The CEO is working to close the wage gap for black influencers

Social platforms like TikTok and Instagram have helped brands go viral, even in the midst of the pandemic. But BIPOC influencers who help launch these products aren’t always rewarded by brands in the same way as their white peers, especially black creators.

According to a recent report by MSL and The Influencer League, white influencers earn 35% more than black influencers. And while the report cites multiple factors for this, wage transparency was a key reason.

“Right now it’s the Wild Wild West,” said LaToya Shambo, CEO of marketing agency Black Girl Digital, which brokers partnerships between brands and social influencers. “Maybe one creator here gets $20,000 and another creator with similar episodes gets $2,000.”

Marketplace moderator Kai Ryssdal spoke to Shambo about the state of the industry. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Rysdal: What are you trying to do with this company? What is your mission statement?

LaToya Shambo: Well, here at Black Girl Digital, we’re dedicated to bridging the pay gap between black and brown and white influencers. So there is a huge pay gap between black and white influencers, so we are here to close that pay gap.

Rysdal: How are you? are you lucky

Shambo: This is a very good question. We got lucky. We’ve been able to work with brands like Walmart, Varo Bank and the City of Boston to really bring more black creatives on board and make sure they get paid well for only doing the things they love to do.

Rysdal: One of the things that a lot of people talked about after George Floyd was that this was a moment in this economy where black creators, yes, but only black Americans were going to be empowered in this economy. And one of the things that you saw was that big companies said, “We’re going to spend more money to take care of these audiences, to empower them, to win them over and to help them.” And I guess, my question to you is: is it them?

Shambo: You know, I have to say, from my side, I definitely see a lot of brands stepping up. You know, this is something that’s not going to happen overnight. And you can’t expect, especially for a lot of these companies, big companies, that if they don’t have the right internal voices that are sharing and connecting and saying, ‘Hey , you know, these are the main players” or “That’s the message, that sounds good, that won’t work.” It’s a balancing act of internal and external changes.

Rysdal: Yes. And after generations, and frankly centuries, of ignoring this market, they need some help. And that’s where you come in.

Shambo: Correct. You know, and we don’t smack them over the head like, ‘I can’t believe you don’t.’ It’s more like, ‘Hey, we see you need some support here. Let us help get the right talent behind the lens for you to make it a fair and equitable marketplace.”

Rysdal: Let me ask you a fundamental question: how do you find the influencers you want to help? Do you just spend hours and hours and hours, more hours than the rest of us I guess, just scrolling TikTok and Instagram?

Shambo: That’s a good question. And you know, it’s a mix. So get out the gate, you know, I’ve got connections and a huge list. Right now I think we’re at maybe over 1,000 black creators. My team is always kind of up to speed on who’s next and who’s next.

Rysdal: And it’s always changing, isn’t it? Just because everything is changing so quickly.

Shambo: Yes. And you know what’s an interesting conversation right now [the issue of] influencer burnout. so you know [we’re] you have to be very attentive and check in with the creators just to [ask] “Hey, are you still in the game? How’s business going?” Because burned-out people go on vacation.

Rysdal: Well, I mean, the thing about digital is you have to feed the beast all the time. When I go to Instagram and it’s not there, I ask myself: where have you been?

Shambo: The whole time. Yes.

Rysdal: So where is your share of the influencer industry in five years? That is, colored people and give them a fair chance? where are you think

Shambo: That’s a good question. At the moment it’s the wild Wild West. And that’s the challenge. Maybe a creator here gets $20,000 and another creator who follows similarly gets maybe $2,000. I think that in five years we have to find some kind of regulation and salary scale. We have an internal tariff. We kill two birds with one stone. We put more people of color in ad campaigns and enable brands to reach more people of color at the same time.

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