving brand and business when the deck feels stacked against you?

We asked successful black creators and industry experts to share their top advice:

1. Find strength (and opportunities) in community.

"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," says Simmonds. "There are a lot more people that are black and creating things online, so it‘s easier to find someone to look up to."[^3]

Pierre agrees and encourages using your platform to lift up others: "We just need to be taking up space and building our own networks and continuing to show up for our communities," she says. "If I‘m asked to be part of a campaign or speaker lineup, I could ask who else is part of it and if the organizers need me to recommend other creators in the category."[^3]

2. Learn from creators of all backgrounds.

Your network doesn‘t have to be limited to people who look like you. Consuming and connecting with a diverse range of creators can spark new ideas and opportunities.

"I always try to say that everyone can learn from every creator, even if they have a thousand followers," says Simmonds. "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."[^3]

3. Focus on partnerships that are attainable and aligned.

Getting a big brand deal can be a game-changer for creators, but holding out for one can also hold you back in the meantime. Pierre advises pursuing opportunities with smaller brands as a way to get experience, expand your portfolio and audience, and show bigger brands what‘s possible.

"There are so many small brands that are doing such great things," she says. "Of course, smaller brands are going to have smaller 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."[^3]

4. Don‘t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

Battling imposter syndrome and advocating for yourself isn‘t easy. But Simmonds says it‘s a muscle worth building: "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. And if they say no, they probably aren‘t a brand you want to be associated with anyways. Walk away and be okay with that."[^3]

He also recommends tapping into your network for insights: "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."[^3]

A More Equitable Creator Economy is Possible

While individual creators are finding ways to persevere and thrive, true progress will require systemic changes from the social platforms and brands that hold so much power in the creator economy.

Some hopeful signs are starting to emerge. TikTok recently launched a full-service portal for black creators to gain exclusive access to educational resources, events, and brand partnerships.^9 More brands are tracking diversity data and publicly committing to working with more underrepresented creators.[^10]

But far more accountability and action is still needed. Over 90% of influencers believe greater pay transparency is key to closing the racial pay gap.[^1] Experts have also called for third-party algorithm audits and more human oversight to identify and eliminate biases.[^11]

Black creators are speaking up, banding together, and blazing new trails to build the thriving brands and businesses they deserve. Now it‘s incumbent on the industry to meet them where they are and create a truly level playing field.

One where black creators don‘t just survive, but thrive. Where they‘re valued not just for their cultural influence and "cool factor," but as smart business owners and skilled entrepreneurs. Where their talent is rewarded equitably and their voices are amplified authentically.

As Pierre promises: "Some [brands] will always be trash…but at least we know who to support and who not to support."[^3] Slowly but surely, black creators are gaining the power to vote with their content and set a new standard for how they are seen, heard, and compensated.

And that‘s a future we should all be working toward. Because when black creators win, we all win.

References

[^1]: MSL Influencer Pay Gap Study
[^2]: Influencer Income Report
[^3]: HubSpot Breaking The Blueprint Interview Series
[^4]: InStyle Interview with Antoni Bumba and Victoria Paris
[^5]: Pixly Influencer Marketing Diversity Report
[^6]: Achieng Agutu Twitter Thread
[^7]: TikTok Algorithm Racial Bias Study
[^8]: Facebook AI Racial Bias Study [^10]: 15% Pledge
[^11]: Brookings Institute Algorithmic Bias Report